After reviewing AMD's $550 Radeon HD 7970 in December, we were excited to lay hands on some more affordable Southern Islands cards. That opportunity finally arose in February with the launch of the wallet-friendly Radeon HD 7750 and HD 7770.

The new mainstream 28nm cards were particularly welcomed because AMD's sub-$200 lineup had grown a little stale over the years, with the HD 5750 and 5770 being shamelessly rebadged as HD 6750 and 6770 in the previous generation. Unfortunately, our enthusiasm was short-lived. The HD 7750 was a tad slower than the last-gen GeForce GTX 550 Ti, though its performance detriment was easily justified by having a lower asking price and consuming 30% less power.

Overall, we determined that the HD 7750 wouldn't have much to offer for performance junkies (to be expected when you're talking about a $110 graphics card), but that it served as a valid option for HTPC-like builds. That opinion still stands.

Similarly, the HD 7770 was priced in line with the GTX 560 at $160, but the newcomer was much slower. At best, the HD 7770 was ~15% cheaper while performing ~ 18% worse, with its only saving attribute being the substantial 30% power savings. Sadly, power consumption becomes less of a concern as you approach higher-end configurations. We imagine someone shopping for a $160-$200 graphics card would much rather have more performance over lower consumption figures.

At the end of the day, neither HD 7700 series card really pushed the envelope in terms of value. Part of that presumably stems from the fact that Nvidia hasn't launched its GTX 600 series yet, allowing AMD to have its way with the market.

When Nvidia's Kepler products finally arrive (rumored for late Q1/early Q2), we're hoping some pricing adjustments follow. If (when?) that occurs, the HD 7700 series could become more attractive overnight -- and not just in single-card setups.

The old HD 5750 and 5770 were popular Crossfire candidates and the same could be true of the HD 7700 series if it's priced right. Anticipating that day, we're testing the HD 7750 and HD 7770 in Crossfire across more than a dozen games to see how well they scale and compare against cards such as the HD 6870 and GTX 560 Ti.

Those looking for more info about the HD 7700 series should read our launch day coverage. Everyone else: buckle up and let's take these cards for another spin.