Reading over the Radeon HD 4770 specifications a week ago I thought to myself, why? Why AMD, have you learnt nothing? There has never been a good 128-bit graphics card, the GeForce 9500 GT sucks and the Radeon HD 3650 sucked nearly as much. Since these were the last two examples of 128-bit graphics cards, I would rather take a bullet than sit through a series of benchmarks that look like PowerPoint presentations.
However as this was the first 40nm GPU ever, we were still keen to test it out. When you look at it on paper the Radeon HD 4770 is evenly matched with the Radeon HD 4830, at least for the most part. The core configurations are very similar, the memory bandwidth is about the same with the advantage going to the Radeon HD 4830 here. The Radeon HD 4770 core is clocked significantly higher but it comes back to the 128-bit memory bus.
Well, it appears that the tweaks made to the RV740 core, along with the inclusion of GDDR5 memory has become the winning formula for the Radeon HD 4770. The 128-bit memory bus has not crushed performance like we expected it to and has allowed AMD to save money on its design.
Performance-wise the Radeon HD 4770 delivers, exceeding our expectations. As it became evident through our testing, it's faster than the Radeon HD 4830, at least in 10 of the 14 games we tested. Correct me if I am wrong but is 4830 not a bigger number than 4770? We assume ATI will have sorted what to do about the 4830 by now, whether it's dropping it completely or offering for bottom dollar.
The Radeon HD 4770 is also more efficient than the competing GeForce 9800 GT, while offering about 10% more performance. You can definitely expect a price war in the weeks to come, and we wouldn't be surprised if Nvidia decides to throw in the 9800 GTX+ in the mix.
For the tech savvy users amongst us there is even more performance to be squeezed out of the Radeon HD 4770. Although we were limited by the Catalyst control panel when it came time to overclock the Radeon HD 4770, it was still possible to increase the core frequency by ~10% which depending on the game lead to a slight performance increase.
The biggest issue we had with this AMD reference sample was the dual slot cooler, or more precisely the 80mm blower fan. Under normal working conditions the graphics card runs nearly silent and this proved to be a problem within itself as the card sat idle at 70 degrees which is totally unacceptable. Then as the temperature raised the fan would spin up to 100% making an awful racket to shut itself off again later.
If you recall this is the same problem that the first batch of Radeon HD 4870 and 4850 graphics cards suffered from. So until AMDs partners fix the fan speed problem you can expect idle temperatures of 70 degrees when using a Radeon HD 4770. Hopefully you won't have to wait too long for it though, Asus has already sent us their Radeon HD 4770 which uses an improved cooling design that seems to fix the annoyance.
The Radeon HD 4770 is an outstanding choice in the $100 graphics market.
The fan speed issue aside, the Radeon HD 4770 is an impressive mainstream graphics card that delivers an excellent value to become the best buy in its price segment (meaning - as long as it's priced at or below the $100 mark). The compact design, excellent performance, low power consumption and affordable price tag of the Radeon HD 4770 makes it an ideal solution not only for gamers on a budget but also those looking to build a compact mobile gaming computer.