Well folks, today is another day, and with that we get a chance to review a video card offering from HIS. This time around its the HIS HD 7770 iCooler. This budget card comes with HIS’s iCooler, which is supposed to help keep things cooler and quieter under the hood, as well as sporting a 1000 MHz core clock speed to help keep your games moving along. Let’s see how this little card that looks like it could, actually does!
Specifications and Features
Below is a list of specifications from the HIS website. So, what does this Graphics Core Next (GCN) equipped card run at under the iCooler? As you can see in the table below, the card has 1 GB of memory running at 1125 MHz, or a DDR5 rate of 4500 MHz sitting on a 128 bit bus. For the power this card can produce, and the resolutions its made for, that is enough – but not a lot extra! As for the GPU core, it comes in at 1 GHz. The card has a Dual-Link DVI, VGA, and HDMI outputs, which with the right output, can support resolutions up to 2560×1600 (DL-DVI). Last up, HIS mentions you need a 500 watt or greater PSU for the card. Clearly this is being EXTREMELY cautious as this card’s TDP sits around 80 watts. Give the Power Limit slider a boost to its 20% limit, and you have around 95 watts maximum from the GPU. Since there isn’t any voltage control options, you will be hard pressed to hit that value. That said, always buy a quality PSU for your PC!
|Model Name||HIS HD7770 iCooler 1GB GDDR5 PCI-E DVI/HDMI/VGA|
|Chipset||Radeon HD 7770 PCIe Series|
|ASIC||RadeonTM HD 7770 GPU|
|Manu. Process (Micron)||28nm|
|Memory Size (MB)||1024|
|Engine CLK (MHz)||1000MHz|
|Memory CLK (Gbps)||4.5Gbps|
|Memory Interface (bit)||128bit|
|Power Supply Requirement||500 Watt or greater power|
|Max. Resolution||2560×1600 per display (Dual-link DVI)
2048×1536 per display (VGA)
|Bus Interface||PCI Express 3.0 x16|
One of the major features this card offers is the iCooler, especially when compared with the stock cooler that comes with the reference HD 7770. HIS has this to say about it:
There is no doubt this cooler is very quiet and (spoiler alert!) gets the job done. If it’s 28 dB in 2D mode, I will never know. I don’t have an accurate dB meter handy. But at idle, with 23% fan, I couldn’t hear it at all. Crank it up and you know it’s there, but by no means is it a loud fan. You don’t even have to raise it off auto to keep temperatures under control. A bit more on that later in the appropriate section below!
Photo Op – Meet the HIS HD 7770 iCooler
Below we get our first glimpse of what you receive when buying this card. The retail packaging has the HIS nomenclature up top, and its “Faster, Cooler, Quieter” mantra. There is also a sword (Excaliber?) on the front of the package. Also listed is the model name, the GHz edition, the PCIe speed (3.0!), the type of connections it can handle, and the amount of vRAM. Nothing exciting, just plain old informative. The back has much more of the same marketing, and a features list of the Graphics Core Next (GCN) platform it was built on. There are awards from different websites as well… shoot, the Overclockers.com logo hasn’t made the box yet (but it did on their website!).
The sides of the box bring more of the same, as far as the kind slot its supposed to be in (PCIe), the vRAM amount, and what is included in the package. The top has the sticker with the serial and model numbers, as well as a repeat of the high level descriptors of the card.
A Closer Look
Finally, the card! Isn’t it cute?! The card is a bit over seven inches long, almost 5 inches high and about one and a half inches wide. It is still a dual slot card with the iCooler solution on it because the fan and frame stick up above the I/O plate. As you can see by the design of the iCooler, the entire heatdump from the card will be exhausted inside the case. Seeing how this is a very low powered card, that shouldn’t make much difference at all really. Moving along, we see the card rests on a blue/green PCB, and all the memory IC’s are on the front of the card. There isn’t much to see on the rear except stickers containing HIS’s QC checks and the serial number of the card.
Sliding down to the outputs, you see (from L to R), VGA, HDMI, and a Dual-Link DVI. Plenty of options for your monitor. The specifications on the HIS product page state it can handle two monitors at once. I can’t be certain of this because that excerpt appears to be a copy/paste. It references mini display ports, which this card does not have. Its been a while though since a single card couldn’t run two monitors.
