Summary: Donít be fooled by the Radeon 4770ís name. Thanks to blazing clocks and GDDR5 memory, the GPU is actually faster than the Radeon 4830. See how it fares against the Radeon 4850 and the rest of NVIDIA's GeForce lineup in this article!
Overall the Radeon 4830 is a good performer, capable of running most games at 1600x1200 with 4xAA/8xAF (even 8xAA in some cases) and high quality settings with good frame rates. In comparison to its closest competitor from NVIDIA, the GeForce 8800/9800 GT, the Radeon 4830 is pretty even, with each card trading wins in various games. Only under 8xAA does the Radeon 4830 really pull away from the GeForce card.
But as good as the Radeon 4830 is, it does have a slight problem: falling GPU prices. When the Radeon 4830 was originally launched, it was priced at $130. But thanks to falling GPU prices, 4830 cards now sell for as little as $87-$100 online ($77 after rebate). Thatís a reduction of over 30%.
While this is great news for consumers looking to upgrade, this isnít good for ATIís bottom line. Falling GPU prices reduce their profit margins. And while RV770 isnít a massive chip, it still isnít very cost effective for ATI to sell it in a $90 Radeon 4830 card, and with the way prices have been going, the 4830 could be another $10+ less in another month or so.
To address this issue, ATI needed a GPU solution that was custom built from the ground up for this segment of the GPU market. Rather than concoct a purpose-built 4830 ASIC at 55-nm, ATIís decided to go even smaller, pressing TSMCís 40-nm manufacturing process into service for their new RV740 GPU.
But a smaller manufacturing process isnít the only move ATI has made to RV740 to reduce costs, the chip also sports a narrower 128-bit memory interface. To make up for the simpler interface, ATI has decided to integrate speedy GDDR5 memory into RV740: the board ships with the same 800MHz GDDR5 (3.2GHz effective) that was first used on the Radeon 4870 last year. This allows the card to boast very respectable memory bandwidth figures despite its 128-bit interface.
The most impressive part of all though is that thanks to high clock speeds, the RV740-based Radeon 4770 is actually faster than the Radeon 4830, despite its name. Itís actually a little closer in performance to the Radeon 4850 than the 4830! Letís see what else is new under the hood of this chipÖ
The Radeon 4770 is in a bit of a strange position. Based on its branding, youíd assume that itís inferior to ATIís Radeon 4830 GPU, but actually in benchmarks itís faster. When we asked ATI if this meant the end of the 4830 though, they said theyíd continue to produce it for interested board partners, apparently the 4830 is selling extremely well in Europe and Asia, so some partners may not retire it just yet. According to ATIís official press presentation though, the 4830 is no longer depicted, with the 4770 occupying the $99 sweet spot (keep in mind this is $99 after a $10 mail-in rebate), the Radeon 4850 512MB priced just above it at $139, 4850 1GB at $159, and the Radeon 4870 512MB and 1GB carrying MSRPs of $169 and $199 respectively.
With its 40-nm manufacturing process, youíd naturally expect the Radeon 4770 to utilize a single-slot cooler. After all, the 4830 and 4850 got by just fine with their single-slot cooling. So why does the 4770 reference design ship with a dual-slot heatsink/fan unit? The answer certainly is due in part to the GPUís 750MHz core clock frequency, thatís the same speed as the Radeon 4870. ATI also heard the criticism from end users regarding the 4850ís stock cooling, so they decided to address this issue for the 4770. In our testing the Radeon 4770 idled at around 54 degrees Celsius Ė the same speed as our 4830 reference board Ė but the key difference is load temps. Whereas the 4830 hit 80 degrees in our testing under load, the 4770 maxed out at 71 degrees.
The cooler design itself is similar in shape to ATIís cooler previously used on the 3870, however the 4770ís cooling unit is more powerful. ATI adds two copper heatpipes to the list of ingredients, while a dual-slot aluminum heatsink is responsible for drawing heat off the heatpipes. Finally, a blower-style fan exhausts hot air from the GPU outside your case. ATI even adds aluminum heatsinks for cooling the boardís GDDR5 memory modules while an aluminum plate helps draw heat off the PCB itself.
Despite its 40-nm interface, the Radeon 4770 does require a six-pin PCIe power connector. According to ATI the board draws up to 80W of juice, which is just 5W more than the PCIe interface itself can supply to the card.
