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ATI Radeon HD 4770: 40nm Goes Mainstream

ATI Radeon HD 4770: 40nm Goes Mainstream
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Writing about the latest and greatest hardware is fun—I’m not going to lie. Getting hands-on with technology in the lab is practically a hobby, and I’m fairly confident that most enthusiasts would share that excitement surrounded by a lab full of tech.

But I’ll be the first to admit that $500 dual-GPU video cards and $1,000 Extreme Edition processors are Beluga caviar in a Big Mac world. There are some lucky gamers who really buy the pricey stuff. A majority, however, live vicariously through the reviews, and actually spends their money on components derived from high-end kit.

Fortunately, even the mid-range of the graphics market is full of excitement right now. Bargains pepper the $100-$200 range, from the Radeon HD 4830 to the Radeon HD 4850/GeForce GTS 250 and Radeon HD 4870/GeForce GTX 260.

The challenge faced by vendors like ATI and Nvidia, though, is that those inexpensive cards all center on the same GPUs—processors that actually begin life as potential top-shelf components powering boards like the GeForce GTX 285 and Radeon HD 4870. Dropping the engine from a $350 GTX 285 into a $180 GTX 260, for instance, has to be painful. Similarly, the slide from $180 Radeon HD 4870 to $130 Radeon HD 4830 isn’t exactly economical.

That’s why you see derivative mainstream GPUs. Think G94 to Nvidia’s G92 or RV620 to ATI’s RV670. They employ architectural elements from the full-strength GPU, but consume less die space. So long as ATI or Nvidia is able to sell enough of them to offset a separate chip design, they come out ahead.

Remember this chart? ATI is going after another demand peak.Remember this chart? ATI is going after another demand peak.

A Mainstream Contender?

Enter ATI’s new Radeon HD 4770—the first GPU manufactured on a 40 nm process. As with the other models in the company’s HD 4000-series family, the HD 4770 is derived from the same popular RV770 design popularized by the Radeon HD 4870 and 4850 cards almost a year ago.

But this one sports a slightly different core arrangement. At the same time, it displaces ATI’s Radeon HD 4830, which centered on the same pricey RV770 GPU at 55 nm. Thus, we'll be expecting at least comparable performance as we compare new to old.

If the Radeon HD 4770 is, in fact, able to stand up to the HD 4830, then the best news for value-oriented gamers will be this card’s price tag: $109. I don’t think I’ve ever used the word “impressive” in conjunction with something you'd normally find in the bargain bin. However, playable frame rates at 1920x1200 might just deserve such an adjective if this new mainstream board turns out to be a contender. It’d be a real coup for ATI too, given the massive market for $100 video cards, according to the same Mercury Research data we cited in the Radeon HD 4890 story.

Let’s dig a little deeper into the Radeon HD 4770’s innards for a glimpse at why this card has potential to be a winner.

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  • 31 Hide
    bardia , April 28, 2009 5:19 AM
    I'm pretty blown away at the kind of performance that can be had for ~$100 these days thanks to ATI. It wasn't long ago when Nvidia forced us to choice between the incredibly crappy 8600GT for $150 and the ~$250-300 8800GTS 320.

    ATI is leading us into graphics nirvana.
  • 14 Hide
    Summer Leigh Castle , April 28, 2009 5:33 AM
    bardiaI'm pretty blown away at the kind of performance that can be had for ~$100 these days thanks to ATI. It wasn't long ago when Nvidia forced us to choice between the incredibly crappy 8600GT for $150 and the ~$250-300 8800GTS 320.ATI is leading us into graphics nirvana.

    I spent almost $300 on my 8800GTS 320 OC when they came out and I thought I got a great deal. Things have changed! Competition = good for the consumers!
  • 12 Hide
    RazberyBandit , April 28, 2009 8:21 AM
    Good write-up, Chris. Two points of criticism, one of high praise.

