HD 4670 Review: Mainstream muscle card?

Author: Kevin Spiess
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Thursday, September 11th, 2008
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Hardware/Reviews/hd4670/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.

If you have been reading many hardware reviews over that last little while, you've undoubtedly come across more than one or two filled with ebullient praise of the recently released HD 4850, and HD 4870, from ATI.

After a long stretch of offering video cards that were competitive with NVIDIA's offerings, but not decisively superior, ATI turned the tide and won one battle with the surprisingly speedy and cost effective HD 4800's. But of course: one battle does not make a war. Somewhere some guys in lab coats, and engineers and driver specialists are turning out the next step; the next latest and greatest. While the dust might have settled for the big guns, the GTX 280 and the HD 4870X2, a new battle has just begun. The battle for the mid-range.

But this time around, in this generation, the mid-range is more afforable than has been in some time. Think under the $100 mark.  

A new generation is always kicked off with the higher-end, 'enthusiast' class cards that showcase the technological gains made during the latest stretch of research and implementation. Then the second wave breaks: which carries this card we are going to take out today, the HD 4670. Ah, the mid-range. Cards a bit cheaper than the fastest; cards that are capable performers for the large segment of the gaming market that does not have the inclination or disposable cash to invest in the higher-end hardware. 

Out of the naming conventions employed by AMD (CPU department), Intel, NVIDIA and AMD (ATI video cards), probably the easiest to decipher is the system currently employed by ATI for the last few generations. Following almost exactly as the cards were laid out with the HD 3000 series, you got your high end cards signified with an '8' (HD 3800), and this followed by a subset two models, generally an '7' or a '5' (HD 3870, HD 3850.) The middle-of-the-road carries a '6' (HD 3600), and the budget line, a '4' (HD 3400).

There are currently three models of the 4600: the HD 4670 512MB, HD 4670 1GB, and HD 4650. Today we will be looking at the HD 4670 512MB.

Priced at $80 - $89, it would be hard to argue that the HD 4670 is not affordable for most. But it's a tough market out there -- really, a fantastic market for card shoppers. NVIDIA has its on inexpensive 9600 GSO to match this model, and last gen's high end wonders like the 8800 GT and HD 3850/3870 are not all that much more expensive than today's HD 4670. 

ATI's goal was for this card to deliver 30 FPS in the majority of today's games with detail settings on 'High'. On both price and performance lets endeavor to find out if they have delivered.

Impressions

We'll be looking at the reference design of the HD 4670 today. What does that mean? Well you won't be able to go to the stores and buy this exact card... but it also means that initially, that every HD 4670 offered by the board partners (Palit, VisionTek, Diamond etc) will only differ from our review card in appearance (a different sticker on the cooler), and the possibly the price (unlikely.) The HD 4670 should retail for $79 - $89 USD.

The HD 4670 does not have the huge cooler and long profile similar to its elder HD 4800 series brothers. Actually the HD 4670 is a bit smaller than I would have expected, coming in an inch shorter than the 8600 GTS. It has a single slot cooling solution, and will not take up much real estate on even a micro-ATX motherboard.

The cooler is small but seems to do the job just fine -- the HD 4670 does not heat up nearly to the heights that the HD 4800's reach. The fan on the cooler is fairly small, with 13 tiny, sharply angled vanes, but doesn't make much noise. However for a mid-range offering, the HD 4670 does have a fairly large copper heat plate under the plastic shroud, which also helps dissipate heat from the HD 4670's DDR3 memory.

As with all current generation ATI cards, you get the usual versatile set of capabilities: second gen' UVD engine for decoding HD video, DX 10.1 capability, Shader Model 4.1, PowerPlay tech for power savings mode, CrossFireX (so you'll be able to bridge this together with any HD 2000/3000/4000 video card for more performance), PCI Express 2.0 (greater bandwith than PCI Express 1.00, but this does not lead to significant performance gains), better AA performance compared to prior generations of cards (we'll test this in the benchmarks), and, of course, the ability to play (with promised reasonable framerates) all the enticing games on the horizon.

Also, for the HD 4670, ATI has been relating to us hardware reviewer types that the HD 4670 has superior HD upscaling potential in comparison with earlier mid-level models -- regertably we do not have a pair of massive monitors to throughly test this brave postulation. The HD 4670 also does not bear the standard dual DVI display ports: instead, there is one DVI port, and two DisplayPort ports (DisplayPorts are the new standard for display connectors, and should some day supplant DVI ports.) The HD 4670 is also capable of 8-channel audio through the Display Port. 

ATI family photo: HD 3450, HD 4670, HD 4850

Specifications

The HD 4670 has 320 stream processors like the HD 3870, but has a 128 bit memory interface, which will stifle performance somewhat in comparison with 256 bit memory interface of the HD 3850 and HD 3870. 128 bit memory however is the norm for the mid-range video cards of this and recent generations.

