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Into the Stream

ADVERTORIAL: ATI Radeon HD 4650/70: Top Value for Bottom Dollar
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We’ve already described how unified shaders can be programmed to perform a variety of previously pre-assigned tasks. This programmability concept has gone into hyperdrive over the last couple of years as “general-purpose GPU computing” (GPGPU) has emerged from the academic world into the consumer space. The idea is really just an extension of the type of offloading we see with video decoding. What work can the GPU do for the CPU? And in the case of stream computing, what work can the GPU do better?

Remember those 320 stream processors in the HD 4650 and 4670 cores? Any given number of those can be programmed on the fly to compute certain types of tasks that might have nothing to do with graphics or video. Once this data gets crunched, it can be exported and recombined with other work being done by the CPU. According to AMD, software that can benefit from this GPU-based “stream computing” possesses two key characteristics: “1. A high degree of arithmetic computation per system memory fetch. 2. Computational independence—arithmetic occurs on each processing unit without needing to be checked or verified by or with arithmetic occurring on any other processing unit.”

An early and extreme example is Stanford University’s Folding@home distributed computing project, which breaks up massive molecular analysis jobs into manageable pieces that can be sent to end-user systems, processed, then uploading back to the central servers for compilation. With many, many thousands of PCs working on these tasks in tandem, the Stanford team is able to process far more data than it ever could in a single server room. But because of the massively parallel computing architecture in AMD’s graphics processor, systems running GPUs with compatible GPGPU technologies, such as ATI Stream, can compute Folding@home workloads 20 to 40 times faster than having the CPU alone compute the same jobs.

As interesting and worthy as Folding@home might be, it’s not exactly a mainstream application. So why should consumers care if they have GPGPU support? Because now there are an increasing number of multimedia applications, including MediaShow Espresso and PowerDirector versions 7 and 8 from CyberLink, that leverage ATI Stream to perform consumer-level video editing and transcoding tasks and likewise achieve huge performance gains over CPU-only processing. See our June write-up (http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/amd-stream-gpgpu,2335.html) for some early commentary and results on this point.

As of this fall, AMD is clearly signaling that it will transition its GPGPU efforts into supporting the more vendor-agnostic DirectCompute technology championed by Microsoft. The Stream brand will likely remain and become tied to DirectCompute, but as of today there are no publicly available applications that support DirectCompute (compatible with the ATI Radeon HD 58xx series) while several excellent apps support the ATI Stream technology found in the HD 4650 and 4670. If you work with video, having this GPGPU support could save you countless hours of rendering time.

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  • 19 Hide
    wesleywatson , October 11, 2009 7:03 PM
    I would keep reading, but a giant fucking ad keeps covering half the pages.
Other Comments
  • 19 Hide
    wesleywatson , October 11, 2009 7:03 PM
    I would keep reading, but a giant fucking ad keeps covering half the pages.
  • 6 Hide
    mlcloud , October 11, 2009 7:19 PM
    At least give us the links to some of the 4650/70 benchmarks... Other than that, great read, great recommendations, looking to upgrade my pentium 4, 1.4ghz 256mb (ddr). Was looking at using the HD4200 on the 785g series from AMD, but if I can make a true gaming computer out of it ... hm... tempting.
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , October 11, 2009 9:30 PM
    I'm waiting for a HIS HD4670 1GB to arrive soon. It even has HDMI output.

    Got it really cheap from newegg. It'll do fine with my Intel E5200. Nothing like a super gaming machine, but hope to play TF2 and L4D with good gfx. That's all i play atm.
  • 3 Hide
    tortnotes , October 12, 2009 12:50 AM
    Advertorial? How much did AMD pay for this?
    Not that it's not good content, but come on. Doesn't Tom's make enough from normal ads?
  • 0 Hide
    duckmanx88 , October 12, 2009 1:00 AM
    mlcloud Was looking at using the HD4200 on the 785g series from AMD, but if I can make a true gaming computer out of it ... hm... tempting.


    on their gaming charts the 4670 is listed. plays FEAR 2 pretty well. i assume it can than handle all Source games as well but at lower resolutions, medium settings, no AA, the usual.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , October 12, 2009 2:30 AM
    Assuming I'm assembling a new system and the HD 4650/4670 is the most cost-effective graphics card... what then is the most cost-effective processor to pair with it?
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , October 12, 2009 2:52 AM
    Good thing to see ATI marketing their 4650/4670.