    First, I would have preferred to see a whole line of 512MB cards - Tossing a 1GB GTS into the mix makes the higher rez comparisons rather unfair. Given that the typical cost of a 1GB version of the GTS250 is is typically $150-$160 (~$140 w/ MiR), not the $120-$130 price you purport, (those around $120 or so are the 512MB cards) there is more to that story than just the amount of VRAM.

    Second, the part about DX10 vs DX10.1 where you said the following:
    Quote:
    At 1920x1200, the Radeon HD 4850 achieves 12.7 frames per second with “Use DX 10.1” checked (compared to 11.3 frames without it). Looking for a more playable frame rate, we dropped to 1280x1024 and recorded 21.35 frames—down from 21.5. The moral of the story? Don’t expect DX 10.1 to make this title any more playable than it was without the feature enabled.

    Why didn't you perform that specific switch on the 4770? I mean, that's the card the article is focused upon, right? Just seems more prudent to apply that to the focus card.

    Lastly, I particularly liked the comparison where you went from the "king" i7 to the budget-oriented X2 Kuma. It clearly showed the benefit of a much faster CPU and it's associated architecture in games that are clearly CPU-dependent.
Other Comments
  • 5 Hide
    Dekasav , April 28, 2009 4:16 AM
    "Well-played ATI, well played."

    Couldn't say it better, myself.

    Looks to be a pretty good card, but nothing spectacular. 40nm is nice, a little cheaper HD 4850 (fewer FPS, too), but all in all, nicely done.

    I wonder who'll sell more, now, the 4850 or the 4770?
  • 4 Hide
    kelfen , April 28, 2009 4:38 AM
    solid card for the average gammer ;) 
  • 31 Hide
    bardia , April 28, 2009 5:19 AM
    I'm pretty blown away at the kind of performance that can be had for ~$100 these days thanks to ATI. It wasn't long ago when Nvidia forced us to choice between the incredibly crappy 8600GT for $150 and the ~$250-300 8800GTS 320.

    ATI is leading us into graphics nirvana.
  • 10 Hide
    pharge , April 28, 2009 5:19 AM
    Wondering will 4770 a good one for crossfire? Can we have a review on it....? With its low power useage when fully loaded, cheaper price (~$40 cheaper than 4850 when CF), not much slower than 4850 (512MB), and nice overclocking range... It will be nice to see will 4770 CF setup be useful (playable) in games (1920x1200) with some visual goodies truned on.
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , April 28, 2009 5:32 AM
    Wondering about 4770x2, should be wishful item
  • 14 Hide
    Summer Leigh Castle , April 28, 2009 5:33 AM
    bardiaI'm pretty blown away at the kind of performance that can be had for ~$100 these days thanks to ATI. It wasn't long ago when Nvidia forced us to choice between the incredibly crappy 8600GT for $150 and the ~$250-300 8800GTS 320.ATI is leading us into graphics nirvana.

    I spent almost $300 on my 8800GTS 320 OC when they came out and I thought I got a great deal. Things have changed! Competition = good for the consumers!
  • 5 Hide
    eklipz330 , April 28, 2009 5:38 AM
    this card is amazing for 1680x1050, if they can manage to slap some aftermarket coolers on there, buying two for the price of a 1gb 4870, and overclocking them, im pretty sure we'd pass gtx 285 numbers.... simply amazing.

    great card for 16x10 resolution. good job ati, you've done more damage to nvidia[and they're sickly pricing schemes] in the past year than they've done to you in the pass 3-4
  • 0 Hide
    eklipz330 , April 28, 2009 5:44 AM
    *edit*

    just checked newegg and they all have aftermarket coolers on them... wow *_*

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=ENE&DEPA=0&Order=BESTMATCH&Description=4770&x=0&y=0
  • 1 Hide
    Ryun , April 28, 2009 5:50 AM
    eklipz330*edit*just checked newegg and they all have aftermarket coolers on them... wow *_*http://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod [...] 70&x=0&y=0