The TDP on the card is 80W which is above the amount the PCIe slot can output, while still meeting PCIe-SIG specifications. With that, the HD 7770 requires a single 6 pin PCIe power to be plugged in to function. You do get that hideously loud beep when its not plugged in, so don’t forget!
Some alternate pictures of the GPU…
Next up we take off the heatsink for inspection as well as showing a closeup of the Elpida Memory. The heatsink is all aluminum it appears, with fins/ribs above the contact area that touches the core. You can see the factory thermal paste application was pretty good, not too much and not too little. Next up are the Elpida memory ICs. I had a bit of trouble finding their specs, but there is a bit of overclocking headroom in them as you will see later on.
Performance and Overclocking
- Intel i7 3770K CPU @ 4 GHz, 1.2v
- Asrock Z77 OC Formula
- Kingston Hyper X Predator 2 x 4 GB 2666 MHz CL11 @ 1.65 V
- 60 GB OCZ Vertex 2 SSD
- Seasonic 1000 W
- HIS HD 7770 iCooler (Stock – 1000/1125 overclocked to 1076/1228 )
- Windows 7 64 bit Operating System
- AMD Catalyst 13.1 Drivers
- All Synthetic benchmarks were at their default settings
- Unigine Heaven (HWbot) was run with the “extreme” setting
- Alien vs. Predator – 1920×1080 with highest settings offered (4x AA, textures set to highest)
- Batman: Arkham City – 1920×1080, 8xMSAA, MVSS and HBAO, Tessellation HIGH, Detail Level: Extreme
- Battlefield 3 – 1920×1080 at Ultra settings (4xAA/HBAO by default)
- Dirt 3 - 1920×1080 with 8x MSAA and all settings enabled and at Ultra where possible
- Metro 2033 – 1920×1080, DX11, Very High, 4x MSAA/ 16x AF, PhysX OFF, DOF enabled, Scene: Frontline
- Civilization V – 1920×1080, 8x MSAA, Vysnc OFF, High Detail Strategic View: Enabled, Other Settings: High, using full render frames value ( / 60)
- More detail is in our article: Overclockers’ Updated Video Card Testing Procedure
Here you see a GPUz version 6.7 view of the HIS HD 7770 iCooler. As you can see, we are using the Catalyst 13.1 drivers for this review. The 13.1 drivers of course have the significant performance increases that came from the 12.11 beta version. The card shows 16 ROPs, and 40 TMUs with 640 GCN shaders. Again, the memory bus is 128 bits wide, and with its stock speed yields 72 GB/s throughput.
HIS also has their own software, dubbed iTurbo.. In the large screenshot below, we see the Overclock tab. Notice the lack of voltage control? This card doesn’t seem to have it across any application. I’m not terribly surprised, but the overclocker in me sure wishes there was some kind of software voltage control. That aside, the application works as it should with no problems. As I said, my only real quip with this program is its size. I just wish it was a bit smaller when out of its ‘minimized’ state.
For comparison against this card. We used a, Sapphire 7770, HIS 7750 IceQ X Turbo, MSI 650ti PE, and a Galaxy GTX 660 GC (click on the cards that are hyper-linked for their reviews). The overclocked speeds used for this card are 1076/1228. Fairly conservative really, so I would have to imagine most if not all of these cards can reach that amount.
First up is our oldie but goody in 3DMark 03. Here the HD 7770 puts up a 65,185 value stock and 70,405 overclocked. A nice increase of 8.5%. In 3DMark Vantage, the HIS HD 7770 iCooler manages a 16,870 score at stock and 18,113 overclocked. An increase of around 7% here. A theme that you will sometimes see from this point is that the other 7770 used in this review managed a lot higher clocks when overclocked.
Moving on to something a bit more modern, we will start with 3dMark 11. Here the HD 7770 posts a score of 4,145 at stock speeds and 4,470 when overclocked. A gain of over 7% when overclocked. Next up in this graph, and the last of our synthetic benchmarks, is Unigine Heaven (Hwbot version). In this stressful benchmark, the HD 7770 managed a 775.35 score and 845.29 when overclocked. A difference of over 8%.
