Sapphire HD 4770 PCIe Graphics Card Page: 1
Introduction
 
Codenamed RV740, the HD4770 is ATI's latest GPU that's manufactured using TSMC's 40 nanometer fabrication process. While most other chips adopt the 55nm process, AMD have seen fit to test the water with their new chip in the highly competitive budget/performance sector of the graphics card market. A smaller fabrication had benefits that enable the chip to be produced at a smaller cost with the added benefit of consuming less power. Because less power is used, less heat is produced which allows the chip to be clocked higher than before. While I won't go to far into the intricacies of the actual differences between the RV770 and the new RV740, I will say that the chip, at first glance anyway appears to be a slightly scaled down version of the RV770 (used in the 4800 range). There are however a few subtle differences.
 
The HD4770 has had it's memory interface cut in half from 4x64bit (256bit) to 2x64bit (128bit). This lower interface has however been countered with the use of GDDR5 running at a blistering 800MHz which transfers data at twice the rate as GDDR3. Ultimately the memory bandwidth is therefore not affected too much by the reduction in interfaces. The stock GPU clockspeed is also slightly higher than the HD4850, running at 750MHz which might go some way for making up the lost ground in memory bandwidth and shaders compared to the 4850. To muddy the waters further, the HD4830 has higher memory bandwidth (As it too uses the 256bit interface) but has lower texel filtering and pixel fill rates. Sadly we don't have a HD4830 to include in today's review but on paper, the 4770 has it beat in all categories but memory bandwidth.
 
The Sapphire version of the 4770 is based on the reference design with stock clocks and stock heat sink. Being a tier one partner of ATI, you can be assured of the quality of produce from Sapphire. Here's what they have to say about their card:
 
The new SAPPHIRE HD 4770 is the first card in its class to use GDDR5 memory and is based on the first ever GPU built in 40nm process technology. It uses the powerful graphics architectures from the ATI division of AMD, incorporating multi-purpose stream processing units and improved memory management architecture.

GDDR5 memory
DirectX® 10.1
24x custom filter anti-aliasing (CFAA) and high performance anisotropic filtering
Dual mode ATI CrossFireX™ multi-GPU support for highly scalable performance
PCI Express® 2.0 support
Dynamic geometry acceleration
Game physics processing capability
ATI Avivo™HD video and display technology
Dynamic power management with ATI PowerPlay™ technology
ATI Stream technology
 
 
Specification
 
The following specification was taken directly from the Sapphire product page:
 
I/O Output: Dual DL-DVI-I+HDTV
Core Clock: 750 MHz
PCI Express 2.0 x16 bus interface
Memory Clock: 800 MHz, 3.2Gbps
512MB /128bit GDDR5 memory interface
Dual Slot Active Cooler
HDMI compliant via dongle
7.1 Audio Channel Support
Microsoft® DirectX® 10.1 support
Shader Model 4.1 support
 
So then, a stock clocked reference card. Note that the shrink in die has allowed ATI to implement 750MHz on the core which should bump up performance considerably. Also included is the latest incarnation of graphics card memory in the form of Qimonda GDDR5.
 
Let's take a look at the packaging and the GPU itself... 


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Packaging & Appearance
 
The box is presented in typical Sapphire fashion with a Lara Croft rendered model featuring on the front of the box. A brief run down of the specifications are found on the right hand side of the box which are: GDDR5 memory, Dual Mode ATI CrossfireX, Dual link DVI ports, HDMI with 7.1 Audio, Game Physics processing capability (Havoc not PhysX) and finishing of with the 40nm manufacturing process. Also included in the bundle is the Power DVD creativity suite. Flipping the box over, the product highlights are explained in greater depth with emphasis on the 40nm architecture claiming faster and cooler performance.
 
box front box rear
 
Removing the outer sleeve we arrive at a plain cardboard box which appears to have been designed by an Origami fanatic. I do wish Sapphire would package their products better as, with most examples, the contents were not securely packaged. The accessories include a driver CD, 2 Power DVD discs, HDMI and VGA adaptors, a manual, a molex to 6-pin PCIe power cable and a TV out cable. Also included which was missing from the Asus 4770 was a Crossfire bridge, essential for those wanting to link two cards together for some Crossfire action.
 
