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Let's round things out with a couple of our famous scatter plots. We're laying average performance (based on the results from the four games we tested) along the Y axis and prices along the X axis. The sweet spot will be the card closest to the top left of the plot, while the worst will be closer to the bottom right.

We fetched prices for the new Radeons from AMD and XFX, and other prices were gleaned from Newegg. The exact GeForce GTS 450 and Radeon HD 5770 models we tested weren't listed anymore, so we've used prices for slightly slower variants that are still available. That may not be entirely rigorous, but the differences don't amount to very much.

Well, this confirms what we've been saying all along: the Radeon HD 6850 is the way to go in this price range, at least if you're chiefly concerned about performance per dollar. As we noted on the previous page, the 6850 does have higher power consumption, and depending on which model you get, it may also have higher noise levels.

The Radeon HD 7750 isn't as much of a lost cause as its faster sibling. In fact, considering how close it ends up to the Radeon HD 5770, I'd be inclined to recommend it—with the caveat that only solutions with third-party coolers should be considered. (The single-slot stock cooler really sucks. No pun intended.) Based on the photos in AMD's presentation, the 7750 variants from at least Asus, Gigabyte, HIS, MSI, and Sapphire should have dual-slot coolers. Sapphire has a passively cooled model, too.

Before we render our final verdict, let's get a little wild and compile a value scatter plot out of our 99th percentile frame time data. For consistency's sake, we've converted the frame times to frame rates, so desirable offerings are still at the top left.

The new Radeons look even worse here, no doubt because of their lackluster showing in Skyrim (which I'd probably attribute to a temporary bug). The Nvidia cards are also penalized heavily, which isn't surprising. Skyrim excepted, the GeForces definitely had a harder time maintaining consistent—and consistently low—frame times than their competitors.

So, there you have it. I hate to end on a down note, but two years after the Radeon HD 5770's debut, AMD could have done a lot better. The Radeon HD 7770 isn't a bad product by any means; it just costs way too much. This is a card that belongs at around $130, just below the Radeon HD 6850. It has no business anywhere near $159 or, heaven forbid, $179 like our snazzed-up XFX entrant.

The Radeon HD 7750 is more compelling, despite the awful stock cooling solution. However, it's still a little too expensive, with a price tag $9 above that of the quicker Radeon HD 5770.

Of course, there is a silver lining. The reality is that the 7770 is almost undoubtedly far cheaper to produce than the 6850; its GPU is half as big, its memory interface is half as wide, and its circuit board likely has fewer layers. The 7770 can also get away with smaller heatsinks without costly heat pipes. It may cost more right now, but prices are almost assured to drop over time—and when they do, the 7770's ability to nip at the 6850's heels should turn it into a killer deal for gamers on a budget.

Too bad it's not there yet.TR

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