ATI Radeon Showdown

Video cards

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When we got our hands on the newcomer from ATI, the HD4770, we thought we’d put this youngling up against its more powerful and more expensive brothers. We gathered four cards, ranging from the cheap and small-ish 4770 to the monster that is the 4870X2.

We tested all these cards in our Beast, which right now runs off a Core i7 CPU 940 at 2.93GHz with 3GB of DDR3 RAM. We used 3D Mark 06, running off a Raptor drive, spinning at 10,000RPM. In 3D Mark 06 we ran the tests at 1,680 x 1,050 resolution with 4x anti-aliasing, which is fairly demanding on the video cards.

As expected, the HD4870X2 came out tops in our test, with an impressive score of 17,585. Of course, this performance comes at a price; $900 is a bit high unless you absolutely crave top performance. The HD4870x2 also features a stunning 2GB of video RAM on the card, which helped it achieve the HDR (high dynamic rendering) score of 8,479. Of course this performance also comes at a cost of power, the card uses a 4-pin and 6-pin PCI cable, so make sure your power supply can handle it before you rush out and buy this card.

Next on the list we find a relatively new card, the HD4890. It’s a bit of a step down from the top dog in the test, but still performs like a high end card should. At a price of $500, you definitely get all the performance you need to play high end games, without having to worry that you’ll need to upgrade next year. The 4890 requires two 4-pin PCI power cables.

The HD4870 card we tested was a slightly overclocked model from Palit, shipping with 1GB of video RAM. The first obvious difference with the card is the double fans, which help keep the card both cool and relatively silent. Being overclocked, it requires more cooling, something that draws more power. It’s cheaper than the HD4890, yet doesn’t lag far behind when it comes to performance. We picked this card up for $449, but shopping around will definitely save you some moolah.

We weren’t expecting too much from the HD4770; on the surface it’s a mid-range card for those on a bit of a budget, but the results we got from it were impressive. While they were the lowest on the scale, for the price this card certainly gives you plenty of bangs for your bucks. It’s got 512MB of video RAM, but more importantly it’s the first card with AMD’s new 40nm processor. It’s also the shortest and most power-friendly card of the bunch, requiring only a single 4-pin power card. It’s worth noting that we only had beta drivers to test the card, and performance could improve slightly with the retail release.

As with most PC components, graphics cards require careful consideration. We will say this, though; the most expensive card might score the highest on tests like 3D Mark 06, but cheaper cards can often manage high end gaming. Combine performance with the small form factor, price and power consumption, and the HD4770 looks more and more like a solid contender.

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Jan Birkeland

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