    Nah, they're reference coolers from AMD. From what I heard, AMD gave the AIB partners a choice between the dual slot and the, for lack of a better term, uglier cooler. Apparently the "uglier" one is cheaper so that's what you're probably going see for now.
  • 2 Hide
    aznguy0028 , April 28, 2009 6:18 AM
    RyunNah, they're reference coolers from AMD. From what I heard, AMD gave the AIB partners a choice between the dual slot and the, for lack of a better term, uglier cooler. Apparently the "uglier" one is cheaper so that's what you're probably going see for now.

    i actually like the "uglier" coolers. they look like a spaceship on the card xD. haha
  • 2 Hide
    JAYDEEJOHN , April 28, 2009 6:33 AM
    Im just hoping they spend as much space, and lines on ATI's DX10.1 whenever nVidia releases something, or in an nVidia review coming
  • -8 Hide
    anamaniac , April 28, 2009 7:00 AM
    It will play Crysis!
    Now to see, will it crossfire with a 4670? That'd be orgasmic.
    I luv my 4670, but I also want the 4770... :'( 

    I love seeing low power cards also. I'm too cheap to buy a good PSU.
    All the cards on newegg look exactly the same...
  • 4 Hide
    thepinkpanther , April 28, 2009 7:14 AM
    dang i thought the 4770 would suck compared to any 256 bit interface card,boy! was i wrong!
  • -4 Hide
    Ryun , April 28, 2009 7:17 AM
    aznguy0028i actually like the "uglier" coolers. they look like a spaceship on the card xD. haha


    Maybe bulkier would've been a better term? =)

    Sorry it's late and I'm working on a web computing project so my vernacular is a little narrow.
  • 6 Hide
    crisisavatar , April 28, 2009 7:23 AM
    excellent card but i think the extra 10 bucks made it loose some of it's charm.
  • 6 Hide
    cangelini , April 28, 2009 7:46 AM
    phargeWondering will 4770 a good one for crossfire? Can we have a review on it....? With its low power useage when fully loaded, cheaper price (~$40 cheaper than 4850 when CF), not much slower than 4850 (512MB), and nice overclocking range... It will be nice to see will 4770 CF setup be useful (playable) in games (1920x1200) with some visual goodies truned on.


    This is upcoming. I know they were asking for CrossFire in other countries as well, but we didn't receive two of these boards. There is a Radeon HD 4770 roundup in the works, however!
  • 1 Hide
    NuclearShadow , April 28, 2009 8:15 AM
    The price to performance ratio just keeps getting better and better. I'm simply amazed by this.
  • 12 Hide
    RazberyBandit , April 28, 2009 8:21 AM
    Good write-up, Chris. Two points of criticism, one of high praise.

    First, I would have preferred to see a whole line of 512MB cards - Tossing a 1GB GTS into the mix makes the higher rez comparisons rather unfair. Given that the typical cost of a 1GB version of the GTS250 is is typically $150-$160 (~$140 w/ MiR), not the $120-$130 price you purport, (those around $120 or so are the 512MB cards) there is more to that story than just the amount of VRAM.

    Second, the part about DX10 vs DX10.1 where you said the following:
    Quote:
    At 1920x1200, the Radeon HD 4850 achieves 12.7 frames per second with “Use DX 10.1” checked (compared to 11.3 frames without it). Looking for a more playable frame rate, we dropped to 1280x1024 and recorded 21.35 frames—down from 21.5. The moral of the story? Don’t expect DX 10.1 to make this title any more playable than it was without the feature enabled.

    Why didn't you perform that specific switch on the 4770? I mean, that's the card the article is focused upon, right? Just seems more prudent to apply that to the focus card.

    Lastly, I particularly liked the comparison where you went from the "king" i7 to the budget-oriented X2 Kuma. It clearly showed the benefit of a much faster CPU and it's associated architecture in games that are clearly CPU-dependent.
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