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Overclocking And Cooling

ATI Radeon HD 4770: 40nm Goes Mainstream
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In our Radeon HD 4890 review, we abstained from publishing overclocking results to avoid mis-representing what a retail sample of the card could really do.

This time around, however, we were simply too curious about the 40 nm shift and what it could mean for enthusiasts who don’t mind cranking the knobs on their brand new graphics cards. Bear in mind that this is still an early sample of the HD 4770—your mileage may vary.

With stock clocks of 750/800 MHz as our reference point, we settled on a stable 830/850 MHz combination of frequencies in 3D mode, maxing out ATI's Overdrive utility. And while the core automatically scales back to 250 MHz on the Windows desktop, memory maintains a constant 850 MHz when it’s overclocked.

Performance increases attributable to overclocking are minor, but certainly measurable. In Far Cry 2, the best returns fall just short of 10%.The same goes for Stalker, another one of the most GPU-limited tests in our suite.

Cooling

ATI readily admits that the Radeon HD 4770’s reference cooling solution was borrowed from its old 3800-series boards. Apparently, the less-aggressive dual-slot cooler enables cost savings versus single-slot solutions—but who’s to say? This thing still employs a large copper heatsink, heatpipes, and a covered shroud, so we’re honestly not sure where the supposed savings really comes from.

But by the time you’re ready to buy a new graphics card, you might not even need to worry about it. Wave one of Radeon HD 4770s will be the bog standard reference cards, as expected; dual-slot coolers, two dual-link DVI outputs, and so on. The wave after will be the ones tweaked by board partners (and will likely include models with single-slot coolers, juiced clocks, and special bundles).

Radeon HD 4770 (top) versus Radeon HD 4850 (bottom). The 4770 is 1 inch shorter (8.5 inch PCB), but employs a dual-slot cooler.Radeon HD 4770 (top) versus Radeon HD 4850 (bottom). The 4770 is 1 inch shorter (8.5 inch PCB), but employs a dual-slot cooler.

Of course, that’s when you’ll need to keep an eye out for price. Spend too much trying to doll up something that was good enough in its stock form and you’ll find yourself priced right out of the product’s original value proposition. A Radeon HD 4770 priced at $109 is what we have on the bench today, so assume reference across the board in your own comparisons.

One thing we do need to mention: the first Radeon HD 4770 that arrived had an early BIOS with a slightly “off” cooling ramp. It’d heat up, spin to full duty cycle for two seconds, then drop back down to idle. This was fixed by a second card sent out by ATI, along with a note stating all of the boards appearing at retail starting April 28th would include the fixed BIOS. We were also able to fix the issue by manually keying in the fan speed.

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