box accessories
 
The card itself is, as we have seen with our two previous reviews, a reference affair with the now familiar ATI cooler atop of the GPU. Sapphire have however added there own little touch to the CPU with a couple of stickers, hardly the pinnacle of design but a welcome gesture nonetheless. The underside of the card is again very basic with no additional cooling required thanks to all 512mb of GDDR5 sitting under the main cooler on top of the card. The familiar 4 screw, spring loaded and cushioned back plate is all that holds the main heat sink to the card which should make removal/replacement very easy.
 
card top card bottom
 
While the I/O shield is only single slot by design, don't be fooled as this is a dual slot card thanks to the high profile heat sink fan cooler. 2 DVI ports capable of transmitting data via VGA and HDMI with the included adaptors are separated from each other with a TV output should you wish to view on the 'big screen'. Once again we see that ATI have not seen it necessary to directly cool the memory chips relying instead on passive air from the down draft of the main GPU cooler to keep the IC's temperature in check.
 
dvi memory
 
One difference the Sapphire card has over it's rivals that we have seen thus far is the inclusion of an anodised aluminium heat sink which covers the voltage regulating units of the HD4770. Whilst other manufacturers did not deem this necessary it is a comforting thought that Sapphire wish to cool the Mosfets which should increase the longevity of the card. As previously stated, the main cooler while at first glance appears copper, is in fact anodised aluminium with a copper colour. This cooler was very quiet in testing and certainly a leap forward from the old reference coolers which were very noisy in comparison.
 
heatsink heatsink
 
With the cooler removed we can see the bare card and in particular the smaller die of the RD470. This is much smaller than cores of previous generations and while a 15nm shrink is not exactly eye popping, the core certainly looks much smaller than the last ATI GPU's I have seen. Strange then that ATI seemed it appropriate to add a large cooler to the card as this surely would have been the perfect basis for using a single slot cooler therefore appealing to the larger market?
 
bare card core
 
Thankfully, the cooler was as I suspected, very easy to remove. The base of the aluminium cooler has a block of thermal paste which was very malleable and a far cry from the cement used on previous cards. Good news then for those who might want to fit an aftermarket cooler and certainly good news for those who feel the need to replace the stock gunk normally found on GPU's. This cards mount was perfect and I see little need to replace the TIM. The integrated memory chips hail from Qimonda, much the same as the other reference cards so overclocking results, I would hope, should be similar.
 
memory heatsink
 
Only a couple of subtle differences separate the Sapphire product from its rivals and as such I would not expect this card to perform so much differently from them given that all of the cards tested thus far have the same specifications and clockspeeds. However, given that the Sapphire card includes a Crossfire bridge and a little more attention has been given to the stock design, first blood has to go to it. Sadly, the packaging of the product is less than appealing and while our sample arrived in good condition, it is certainly not as well packaged as the other cards we have received.
 
Let's take a look at our test setup I intend to use for today's review and assess the HD4770's heat output and power consumption along with it's overclocking prowess... 


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Test Setup

To ensure that all reviews on Overclock3D are fair, consistent and unbiased, a standard set of hardware and software is used whenever possible during the comparative testing of two or more products. The configurations used in this review can be seen below:
 
i7 Rig

CPU: Intel Nehalem i7 920 Skt1366 2.66GHz (@3.8 Ghz)
Motherboard: Gigabyte EX58-UD5
Memory: 3x2GB Corsair DDR3 1600mhz @ 8-8-8-24
HD : Hitachi Deskstar 7k160 7200rpm 80GB
GPU: Sapphire HD4770
Graphics Drivers: Supplied by Sapphire
PSU: Gigabyte ODIN 1200w

 
During the testing of the setups above, special care was taken to ensure that the BIOS settings used matched whenever possible. A fresh install of Windows Vista was also used before the benchmarking began, with a full defrag of the hard drive once all the drivers and software were installed, preventing any possible performance issues due to leftover drivers from the previous motherboard installations. For the 3DMark and gaming tests a single card configuration was used.

