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Sapphire Radeon HD 4670 512MB

Tom's Holiday Buyer's Guide 2008, Part 4
By , Ed Tittel, Thomas Soderstrom
By: Ed Tittel

Everybody who wrangles PC hardware knows that one of the surest-fire ways to upgrade an aging machine is to replace an older graphics card with a newer one. At $80, the Sapphire Radeon HD 4670 512 MB 128-bit GDDR3 can give older systems with integrated graphics (and a spare PCIe slot, of course) a profound boost without involving too much cost or effort. In fact, this card needs no extra power inputs, so installation is especially quick and easy. Its compact form factor (the card is only two-thirds the length of a 3850 or 8800) also makes it an easy fit into a system that may already be packed with other devices and cables.

Recitations of graphics card capabilities often turn into a relentless list of features and functions, speeds and feeds. For the HD 4670, the most salient items include support for DirectX 10.1, 320 stream processing units, 32 texture units, eight blending units (ROPs), and a 128-bit memory interface with GDDR3 RAM. It handles up to 24X anti-aliasing (AA) and anisotropic filtering (AF), and supports the ATI CrossFireX architecture for multi-GPU support. Likewise, it includes ATI Avivo HD video and display technology, as well as Unified Video Decoder 2 (UVD 2) to support Blu-ray and HD video, along with built-in HDMI/HDCP (including HDMI 1.3 support), DVD upscaling, and 7.1 surround sound support. Codecs supported include MPEG-2, MPEG-4, DivX, WMV9, VC-1, and H.264, which covers most forms of video content nowadays. Output ports include dual DVI-I and S-Video (a special DVI-I to HDMI adapter is included to support HDMI hook-ups to a monitor, TV, or AV receiver).

The budget 4670 centers on the more expensive architecture developed for AMD’s Radeon HD 4850 and 4870 graphics cards and also uses 55 nm circuit design technology. With 320 stream processing units, it packs impressive graphics power for such a low-cost card. This Sapphire model clocks at 750 MHz, and GDDR3 memory is likewise clocked at 2 GHz, just like the reference design from AMD. High-quality Hynix memory chips help ensure quick, reliable data transfers onto the card. With a maximum power draw of only 55 W, the HD 4670 draws less power than many modern CPUs, which explains why no auxiliary power connectors are needed for this device and why it features a small, relatively quiet cooler (we expect to see passively cooled versions hit the market soon, which makes them ideal for HTPC applications).

In fact, as a way to inject new life and capability into a PC that’s more than a year old, the HD 4670 qualifies as a "best technology buy" for such systems. About the only thing that might do more would be to bump up memory to 2 GB for Windows XP and 4 GB for Vista systems. There’s no denying that anybody who uses a mainstream PC will find this an eminently satisfactory graphics card, even if it is used for low-intensity gaming. Tell Santa to bring one for everybody on your list whose desktop could use a graphics boost.

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