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Roundup: Mainstream Graphics Cards From ATI And Nvidia

Roundup: Mainstream Graphics Cards From ATI And Nvidia
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Mid-range graphics cards deliver more bang for their buck now than ever before—their many-core GPUs let them play right along with the big boys. In our most recent benchmarks, you’ll see that the Radeon HD 4670, Radeon HD 4770, and GeForce 9800 GT handle the highest graphics quality settings in today's most popular games without any real difficulty. The bit trade-off happens when you try enabling anti-aliasing, which can quickly overwhelm an inexpensive board. It’s important not to set levels too high so as to keep performance acceptable.

It’s impressive to see a Radeon HD 4670, which you can pick up for as low as $65 these days, keep up with a high-end card from yesteryear, like the Radeon HD 2900 XT (ATI’s flagship card in 2007). Likewise, this card matches the Radeon HD 3850 and the Radeon HD 3870, but consumes less power. In the pages to come, you'll also see a comparison between the Radeon HD 4770 and the HD 4830, which explores whether or not a 128-bit memory bus can compete against a 256-bit pathway (loaded with GDDR3), or if good driver support and GDDR5 DRAM can help offset such a mismatch at a comparable price point.

A total of five cards have made their way into this comparison, including actively-cooled single-slot models and a passively-cooled card with a Zalman VNF 100 iSilence4 heatsink. As a bonus, we also throw in a doubled-up CrossFire configuration for the HIS Radeon HD 4670 with the super-quiet IceQ cooler, which provides a genuine alternative to the Radeon HD 4850, the GeForce 8800 Ultra, the GeForce 9800 GTX+, and the GeForce GTS 250.

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  • 1 Hide
    Bloodblender , August 10, 2009 6:06 AM
    All I can say is that Tom's recent articles have been an excellent read, and this exactly the stuff I (as well as many others) require for their research purposes. Keep up the great work!
  • 3 Hide
    dirtmountain , August 10, 2009 6:21 AM
    Nice article,very well done, but you need to show the 4670 in CF as costing $162, not $81 as shown in the final chart.
  • -4 Hide
    rambo117 , August 10, 2009 6:55 AM
    the iceQ concept is amazing. keeps my 3870s nice and chilly (70C) while hardcore gaming
    and not to mention they both look intimidating in my case ;) 
  • 0 Hide
    pij , August 10, 2009 6:58 AM
    Quick question -

    4770 in crossfire or single 4890 best bet???..
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , August 10, 2009 7:01 AM
    to me the gaming benches are most important but energy efficiency and heat dissipation run a close 2nd. thanks for providing it all!
  • 8 Hide
    Julianbreaker , August 10, 2009 7:36 AM
    Newegg has quite a few 4850s that retail for $100 and it appears to be getting consistently better benchmarks than the 4770. I am confused as to why you would not recommend it over the 4770. Perhaps you are confused by simple maths.
  • -4 Hide
    radiowars , August 10, 2009 8:09 AM
    PijQuick question - 4770 in crossfire or single 4890 best bet???..

