Report: Radeon HD 4770, the new mid-range stand-out card? - BeHardware
>> Graphics cards
Written by Damien Triolet
Published on April 28, 2009
Introduction, the RV740
After having updated it’s top end with a slightly improved GPU, AMD is now going for the mid-range segment with the aim of raising the bar once again in terms of value for money. To do this, the manufacturer has developped a new GPU based on some of the most advanced current technologies.
The RV740This is the name for the new kid on the block, the first GPU to use the TSMC 40 nm manufacturing process that allows AMD to place a large number of transistors, 826 million, in a very small surface area, 137 mm². This should allow them to mass produce a cheap high-performance GPU. Going from a 55 nm to a 40 nm engraving process means that the size of the die is almost halved! Of course, some parts of the chip cannot be reduced as easily as the new engraving process, but overall the difference is enormous and gives an important competitive advantage to AMD.
This RV740 uses the Radeon HD 4800’s architecture and more especially that of the Radeon HD 4830 in terms of internal organisation, with the difference that it has 8 partitions of processing units instead of 10. It therefore has 128 vec5 units (640 SPs) as against 160 vec5 units (800 SPs) for the RV770 and RV790 GPUs used for the Radeon HD 4800s. This is an identical configuration to the Radeon HD 4830 that uses a cut down RV770.
A small GPU does however impose some significant constraints in terms of the number of contacts it can offer, which makes the use of a large memory bus difficult. AMD has therefore had to make do with a 128 bit bus. The GPU fortunately supports GDDR5 however and this is where this type of memory really comes into its own as it makes the existence of such a GPU possible. Without very high speed memory it would not be possible to supply it fully. Moreover, AMD has doubled the proportion of ROPs to memory bus size, which shows that the manufacturer doesn’t intend to use the GDDR5 memory to just increase bandwidth but to include it in the place of a 256 bit memory bus.
The Radeon HD 4770, the first desktop card based on the RV740, therefore has exactly the same configuration as the Radeon HD 4830, one with a 128 bit GDDR5 interface and the other with a 256 bit GDDR3 interface, which comes to more or less the same thing although GDDR5 memory is a little less efficient. The 40 nm engraving however means that the RV470 can easily be clocked 30% higher than the Radeon HD 4830's cut down RV770, which easily makes up for this difference.
The specifications, the card
Looking at the spec more closely, you might wonder if this Radeon HD 4770 is not going to be competition for the Radeon HD 4850 rather than the Radeon HD 4830!
The cardFor this test, AMD supplied us with a stock card:
This stock card uses a double slot cooling system with air extraction, which is rather unusual for this market segment, AMD pricing it at between €90 and €100. Cards at this price generally come with a simple, cheap cooler. It would seem that most manufacturers are going for their own cooler right from launch.
The GDDR5 memory is identical to that on the 1GB Radeon HD 4870 and 4890 and is certified at 1 GHz. AMD have however decided to under-clock it at 800 MHz, a big difference for reasons unknown to us. There is a significant overclocking margin then.
Note that this is Qimonda memory and the manufacturer has recently gone bust. Production stopped on April 1 and AMD will therefore have to use Hynix or Samsung in the future.
The card needs a 6 pin PCI Express connector and has standard connectivity, namely 2 DVIs and an analogue HD TV out.
NVIDIA’s reaction? The test
NVIDIA’s reactionFor a number of months NVIDIA has been reacting directly to new AMD releases, either by reducing its prices or by giving a little boost to one or another of its cards. This time however, there has been no reaction from NVIDIA, or at least not yet.
You have to say that it has limited room for manoeuvre and cannot keep cutting the price of its GeForce 9800 GTs and 9800 GTX+s, this last range already having been renamed as GeForce GTS 250s so as to attenuate for the price cut needed to remain competitive.
Of course moving an old top end product down to mid-range and eventually entry level isn’t a problem in itself. Although it costs NVIIDA, it’s of benefit to the consumer. There is a limit to all this however and it has been noticeable for some time that NVIDIA has been doing the minimum in terms of reactions.