To guarantee a broad range of results, the following benchmark utilities were used:
 
3D / Rendering Benchmarks
• 3DMark 05
• 3DMark 06
• 3DMark Vantage

3D Games
• Crysis
• Far Cry 2
• Oblivion

• Race drive: GRID
• Call of Duty IV
• Unreal Tournament III
 

Power Consumption

Power consumption was measured at the socket using a plug-in mains power and energy monitor. Because of this, the readings below are of the total system, not just the GPU. Idle readings were taken after 5 minutes in Windows. Load readings were taken during a run of Furmark.


 
No surprises here really. Both 4770's consume near identical power. Linking two of  the 4770's up however increased the power consumption quite dramatically with the Crossfire setup consuming and extra 80w of power. Still, this is pretty insignificant when compared to the power needed to run high end cards of today, testament to the die shrink.
 
 
Temperatures

Temperatures were taken at the factory clocked speed during idle in Windows and after 10 minutes of running Furmark with settings maxed out (2560x1600 8xMSAA). Ambient temperatures were taken with a household thermometer. As we use an open test bench setup consideration should be given to the fact that the temperatures would likely increase further in a closed case environment.
 
 
First things first, the noise of the cooler is nigh on undetectable. Even when the card was placed under load the fan speed rarely increased and even then it was only momentarily. With the card running Furmark for 10 minutes, the card reached a plateau of 57c. This is an astonishing feat and resulted in the ATI cooler running at minimal levels for the majority of the time keeping the noise levels to a minimum,
 
 
Overclocking
 
For our overclocking tests I used CCC's Overdrive utility which worked perfectly with our setup. To test stability I ran 3D Mark 06 and a few runs of Call of Duty 4.
 
stock oc
 
As with the current stock of ATI cards, I was able to max out the sliders in Overdrive resulting in 830 MHz on the core and 850MHz on the memory. I have little doubt that these values could be increased further and it appears ATI have been a tad conservative when deciding on a limit for the overclocks.
 
 
The overclocks above resulted in a fair increase to frames per second in Call of Duty 4. This increase is hardly groundbreaking but it is still a welcome benefit and should ATI increase the values in Overdrive with future driver revisions, the possibilities of further increases are there to be had.
 
Let's see how the card performs in OC3D's suite of 3D benchmarks... 


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3DMark is a popular synthetic gaming benchmark used by many gamers and overclockers to gauge the performance of their PC's. All 3DMark runs were performed a total of 5 times, with the highest and lowest results being removed and an average calculated from the remaining 3 results.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Results Analysis
 
The Sapphire HD4770 had a good string of results throughout the synthetic 3D benchmarks from Futuremark. While the HD4770 could not quite match the performance of the HD4850 one has to consider that the HD4850 used in our tests is the XXX overclocked edition so the results would actually be considerably closer should a stock version of the HD4850 have been used. When the 4770's were used in Crossfire the results are plain to see, Crossfire scaling was nothing short of magnificent, occasionally doubling the score of it's single card counterpart.
 
Let's see if this transfers over to our real world gaming benchmarks... 


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Unreal Tournament 3 is the highly anticipated game from Epic Games and Midway. The game uses the latest Unreal engine, which combines fast gameplay along with high quality textures and lighting effects. All benchmarks were performed using UTbench with a fly-by of the DM-BioHazard map. As usual, all benchmarks were performed 5 times, with the highest and lowest results being removed and an average calculated from the remaining three.
 
 
 
GRID
 
Race Driver: Grid is a visually taxing game that presents a challenge to any graphics system. Results were recorded using FRAPS to log the average FPS over a 2 minute race. To ensure consistency, the same track, car and general path of travel was used in each of the 5 benchmark runs for each graphics card, with an average FPS being calculated from the median three results.
 

 
 
 
 
Call of Duty 4 is a stunning DirectX 9.0c based game that really looks awesome and has a very full feature set. With lots of advanced lighting, smoke and water effects, the game has excellent explosions along with fast game play. Using the in-built Call Of Duty features, a 10-minute long game play demo was recorded and replayed on each of the GPU's using the /timedemo command a total of 5 times. The highest and lowest FPS results were then removed, with an average being calculated from the remaining 3 results.
 