Now for the games! The card having only 1 GB of memory can really bother things at 1920×1080 resolutions, so you will likely have to keep AA down or play at a slightly lower resolution to get acceptable frame rates (without dips below 30FPS). Ok, so let’s check out Aliens vs Predator! The HIS HD 7770 iCooler manages a meager 23.8 FPS at stock speeds. Batman: Arkham City manages to get the average above 30 FPS coming in at 34 FPS. Last up in this graph is Battlefield 3. In this stressful game, we pulled 30.9 FPS. What we tend to run, as far as location in the single player game in BF3, seems to be a lot lighter than what other sites benchmark, so keep that in mind. I wouldn’t want to run BF3 at 1080p and Ultra settings on this card as in heavy fire fights, things do slow down in the FPS department just a bit.
Next up in our gaming suite is Civilization V. Here the HIS HD 7770 iCooler manages 36.5 FPS stock and 39.7 overclocked. In Dirt 3 it pulled 43.9 FPS and 47.3 overclocked. Last up in game testings is the GPU killer, Metro 2033. In no way is this game playable with this card at these settings, as it came in at 13.5 FPS and 14.8 overclocked. To be fair, even the much more expensive cards couldn’t break 30 FPS, so don’t hold it against the HD 7770!
So, it seems on this set of games that lowering the settings from what we test at, or lowering the resolution will improve your gaming experience with this card. I believe that in most titles, going without AA or turning down the resolution a notch would improve things and make this a decent budget gaming card. I had this in my HTPC for a while and played some BF3 on High, no AA, and SSAO at 1080p. Most of the time this was a pleasurable experience, but in heavy firefights with loads of explosions and such, things did bog a bit. Turning it down to 1680×1050 helped that out a ton.
Cooling and Power Consumption
This card is sold with the “iCooler” nomenclature, which is supposed to keep things quiet when compared to ( I’m assuming) the reference cooler. Sadly, I don’t have a dB meter, well I do have an app on my phone but I cant imagine its accurate. So, to see if the 28 dB number is true is about impossible for this reviewer. That said, up to around 60% fan speed this thing was pretty darn quiet. After that, a bit of wind and mechanical noise begins to creep in. This isn’t a big deal though as the iCooler keeps things pretty cool, as you can see below. The fan ramped up using the default profile, to around 55% at the temperatures listed below. The iCooler is adequate for the load it has to cool, and it’s quiet.
As far as power consumption, we really have a card that sips on the amps. This card is shown with a TDP of 80 watts. Add 20% to the power limit for any overclocking, and that yields a maximum of around 95 watts for this GPU. As you can see below, the test bench (listed above) only pulled a maximum at the wall (90% efficient PSU… likely less at this low load) of 179W.
Pushing the Limits
In this section, I am only going to list the clocks I managed to achieve and not show any benchmarks. The reasoning behind this is that there isn’t any voltage control on these cards and overclocking is limited in that respect. So any overclock must be done on the stock voltage of 1.175. With the limited headroom, the biggest differences are going to be with cranking the CPU to 4.9GHz. So that aside, I was able to benchmark and game at 1138/1284. That is an increase of 138 MHz on the core, and 169 MHz on the memory. Not bad for no voltage adjustments! Here are the results!
So, we have a card from HIS that is on the budget end of things and supposed to be able to play games quietly with decent frame rates. Did HIS achieve this goal? I answer that with a yes. Sure there are some titles where dropping the resolution will be needed. For the most part it does OK at 1080p when things are not set to ‘ultra’. The card should be fine with a lower resolution on most games, and tweaking some of the settings. Part of the issue here is the small(ish) 128 bit memory bus, along with 1GB of memory being a bit short for 1080p in a lot of titles, but one must know this isn’t meant to be a monster gaming card at this price point anyway.
What we end up with is a nice little budget card with a quieter than reference cooler, and can play games fairly well. So, the next question is the price. I don’t see this card on Newegg.com, but some others with the same clocks and different coolers are there for $119.99 + SH. At that price point, it puts it right at the bottom of HD 7770′s at newegg. So, the pricing is great for the card.
In the end, you have an inexpensive (even when compared to the same level of cards) and quiet card that would be great in an HTPC or budget gaming rig. It also allows you to play games with respectable frame rates in most titles. This card is Overclockers.com approved!
Joe Shields (Earthdog)