AMD is making no bones moreover about criticising NVIDIA openly for this:
As much as the first GeForce 8s did have an advantage over some of the Radeons, now NVIDIA is far behind AMD in the adoption of new technologies, whether this be in terms of manufacturing processes, memory or DirectX 10.1. Although the GeForce 8/ GTX 200 architecture can still hold its own, we are getting impatient to see how NVIDIA will now react in terms of new technology.
The manufacturer is however much more active on the software front with CUDA, PhysX and even ambient occlusion, a topic which we covered in one of our reports. All this however doesn’t make up for the general lack of competitivity that actually undermines these other advances.
The testOur current test protocol is made up of three DirectX 9 games (Race Driver: GRID, Fallout 3 and Brothers in Arms Hell’s Highway), 2 DirectX 10 games (World in Conflict and Crysis Warhead) and 3 DirectX 10.1 games (Far Cry 2 and S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Clear Sky).
We have recently relegated Quake Wars from the test as it is beginning to age and doesn’t challenge modern GPUs.
The tests were carried out in 1280x1024 and 1680x1050, the resolutions targetted by mid-range cards, without antialiasing and in 4x mode. We opted for high but not max quality in the most demanding titles.
We decided to stop showing decimals in game performance results so as to make the graph more readable. We have nevertheless noted these values and used them when calculating the index. If you’re observant you’ll notice that the size of the bars also reflects this.
We tested all the cards in 512 MB versions and added the Radeon HD 4550, the “best of the worst”, so as to give you the difference in performance with entry level cards.
All available Windows Vista updates were installed as well as SP1. The same goes for the patches of the games tested. In terms of drivers we used the 185.63 beta from NVIDIA and the Catalyst 8.60 betas from AMD. These drivers do not offically support the Radeon HD 4770 but we did a force installation on all the other Radeons, so as to make sure we were comparing like for like.
Test configurationIntel Core i7 965 (HT disactivated)
6 GB DDR3 1333 Corsair
Windows Vista 64 bits SP1
Catalyst beta 8.60-090316a
Energy consumption, noise, temperature
Power consumptionMeasurements were taken at the wall socket: This is therefore the total power consumption of the power supply, in this case a Cooler Master Real Power PRO 1250 watts.
Although the Radeon HD 4770 is not especially economical in idle, without being overly demanding either, it has relatively low energy consumption in load.
Noise and temperature levelsWe measured sound levels at rest and sound levels after 30 minutes in load.
The Radeon HD 4770 stock card is a quiet card, but is it well cooled? The GPU sensor gives a reading of 58 °C in idle and 73 °C in load, we can therefore reply in the affirmative.
We observed this in more detail with thermal imagery:
Race Driver GRID
Race Driver GRID
To test Codemaster’s latest opus, we carried out a well-defined movement and pushed all settings to a max. It is based on an evolved form of the motor in Colin McRae DIRT without the unnecessarily complicated aspect and therfore giving a better level of performance Patch 1.2 was applied and 16x anistropic filtering was activated via the driver control panel.
In this game the Radeons are generally quite at ease, but NVIDIA has caught up thanks to its new drivers. The Radeon HD 4770 falls betweeen the Radeon HD 4830 and the Radeon HD 4850 and well in front of the GeForce 9800 GT but behind the GeForce GTS 250.
Brothers in Arms Hell’s Highway
Brothers in Arms Hell’s Highway
The most recent Brothers in Arms is one of many games to use Unreal Engine 3.0. What is quite rare is that no patch has been needed and the game is therefore tested in version 1.0. All settings are at max and 16x anisotropic filtering was activated in the driver control panel.
Here, the advantage is with the GeForces without antialiasing. Once the filter is activated however the Radeons do much better, the HD 4770 finishing in front of the GeForce GTS 250 at 1680x1050 with 4x AA.
Note that, as with many games based on this graphics engine, antialiasing is not supported directly. With NVIDIA, it works via the driver control panel, but slight bugs are visible. The same goes for AMD who, better late than never, have ended up implementing antialiasing in a similar way.