However, one break with earlier mid-range card traditions is that the HD 4670 has 512MB of GDDR3, and also comes in a 1GB configuration right off the bat. By the time the next generation of cards appears, it seems likely that 256MB of VRAM will solely be spotted on cards that linger in budget video card realm. The HD 4650, by the way, has GDDR2 memory.

The GPU (internal ATI name: RV730) operates at a core clock speed of 750, while the HD 4650 is set to 600 MHz.

 

 

  9600 GT

9600 GSO

9500 GT

8800GT 512MB

 HD3870

HD 3850

HD4850 HD4670 512MB

Processing Cores

64

 96

32

112

320

320

800 320

Core Clock

650

 550

550

600

775

668

625 750

Shader Clock

1625

 1375

1400

1500

775

668

625 750

Memory Clock (effective) 

1800

 1600

1600

1800

2250

1656

1986 2000

Memory Interface

256 bit

192 bit

128 bit

256 bit

256 bit

256 bit

256 bit 128 bit

Memory Type

512MB GDDR3

384MB GDDR3

256MB GDDR3

512MB GDDR3

512MB GDDR4

512MB GDDR3

512MB GDDR3
512MB GDDR3

Fabrication Process

65nm

65nm

65nm

65nm

55nm

55nm

55nm 55nm

 Judging from the chart above, the HD 4670 should out-maneuver the 9500 GT, but fall short of the 9600 GT. Perhaps it'll put it comparable numbers to the HD 3870 -- but with a 128 bit memory bus, it might be tough.

Overclocking

Using the CCC, we were able to overclock the HD 4670 to the maximum allowable clock settings: 800 MHz for the core, and 1100 (2200 effective) for the memory. This was stable enough to not crash during 1.5 hours of continual benchmark loops -- though the copper cooling plate was getting a little bit on the hot side (i.e, similar to the HD 4850's regularly operating temperatures!) 

Presumably the next version of the invaluable RivaTuner program will allow us to push beyond the CCC barriers, and see if this mid-range'r can support an even faster overclock.

On to the benchmarks.

 

 

Hardware

We used the following hardware for our benchmarking:

Unfortunately, we far more often review higher-end and enthusiast class video cards, so we did not have as many mid-range models as we'd ideally like to benchmark against the HD 4670. To make matters worse, our trusty HD 3850 PowerColor card came to a strange and untimely death in the process of benchmarking -- a card that will be surely and sorely missed, and would have fit into these benchmarks well.

Nonetheless, we did however assemble a group of cards close to the price point going for the HD 4670, as well as the NVIDIA's primary competition for this card, their 9600 GSO. The cards benched also include the MSI RX2600XT (a HD 2600 XT), a XFX 8600 GTS, a VisionTek HD 4850, and a BFG 8800 GT OC. Besides the HD 4850, all of these cards fall within the $60 to $130 range.


Software

For the drivers, all the ATI cards used Catalyst 8.8 except the HD 4670 which used a 8.9 beta driver, and the NVIDIA cards all used Forceware 177.92's.


Bioshock: For this benchmark, all of the Detail settings were set to 'High'. All of the graphic option switches were set to 'On', with the exception of the following three settings: Vsync, Windowed mode, and Force Global Lighting. We used FRAPS to measure frame rate performance. The FRAPS run was 138 seconds, triggered from pulling the switch in the sub at game's beginning. The sub's dive involves many big models moving around, which should strain the GPU's and be a good measure of the game's engine.

Crysis: These benchmarks were performed using 'fly-by' GPU test found within the single-player pre-release demo version of the game. All graphic settings were on High.' For AA, we used a setting of 4x. DX10 mode was used. The game has also been fully patched.

Enemy Territory: Quake Wars: We use this id FPS benchmark to test out higher resolutions. We used the highest possible detail settings. We tested the resolutions at 4x AA as well as at 8x AA. 16x AF was also used.  

3DMark06 and 3DMark Vantage: These popular synthetic benchmarking programs were used at a resolution of 1280x1024. Vantage was run in 'Performance' mode, and only the two GPU tests were used.

World In Conflict: We used the built-in benchmark of the demo version of this game. We ran the benchmark in DX9 rendering mode, with a 'High' level of quality. For the AA testing, we used a setting of 4x, and a setting of 16x for AF.

Echoes demo: A runner-up winner in the NVISION NVScene demo contest the other week by the Polish collective anadune, this demo has some pretty huge objects in it and makes for a good benchmark (using FRAPS.) We ran it at 1280x1024, with 16xAF, and no AA. If you have no idea what a demoscene demo is, you might want to go here for an explication, and if you have a few minutes to kill we recommend you go check it out for yourself. The website scene.org is an excellent resources for collecting such things as demos.

If you would like any further information about our benchmark settings, feel free to ask us in the forums. (If I don't respond, send me a PM to grab my attention.)