But the reference board ATI sent over isnít the only 4770 we have on-hand. ASUS also managed to overnight one of their EAH4770 boards to us just in time for a photo shoot (the card is clocked at the stock 4770 clocks, so performance is similar to our ATI reference board).
As you can see, the ASUS EAH4770 sports a dual-slot cooler thatís entirely different than the board ATI sent over. At first we thought it was a custom design, but a quick check of 4770 listings on Newegg reveals that other board partners are using the same cooling design. Weíll have to check with ATI to see whatís going on with 4770 cooling, but it looks like ATIís providing two different dual-slot coolers to their board partners, one with copper heatpipes and one without. On launch day it looks like most of the board partners are opting for the latter cooler.
AMD Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition
ASUS M4A79T Deluxe (790FX)
4GB (2x2GB) Corsair CM3X2G1600C9DHX
NVIDIA GeForce 9800 GT
NVIDIA GeForce 9800 GTX+
ATI Radeon HD 4770
ATI Radeon HD 4850 512MB
ATI Radeon HD 4830 512MB
300GB Western Digital Caviar SE
Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit w/Service Pack 1
Call of Duty 4
Fallout 3 Direct3D
Call of Duty 4 Ė DirectX 9
Crysis Ė DirectX 10
Far Cry 2 Ė DirectX 10
We maxed out the sliders available in Catalyst Control Center, and as you can see, ATI is obviously playing it a little conservative with the clocks as the Radeon 4770 was easily able to handle 830/850. Most likely they donít want the card competing too closely with Radeon 4800s, hence the lower maximums in CCC. Weíll have to wait until RivaTuner officially supports the GPU to see how far it can really be pushed. 900MHz perhaps?
ATI shouldíve designated the card as the Radeon 4840.
But how does it fare against the competition? Thatís ultimately going to depend on how prices shake out. Right now the card sells for $109.99. ATI says a $10 mail-in rebate will also be offered, knocking that price down to $100. For $100, the Radeon 4770 delivers an enormous amount of performance for the dollar, but weíre honestly getting tired of the rebate game both ATI and NVIDIA are playing nowadays: this author is still waiting for his mail-in rebate on a non-computer related purchase that was redeemed back in early February. Therefore weíre going to call a spade a spade and say that the Radeon 4770 is a $110 graphics card.
At $110, the cardís closest competitor is NVIDIAís GeForce 9800 GT. When compared against the 9800 GT, the Radeon 4770 was a little faster overall, but it certainly wasnít a blowout. Performance in games like Far Cry 2, Call of Duty 4, and to a lesser extent, Fallout 3 (only at 1920x1200 did the 9800 GT pull away from the 4770), was close for the most part. The 4770 was clearly the better performer in Crysis, World in Conflict, and Dawn of War 2 though.
The 4770ís greatest threat then is probably the GeForce 9800 GTX+/GeForce GTS 250. Prices on the GTS 250 start at $120 before rebates on Newegg Ė just $10 more than the 4770. EVGA even has a GTS 250 card thatís OCíed slightly that is priced at $130. Even Sapphireís own Radeon 4850 512MB can be found for $120 on Newegg right now.
Both of these GPUs deliver better overall performance than the Radeon 4770 for just a few bucks more than the 40-nm ATI offering. As a result, this is the route weíd suggest for most of our readers at this point in time. The Radeon 4770 is a really sweet offering for sure, but priced at $110 itís just priced too close to these GPUs at this point in time.
That may change though once more 4770 boards hit the retail market. Once that occurs, ATIís board partners will begin to compete with one another on price, which will lead to lower prices. Once the first wave of second generation cards with custom cooling and faster clocks arrive, the 4770 prices will fall even faster.
Thatís probably going to be the time to pick up a 4770 in our opinion. With its 40-nm process and GDDR5 memory, the chip is begging to be overclocked, and by then RivaTuner should be up to speed with full support, opening the door to higher speeds than what weíre capped at today with Overdrive.
Yep. If youíre tempted by the 4770 today, our advice is to wait a month or so for things to mature a bit more. If you must buy today, the 4850 or GTS 250 will give you more bang for a similar amount of money but by mid to late May that could definitely change. Keep your eyes peeled to see how things ultimately end up panning out.
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