The most recent version of Fallout was much anticipated and uses an updated version of Oblivion. Although this version was supposed to give DirectX 10 support, Fallout 3 makes do with DirectX 9, which doesn’t stop it from being a great success. We use the “ultra high” setting with all options at max in the game. Patch 220.127.116.11 was installed. We had to modify the .ini configuration file manually to disactivate the 60 fps limit.
The GeForces do well in this game, placing the 9800 GT at the same level as the Radeon HD 4770 and the Radeon HD 4850.
World in Conflict
World in Conflict
Very resource heavy and with nice graphics, it's only natural World in Conflict should remain part of our test suite, especially as it has DirectX 10 support.We carry out the internal test with patch 18.104.22.168. We use the “very high” mode which includes DirectX 10, 16x anistropic filtering and activated reflections of the clouds on the water.
In this game, the advantage is with the GeForces, but only slightly, above all with antialiasing activated.
Crysis Warhead replaces Crysis and has the same resource heavy graphics engine. We test it in version 1.1 and 64 bit mode as this is the main innovation. Crytek has renamed the different graphics quality modes, probably so as not to dismay gamers who are disappointed at not being able to activate the highest quality mode because of excessive demands on system resources. The high quality mode is renamed “Gamer” and the very high quality mode “Enthusiast”. We tested in Gamer mode.
The Radeons benefit less from the quadcore CPUs in Crysis, which probably explains why the GeForce GTX 250 has a small advantage, at least without FSAA as with this filter the Radeon HD 4770 and 4800 overtake it.
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Clear Sky
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Clear Sky
This S.T.A.L.K.E.R. suite relies on an old engine reworked to give DirectX 10 support but still based on the principle of differed rendering. A recent patch gives API DirectX 10.1 support which gives a boost to Radeon performances by fusing two render passes. We use patch 22.214.171.124 and DirectX 10 rendering mode which automatically activates DirectX 10.1 when a compatible card is detected. We used the maximum quality mode.
The Radeons benefit from DirectX 10.1 support and handle themselves well in most of the situations that are demanding in terms of memory. The Radeon HD 4770 even outdoes the Radeon HD 4850 here without antialiasing and equals the GeForce GTS 250.
Far Cry 2
Far Cry 2
This version of Far Cry isn’t really a great development as Crytek was behind the first episode in any case. As the owner of the licence, Ubisoft took responsibility for its development, with Crytek going with Crysis. No easy thing to inherit the graphics revolution that accompanied Far Cry, but the Ubisoft teams have done pretty well, even if the graphics do not go as far as those in Crysis. The game is also less resource heavy which is no bad thing. It has DirectX 10.1 support and Radeon performances benefit. We installed patch 1.02 and used the ultra high graphics quality mode.
Unusually in Far Cry the GeForces have the advantage with antialiasing applied. The Radeon HD 4770 is on a level with the Radeon HD 4850 and between the GeForce 9800 GT and GTS 250.
The most recent Tom Clancy, H.A.W.X. is an action game that takes place in the air. It uses a graphics motor that supports DirectX 10.1 to optimise results. Among the graphic effects it supports, we note the presence of ambient occlusion that is pushed to a max as with all other options. We use the built-in benchmark and patch 1.1 was installed.
The Radeons benefit from DirectX 10.1 and this allows them to carry out antialiasing more efficiently and optimise part of the processing for ambient occlusion. With 4x antialiasing activated, the Radeon HD 4770 has a clear advantage over the GeForce GTS 250.
RécapitulatifAlthough individual game results are interesting, we calculated a performance index based on all tests with the same weight for each game. An index of 100 was given to the GeForce 9800 GT at 1680x1050.
On average, without antialiasing, the Radeon HD 4770 is placed between the GeForce 9800 GT and GTS 250 and is just behind the Radeon HD 4850. Note the net gain on the Radeon HD 4670 that is twice as powerful. The Radeon HD 4550 performance reminds us that entry level cards are very far behind the mid-range, in spite of the small price difference.
Once antialiasing has been activated, the Radeon HD 4000s do better in comparison. The Radeon HD 4770 overtakes the GeForce GTS 250 thanks to much better performances in S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Clear Sky and H.A.W.X. It has an advantage over the GeForce 9800 GT of around 25%.