The HD 4670 is in good shape in this benchmark, sitting pretty much where you'd expect it to be: tied with its closely-priced rival the 9600 GSO, substantially higher the prior mid-range cards the 8600 GTS and HD2600XT, and relatively close to the 8800GT, which is steadily dropping in price, but not as inexpensive as the HD 4670. 

One very important thing to keep in mind for this benchmark and all the others: our 9600 GSO we are using is the 9600 GSO Sonic Edition. Besides being a bit overclocked, it has 768MB of memory. This card generally sells for about $20 or $30 than stock-clock 9600 GSO's -- just something to keep in mind if you are comparing these two cards specifically in this review.

The HD 4670 doesn't do too poorly here. Again, it stays around were many would expect it to be. 

The BFG 8800 GT OC sells for about %150 of the price of the HD 4670, and offers a similar ratio of perfomance in comparison.

This one of the more unsurprising of my recent reviews -- so far, I'd say the HD 4670 is looking like a fairly priced performer. A mid-range workhorse.

The 9600 GSO and HD 4670 are a fair match up, it seems, in many games as well as synthetic benchmarks.

That's interesting -- the HD 4670 loses a decent chunk of precious, precious frames when the AA is engaged. The HD 4850 and HD 4870 had stellar AA performance, taking hardly any performance cut for engaging 4xAA. This makes me wonder whether the HD 4670 has more HD 3870 DNA in it than it does the HD 4850. Perhaps the AA just overpowers the 128 bit memory bus.

As for the higher resolutions in this benchmark, the super-charged Palit GSO benefits here from having that extra amount of memory (most 9600 GSO's have 384MB, whereas this Palit card has 768MB.)

The HD 4670 falters here, just a bit, in Devil May Cry 4. But not much. Just a bit.

The HD 4670 springs back with a pretty good performance here in Crysis, relative to the OC'd Palit 9600 GSO.

Although AMD promises 30 FPS in a game with in 'High' settings, I'm willing to excuse them here -- this is Crysis after all; the bane of gaming rigs everywhere.

Here in our new Echoes demo benchmark, the HD 4670 puts in a mediocre performance.

Power

To measure power usage, we used a Kill A Watt P4400 power meter. Note that the above numbers represent the power drain for the entire benchmarking system, not just the video cards themselves. For the 'idle' readings we measured the power drain from the desktop, with no applications running; for the 'load' situation, we ran a demanding part of 3DMark06.

This is one benchmark where the HD 4670 really impresses: the power usage chart. Tree-loving green folk would appreciate the low power requirements that the HD 4670 offers. Very, very surprisingly the HD 4670 requires less power than did our MSI RX2600XT in the charts, both of which do not even require a PCIe power connector! Now I don't use italics all that often -- but here there use is well justified. Excellent miserly power usage for the HD 4670.

Conclusion

After being wowed by the HD 4800 series of cards, I can't help but feel slightly let down by the HD 4670 -- but rationally, I don't really have much cause to. 

The HD 4670 does the job, and is a capable mid-range offering. Whether it'll be able to hit ATI's goal of getting that lovely 30 FPS mark on 'High' settings with the big upcoming games of October -- most notably Farcry 2 and Fallout 3 --- at 1680 x 1050 is a bit up in the air at this point... but I'm going to go out on a limb and say it should make it, but that this card may have difficulties later in 2009. 

This video card has a great host of features, and using a rapidly aging video card, say a 7800 GT or HD 2600 Pro (or something along and below those lines) this card would make a great upgrade, being offered initially for about $80. The HD 4670 is a huge improvement over the last generation's mid-range offerings, from both NVIDIA and ATI, and this is well achieved as the card utilizes that less expensive 'mid-range' 128 bit memory interface, but still delivers.

For those are looking for pure gaming performance however, many might be tempted by the HD 3870 and 8800 GT, which just simply have more horsepower, and more staying power, the today's offering. Perhaps you might not think this is a fair comparison -- but when you consider the price gulf between the ever-falling high-end cards of last generation, it might be worth considering. While right now the HD 4670 is a good deal, it seems plausible that in as little as a month, the cards mentioned might offer a bit more bang for the buck, for maybe as little as $20 or $30 more. But of course: how many bucks do you want to spend? $20 or $30 more is an appreciable amount, when you are talking about an $80 video card. Certainly, for $80, HD 4670 is a very capable mid-range card.

The next time you read comments from anyone saying that the woe of PC gaming is expensive hardware, you can correct them easily, by citing the HD 4670. Tie the HD 4670 to a inexpensive dual-core, some inexpensive DDR2, and you are ready to rock. The HD 4670 may not be as exciting as the HD 4800 series, but it delivers on its promises, and is a fine mid-range offering. It is a big step up for ATI's performance target for the sub-$100, mid-range card -- and I'm telling you, things are looking up for PC gaming if this is the new mid-range.   

 

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