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Review: MSI Radeon HD 5770 HAWK Edition: the very best mid-range graphics card?

by Tarinder Sandhu on 20 February 2010, 05:00 3.5

Tags: Radeon HD 5770 Hawk edition (10.2), MSI

Quick Link: HEXUS.net/qav7q

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The card

And here is the beast from the East.

Looking radically different to the basic design provided by AMD, the HAWK uses MSI's Twin Frozr II cooler on top of a custom PCB. The twin 66mm fans, each attached to their own PWM circuitry, sit on top of a triple-heatpipe heatsink that's firmly attached to the GPU by a nickel-coated copper insert.

Clearly aimed at the enthusiast, the card is also outfitted with a 7+1-phase PWM for, MSI says, better stability when overclocking. The GPU is over-volted as standard, shipping with a voltage of 1.2V vs. the 1.125V found on most other cards. More on this later.

The chunky heatsink will take up the slot adjacent to the PCIe x16's, but we note that it common to all Radeon HD 5770s. The cooler doesn't come into contact with the four memory chips on the topside, however.

Closer inspection of the PCB shows that MSI uses all-solid capacitors and solid chokes for better-regulated power delivery.

Slight overclock

Given the attention to detail focussed on better-than-reference cooling, MSI plays the frequency game safe by shipping the HAWK with an 875MHz engine speed - 25MHz above stock - but keeps the GDDR5 memory at the default 4,800MHz. We can understand the thinking here, based on the fact that most prospective purchasers won't shy away from overclocking the board themselves.

A peek at the back shows the other four 1Gbit chips that make up the card's 1GB frame-buffer. They're the same Samsung K4G10325FE-HC04 chips as found on the Radeon HD 5870, and it's interesting to note that they're specified to run at 5GHz at 1.5V. The reference HD 5770 model uses 5GHz-rated chips from Hynix.

Measuring exactly the same as the reference and weighing in at 31g less - 502g vs. 533g - most users will have no problem in positioning it inside a regular chassis.

Multimeter users rejoice

MSI also includes a couple of points where the card's memory and engine voltages can be read. Keeping matters simple, multimeter probes are pre-attached for easy hook-up.

The  core voltage is also reported with a bundled application called Afterburner, although we see no harm in pandering to multimeter geeks this once.

Note the single CrossFireX connector? Here's one situation where the reference card, with two, is 'better'.

The Twin Frozr II heatsink doesn't make contact with the backplate. This means that GPU-transferred heat is, in the main, recirculated in the chassis.

Outputs-wise, MSI loses the second DVI connector when compared to the reference model, and we're not sure why the company couldn't have kept the original backplate, albeit with a couple of minor modifications.


MSI's souped-up Radeon HD 5770 HAWK is designed with the enthusiast firmly in mind. Priced at £155 - thereby attracting a £35 premium over regular HD 5770 cards - the value proposition will be based on more than just hardware. Moving on to the bundle...