Performance Analysis

As expected, the overclock of the PowerColor boosted the card beyond the reference model. However, considering the overclock is a modest one (from 850MHz to 875MHz for the GPU, and from 1,200MHz to 1,225MHz for the memory) the extra 2-3fps extra in some situations was unexpected. However, in other combinations of game, resolution and AA setting, we didn't see any extra speed from the overclock at all.

Fallout 3 was playable at 2,560 x 1,600 (with no AA), and we saw a rise of 3fps over a standard HD 5770 at these settings. However, we’d still rather play the game with AA, so we’d settle for the 29fps minimum at 1,920 x 1,200 with 4x AA. That’s a strong showing for a £130 card.

Similarly strong was the PowerColor’s performance in STALKER: Clear Sky, where we could play the game 1,920 x 1,200 (albeit with no AA). The minimum frame rate of 26fps is only 1fps faster than the 25fps of the standard card though, giving only a teeny-tiny bit more headroom for when things get frantic. At 1,680 x 1,050 – a more likely resolution for a £130 graphics card - the frame rate of 32fps was perfectly fine.

Dawn of War II and Crysis predictably proved too tough for the plucky PowerColor, with minimum frame rates of 16fps and 18fps respectively at 1,680 x 1,050 with no AA. You’ll have to lower the resolution further, or else start making graphical detail sacrifices to reduce the jerkiness. Call of Duty: World at War was a return to form for the PowerColor, if not the series, with the game running at a minimum of 29fps at 1,920 x 1,200 with 4x AA. At 1,680 x 1,050 with 4x AA, the card hit a minimum of 36fps with 4x AA applied.

PowerColor ATI Radeon HD 5770 PCS+ Review Performance Analysis, Overclocking and Conclusion
Click to enlarge

Thermals and Power Consumption

Our concerns over the wobbly cooler were justified, with the PowerColor’s GPU running 16°C hotter than the reference when the card was under load. However, when idle, the GPU was 2°C cooler than the reference. The rise in load temperature can’t solely be explained away by the mild overclock, so there must a tipping point where, as the GPU gets hotter, the PowerColor’s HSF begins to lose out compared to the reference cooler. Power Consumption was 10W higher than the reference card when idle, but 4W lower when both cards are under full load.

Overclocking

While you can use tools such as MSI’s AfterBurner to overclock your ATI Radeon HD 5000-series card to silly levels, we found that we didn’t need to venture beyond the OverDrive portion of the Catalyst Control Center when tinkering with the PowerColor. The GPU would ‘only’ clock up from 875MHz to 970MHz and the memory from 1,225MHz to 1,350MHz (5.4GHz effective). The limits of the Overdrive tool were 990MHz for the GPU and 1,500MHz for the memory – AfterBurner will let you clock the GPU up to 1,315MHz and the memory to 1,595MHz (although of course, there's no guarantee the chips will get anywhere close to that.)

The results of the extra overclock were noticeable, with Crysis jumping from a minimum of 18fps to an almost playable 21fps at 1,680 x 1,050 with no AA. While we could run the card with the GPU clocked at 980MHz and the memory at 1,375MHz (5.5GHz effective), we saw no extra performance and Crysis crashed after five minutes.

Overclocking - Crysis

1,680 x 1,050 0xAA 16xAF, DirectX 10, High Quality

  • No AA (overclocked)
  • No AA (stock)
  • 4x AA (overclocked)
  • 4x AA (stock)
    • 36
    • 21
    • 32
    • 18
    • 29
    • 15
    • 27
    • 14
0
10
20
30
40
Frames Per Second
  • Average
  • Minimum

Conclusion

We quite like the Radeon HD 5770 as a GPU – for anyone who can’t stretch to £200 for the Radeon HD 5850 it offers plenty of performance for £120.

PowerColor has tweaked the reference design to deliver more performance, but some of the other adjustments aren’t so welcome. The new cooler is, overall, inferior to the reference model. It doesn’t cool any of the memory, as the reference cooler does, and causes the GPU to run hotter when under load. The PowerColor cooler is quiet, but then the reference cooler is equally polite. With standard HD 5770 cards (using the standard cooler) costing just under £120 (inc VAT), with the PCS+ you’re paying £12 for some extra performance you could add yourself for free, a copy of Dirt 2 and an inferior cooler. That’s not the best deal in the world.

Before getting a stock Radeon HD 5770, just have another trawl through our performance graphs though – as is always the case with next-gen yet mid-range GPUs, if your current graphics card is half-way decent, you may already have much the same frame rates as the upgrade gets you. On its own, DX11 support isn’t a strong enough reason to upgrade, no matter how pretty STALKER: Call of Pripyat may look.

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Score Guide
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April 3 2020 | 14:09

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