    They already did a whole article on that...
  • 8 Hide
    bucifer , August 10, 2009 8:35 AM
    I don't understand why you still won't use the 1GB version of the Radeon 4870. It's clear to me that the card is limited by it's amount of video memory when using hi-res, AA and AF.
    Searching for prices in US and Europe it retails cheaper than the GTX260(192 or 216).
    The point is: the card should be included in the test just as the GTX260-216. It's clearly a better option than the 512 mb version and it's good for comparison!
  • -2 Hide
    masterjaw , August 10, 2009 8:52 AM
    Nice article here. Most importantly, no unnecessary bias included.
  • 8 Hide
    holodust , August 10, 2009 8:57 AM
    Nice article, but I don't see how testing these cards on i7 920@3.8 fits into mainstream.
  • 5 Hide
    Hamsterabed , August 10, 2009 9:08 AM
    makes it a control to make sure they are only ratting the graphics cards and not the cpu. makes sure the GPUS are the limiting factor
  • 0 Hide
    qwertymac93 , August 10, 2009 9:18 AM
    something is bothering me. i have left 4 dead, and when i play it at 8xAA, 16xAF, i get higher frame rates then you do(close to 100). i have a 4830 and the res i play at is 1440x900. i know its not the same as 1650x1050, but the extra AA and AF should at least keep them close, but i get over 20fps more then your 4850! i don't have a fancy i7 and still. my 4830 is clocked at 700/1000. did you set the aa/af in the drivers or in-game, because in-game is almost always better.
  • 0 Hide
    Sihastru , August 10, 2009 9:52 AM
    qwertymac93, probably your driver settings (optimizations) are overriding the in game engine settings.
  • 0 Hide
    pij , August 10, 2009 10:04 AM
    buciferI don't understand why you still won't use the 1GB version of the Radeon 4870. It's clear to me that the card is limited by it's amount of video memory when using hi-res, AA and AF. Searching for prices in US and Europe it retails cheaper than the GTX260(192 or 216).The point is: the card should be included in the test just as the GTX260-216. It's clearly a better option than the 512 mb version and it's good for comparison!



    Sorry I thought the article was 'mainstream graphics cards' not 4890 vs 2x4770's in crossfire ! Blimey I must be going mad.
  • -2 Hide
    pij , August 10, 2009 10:05 AM
    whoops wrong quote - how silly of me.
  • 1 Hide
    pij , August 10, 2009 10:07 AM

    They already did a whole article on that...


    Sorry I thought the article was 'mainstream graphics cards' not 4890 vs 2x4770's in crossfire ! Blimey I must be going mad.

  • 3 Hide
    amnotanoobie , August 10, 2009 10:12 AM
    JulianbreakerNewegg has quite a few 4850s that retail for $100 and it appears to be getting consistently better benchmarks than the 4770. I am confused as to why you would not recommend it over the 4770. Perhaps you are confused by simple maths.


    The only reason that I could think of wherein the 4770 is better, is the smaller manufacturing process which should make it cooler and consume less power. Though if raw performance is your concern, the 4850 may be better.

    holodustNice article, but I don't see how testing these cards on i7 920@3.8 fits into mainstream.


    They usually do it on the highest rig they have to eliminate as much possible bottlenecks as possible. I think they were just making sure that video card's respective scores do not flat-out (i.e. the GTX 275, 260, 4870 and 4890 displaying the same scores when they are clearly a bit different hardware). Ideally even on lower-end hardware this chart should still show the same order in terms of performace, though you'd probably lose a few fps.
  • -2 Hide
    qwertymac93 , August 10, 2009 10:16 AM
    gee, a thumbs down for asking a question, interesting crowd huh. no, all my driver settings are set to "application settings: and i can visually confirm that the AA is indeed working. i think its just a different level. the frame rates i was quoting was from the rooftop part.
  • -2 Hide
    haplo602 , August 10, 2009 10:20 AM
    amnotanoobieThey usually do it on the highest rig they have to eliminate as much possible bottlenecks as possible. I think they were just making sure that video card's respective scores do not flat-out (i.e. the GTX 275, 260, 4870 and 4890 displaying the same scores when they are clearly a bit different hardware). Ideally even on lower-end hardware this chart should still show the same order in terms of performace, though you'd probably lose a few fps.


    well then it begs the question, which card is more platform limited. I mean the driver may scale differently with CPU power, so the card winning on the overclocked i7 may actualy be the worst on a stock PII X3 720 BE, or X2 550 BE.

    thus testing mainstream GPUs on high-end platforms has a flaw here ...
  • 3 Hide
    bucifer , August 10, 2009 10:38 AM
    Pij your IQ is below the sea level.
    masterjawNice article here. Most importantly, no unnecessary bias included.

    As for this statement I have one OBVIOUS mention. Why did they use The Last Remnant for testing again?
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