HD 4830 vs RV740 @ 575/900 MHz
HD 4830 vs RV740 @ 575/900 MHzGiven the Radeon HD 4770’s very good results in certain games where it even sometimes outdoes the Radeon HD 4850, we wanted to find out how the RV740 does opposite the RV770 under equal conditions, that’s to say when clocking the Radeon HD 4770 at the same clocks as the Radeon HD 4830, the only difference being that one uses GDDR5 and the other a 256 bit bus instead of 128.
The RV740 is down here probably because of the lesser efficient GDDR5 memory compared to GDDR3. This shows however that with the RV740 AMD has a better balanced GPU because in spite of being at a disadvantage at the same clock, once dressed up as the Radeon HD 4770, it does better. AMD has then altered the balance between processing power and memory bandwidth so as to better respond to current games.
Radeon HD 4850: 1 GB vs 512 MB
Radeon HD 4850: 1 GB vs 512 MBGiven that all the cards are now available in 1 GB versions, we wanted to check out the difference in performance. We looked at the best performing cards in this comparison, firstly the AMD Radeon HD 4850:
Although the 1 GB does give gains, the 20 euro price difference isn’t justified. Especially as we measured these differences on the best performing mid-range Radeon at a resolution of 1680x1050. The differences will therefore be even smaller on lower performance cards and at 1280x1024. If you go for a higher resolution, you’ll have to opt for a Radeon HD 4870 or 4890 in any case and then the 1 GB version is fully justified and even strongly advised.
GeForce GTX 250: 1 GB vs 512 MB
GeForce GTS 250: 1 GB vs 512 MBWe also carried out the same operation with the beefiest GeForce in this comparison:
Here too, the gains are limited. Only in S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Clear Sky and without FSAA does the supplemtary memory bring a real improvement. Although there are significant gains in this same game and in Crysis with 4xAA, the level of performance is insufficient overall.
Here again, to play in conditions that require 1 GB of memory, you’ll have to opt for a higher performance card.
ConclusionAMD is continuing an impressive run and here is offering an extremely effective GPU. AMD seems to have made all the right technological choices for this end of DirectX 10 era and means it can offer a very advantageous level of performance for its price band.
The manufacturer’s success with this card is a big wake-up call for NVIDIA and prevents NVIDIA from holding the market to ransom in its attempt to wring maximum profit from its GeForce 8s. The strong competition from AMD means we can all enjoy high performance cards at an affordable price.
The Radeon HD 4770 is exemplary of this; thanks to a modern fabrication process and the use of GDDR5, for under 100 euros and with lower energy consumption, it gives performances that are very close to the Radeon HD 4850 and even snaps at the heels of the GeForce GTS 250, which, remember, is nothing other than the renamed GeForce 9800 GTX+. Simply put, there is no longer any reason to keep making the 4850 and 4830.
Opposite the new mid-range stand-out card, it is difficult to recommend the NVIDIA option. Through CUDA compatible applications, the manufacturer is trying to valorise PhysX support in a few games, 3D stereo and graphics improvements such as ambient occlusion. Not all players use these CUDA applications however and the other initiatives, although they are nice bonuses, don’t make up for the ground NVIDIA has lost, especially as there is no visibility on the future of these technologies.
Things are pretty damn good for AMD then. We must however mention two unknowns in respect of the Radeon HD 4700s. Firstly, we don’t know how the Radeon HD 4770s that you’ll find on sale in the shops will compare to the reference card in terms of noise and temperature levels because, for this card, AMD opted for a cooling system that doesn’t seem to have been adopted by its partners.
Next, the reason this Radeon HD 4770 is so well balanced is because of the GDDR5 memory. It is therefore legitimate to think that the other models (Radeon HD 4750 etc) based on GDDR3 memory could turn out to be very limited. Strangely AMD has had nothing to say on the rest of the range. We therefore hope that the manufacturer is not counting on the praise being heaped on the Radeon HD 4770 to help it quietly sell the rest of its range, as this would spoil a pretty picture.
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