    I was hoping to see more of their mid-range cards.
  • 0 Hide
    WINTERLORD , October 12, 2009 3:51 AM
    great article these are some nice cards for the price, i wonder though if you got 2 of them and tried to put them in a crossfire config. since they dont require a power source, other then the pci-e slot, would 2 of them cause any problems drawing all that current through the motherboard? kinda wondering if there would be any impact there.
  • -1 Hide
    Anonymous , October 12, 2009 9:18 AM
    Ati making great job. In my office there was need to meka PC with 6 individual monitors. Solution - mainboard asus p5q-e + 3 ati 3650 video cards with vga+DVI outputs. Great working very cheep in cost. Tried to meke the same with nvidia 8400gt - no result 4 monitors individual maximum. Ati - rulezzz
  • 2 Hide
    lien , October 12, 2009 1:50 PM
    +

    Installed an Sapphire 4650 AGP on a backup system in August.
    Overclocked it & almost pissed myself on how good the image quality was on that system.
    Article confirms....

    value based articles are refreshing
  • 0 Hide
    Onus , October 12, 2009 3:02 PM
    I absolutely agree. The Ferrari / Focus analogy is particularly apt. If I didn't already have a 4850 in my primary system, another 4670 like the one in my secondary would have been fine (I don't play Crysis).
    As far as running two of them on mobo power, some mobos have an auxiliary molex power connector on them to help with this.
  • 0 Hide
    WINTERLORD , October 12, 2009 3:52 PM
    anyone see the charts for the 4650? i went to the link (http://www.tomshardware.com/charts/graphics-cards,1.html and looked everywhere, like 3 times over and even used the find on page , feautre in internet explorer and could not find it anywhere.
  • 0 Hide
    cinergy , October 12, 2009 5:33 PM
    Nice article. Here is a benchie against nvidia's latest: http://www.pcper.com/article.php?aid=794&type=expert&pid=3
  • 0 Hide
    WINTERLORD , October 12, 2009 6:12 PM
    they have a great article that is up today on toms homepage. just noticed. and it has the 4650 and 4670. thanks
    here is the link. but im sure everyone seen it alrdy on homepage since its new :) 
    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/geforce-gt-220,2445.html
  • 5 Hide
    ryanegeiger , October 12, 2009 7:08 PM
    "Advertorial"... this is a result of the new legistlation requiring all 'bloggers' to disclose whether or not they're paid for their articles.
  • 1 Hide
    Stardude82 , October 12, 2009 8:59 PM
    falknerAssuming I'm assembling a new system and the HD 4650/4670 is the most cost-effective graphics card... what then is the most cost-effective processor to pair with it?

    I guess it depends what you want to use it for really. For watching high-def video, it doesn't matter much since all the processing is done on the GPU. The new dual-core Celerons/Athlons are great for this. For gaming, Toms has a pretty good monthly "Best Gaming CPU for the Money." Though again, it won't matter much since the GPU will be the bottle neck, though the ~$80 E6300 and Athlon II x2 250 are both phenomenal overclockers.


  • 2 Hide
    cangelini , October 13, 2009 7:56 AM
    ryanegeiger"Advertorial"... this is a result of the new legistlation requiring all 'bloggers' to disclose whether or not they're paid for their articles.


    No, this is a result of an editorial department that cares about its readers by drawing a clear line between editorial and advertorial content, and still trying to make the advertorial educational/worth reading.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , October 13, 2009 5:40 PM
    As a HD 4650 GDDR3 user i totally agree with this article.
  • 1 Hide
    Gintok , October 13, 2009 7:32 PM
    Quote:
    This approach also works with Hybrid CrossFireX, which teams a compatible discrete Radeon card (including the 4650 or 4670) with a compatible IGP.


    I'm confused, I thought Hybrid CrossFireX only supported 3 desktop card, the ATI 2400, 3450 and 3470 NOT the 4650 or 4670. Please correct me if I'm wrong.
  • 0 Hide
    Honis , October 14, 2009 7:32 PM
    They need to mark Advert even if they weren't directly paid. Any gift, like letting Tom's keep the video cards, counts in this legislation. Tom's could write an article absolutely crushing a product but still be required to mark it as advert because they get to keep the company's product.
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