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MSI R5770 HAWK Radeon HD 5770 Video Card Review

Author: Josh Walrath
Manufacturer: MSI

The MSI R5770 HAWK

    To get adequate numbers of product out the door for a new SKU, both AMD and NVIDIA create reference boards with reference coolers, and sell them largely assembled to their board partners.  These partners then slap a sticker on the fan, create a box around the product, put in a small bundle and price it accordingly.  While this allows manufacturers to get good numbers of products out the door on the release date, it does not allow for much differentiation.

The card is well protected by a transparent cover, as well as copious amounts of foam around the card and box.

    It has now been four months since the introduction of the HD 5770, and we are getting to the fun part of its lifespan.  We are now starting to see original and unique designs from multiple manufacturers who aim to give users a little bit extra from a non-reference design, all without breaking the bank in terms of price.

    The MSI R5770 HAWK is designed to be a unique card, but still able to be offered for a small premium over the reference design.  Most current HD 5770s are selling for $159 to $169 before rebate, and the R5770 HAWK currently has a price around $179.  Many were expecting this card to hit the $200 mark, but MSI has certainly surprised us all by offering this card at a very manageable price.

    The changes from the reference design are significant, so it best suit us to dive right in.  The PCB is a custom PCB with a 7+1 phase PWM design.  The 7 phases go to the GPU, while the last phase supplies the memory with power.  The reference design features a 4 phase design.  In this case, more phases allow for cooler operation of the card and GPU, since less work is done by each phase, and the more phases decrease the amount of ripple to the GPU.  This in turn leads to a cooler running GPU.

    The R5770 also runs 25 MHz faster than the reference design.  Apparently AMD is frowning upon heavily overclocked parts, so it is a pleasant surprise to see MSI stepping out of line and offering a bit more performance for the price.  The extra power phases also help to keep overclocking stable with this board.  Some of the more adventurous users have attained a core GPU clock of 1050 MHz, which is a full 200 MHz faster than the stock clock of the HD 5770.  We will be going over my overclocking results later on in this article.

The contents are reasonable considering the price and usage.  As always, use the latest drivers and Afterburner software that can be found on AMD's and MSI's website.

    To take up all this extra heat that will likely be produced by aggressive overclocking, MSI has created a new heatsink which utilizes 3 heatpipes (unfortunately not the Supah Pipes) along with the TwinFrozr fan setup that we first saw on the previous GTX 200 series of products on the NVIDIA side.  Oddly enough, MSI claims that this is 13% cooler than the reference design.  Where have we seen that 13% claim before?  Both fans are adjustable, and will increase their speed in response to increasing GPU temperatures.

    MSI has spared no expense in the creation of this card, and they proudly point to the use of “Military Grade Components.”  This consists of High-C caps, solid chokes, and solid/polymer cops.  MSI was one company that was hurt badly by the exploding cap issue early last decade, and not wanting to replace huge amounts of motherboard and graphics cards, they decided to use higher quality caps.  The extra cost of these caps is certainly offset by not having to replace an entire motherboard or video card with multiple fried components.

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