 
 
Results Analysis
 
Both the Sapphire card and the Asus card were very evenly matched in our first run of gaming benchmarks showing near identical results across the board. Again, Crossfires capability was exemplified in all of the games tested showing some extra ordinary increases in performance.

Let's move on..


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Crysis is without doubt one of the most visually stunning and hardware-challenging games to date. By using CrysisBench - a tool developed independently of Crysis - we performed a total of 5 timedemo benchmarks using a GPU-intensive pre-recorded demo. To ensure the most accurate results, the highest and lowest benchmark scores were then removed and an average calculated from the remaining three.
 
 
 
 
 

Oblivion from Bethseda is now an 'old' game by today's standards, but is still one of the most visually taxing games out there. The benchmark was run in the wilderness with all settings set to the maximum possible. Bloom was used in preference to HDR. The test was run five times with the average FPS then being deduced.
 
 
 


Ubisoft has developed a new engine specifically for Far Cry 2, called Dunia, meaning "world", "earth" or "living" in Parsi. The engine takes advantage of multi-core processors as well as multiple processors and supports DirectX 9 as well as DirectX 10. Running the Far Cry 2 benchmark tool the test was run 5 times with the highest and lowest scores being omitted and the average calculated from the remaining 3.
 
 
 
Results Analysis
 
With absolutely nothing to separate the two 4770 graphics cards it will certainly be a hard choice for the consumer to decide which card is best on performance alone. Strangely and against the run of play, the HD4850 fell short of beating the 4770's in Oblivion. The 4850 did however reclaim it's performance lead in Far Cry 2. Neither the 4770 or the 4850 could cope with AA/AF in Crysis so if you are looking for adequate filtering in this game you might have to increase your budget and opt for a more powerful GPU. Even in Crossfire configuration, Crysis crippled the cards when running at maximum resolution. I did try max resolution with 4xAA/AF but this resulted in a slide show with the results proving pretty pointless in debate.
 
Let's move on to the conclusion...


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Conclusion
 
One thing is plain to see with the HD4770 - budget graphics cards have come a long way from cards of old. Finding 512MB of GDDR5 on a sub £100 GPU is not easy. Couple this with a new die shrink which has the benefits of  less power consumption and as a result higher clockspeeds/cooler operation and one would think making a decision to buy this card is an easy one. While there is no denying this card is very good indeed the decision is not so simple as it first appears. This is because ATI are now dropping the prices of there cards, so much that the once high end cards can now be had for a little under £100!
 
Take the HD4850 for example. Sure it's been on the market for some time but it is still up there with the best cards, especially so should you not require Anti Aliasing. The HD4770 therefore is perhaps a victim of ATI's aggressive pricing structure and while the HD4770 certainly punches above it's weight and would still be a worthwhile purchase I would be hesitant to recommend it on the basis of predicted further price cuts of older but more powerful hardware in anticipation of ATI's 5000 series of GPU's.
 
That said, the HD4770 is a powerful little card with performance outweighing it's diminutive stature. It cut though the majority of benchmarks with ease, keeping pace (and sometimes beating) the more powerful HD4850 while going about it's business much quieter. The packaging was a bit of a let down but the inclusion of a Crossfire bridge and adequate bundle keeps the product from receiving a severe tongue lashing.
 
I can't help thinking that this is an opportunity missed as the card is screaming out for a single slot cooler, yet ATI have seen fit to slap a dual slot cooler on top of the GPU, which judging by the power consumption and heat output is clearly over the top. A card such as this would be ideal in a mATX build but I feel the cooler size may put potential buyers off and as such the market appeal for a card such as this is diminished. I feel I may have been overly harsh on what is essentially a very good product. I just feel that ATI and therefore Sapphire and all the other manufacturers thus far seem to have missed a trick here. While I have no doubt the cards will sell by the boat load to the occasional gamer, the market appeal could be so much wider had a little more thought gone into it's over all design.
 
The Good
- Quiet
- Cool
- Low Power consumption
- Good Overclocking
- Exceptional Crossfire scaling

The Mediocre
- Needs a single slot cooler
 
The Bad
- Packaging is less than ideal
 
 
Thanks to Sapphire for providing the HD4770 for today's review. Discuss in our forums.