PowerColor HD 4770 PCS Review

Author: Kevin Spiess
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Hardware/Reviews/powercolorhd4770/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.

The summer is slowly winding down. Days will soon become shorter; nights much colder. People will start having to wear more clothes. But there is no need to let this get you down. After all, the arrival of Fall is an excellent excuse for a quick trip to the local hardware store, for a upgrade or two for your home gaming rig.

If your budget for a potential video card upgrade is close to around the $100 USD mark, then you are now probably aware of ATI's HD 4770. Featuring the world's first production  40nm GPU, and the quickest video memory currently out there, GDDR5, the HD 4770 has an attractive feature set, and offers a respectable level of gaming performance.

PowerColor are responsible for today's particular HD 4770. While the core and memory clocks for the PowerColor HD 4770 PCS have not been changed, PowerColor did change a few things from the default design -- most notably, making use of the expertise of the folks at Artic Cooling, to come up with a custom cooler.

Last week we reviewed a VisionTek HD 4770, featuring the same specifications as today's PowerColor HD 4770 PCS. This dispels a bit of the suspense of this week's benchmarks. So, in an effort to keep things interesting, we decided to take a look at CrossFire HD 4770 performance in addition to our regular benchmarks. 

The CrossFire potential of the HD 4770 was immediately apparent with the release of this video card. Generally with most video cards, in most cases, CrossFire (or SLI) is a better bet to take advantage of either as a possible upgrade path, a long time after initially buying your video card -- it just most often works out that you'd get more bang for your buck if you bought a faster single video card, as opposed to pair of less expensive cards. But there are exceptions -- and the particular specifications of the HD 4770, and the $100 price-tag, make today's HD 4770 a candidate to possibly be one of these exceptions.

 

Impressions

While the PowerColor HD 4770 PCS does have the same clock speeds found in the reference design of the HD 4770, don't be fooled: this isn't a standard HD 4770.

PowerColor radically changed the layout of the HD 4770 PCS's circuit board. There is barely a single component you can find on the PowerColor HD 4770 PCS that you'd be able to locate on the same place on an ATI reference design of the HD 4770.  The layout, and the components used, have been altered drastically. Even the location of the memory has been changed (moved from the center, to closer to the end of the card.) It is uncommon to find this extent of a redesign. PowerColor has been busy! 

Besides the redesign of the PCB, PowerColor has also decided to go with a new choice of cooler for the HD 4770 PCS. To help them out with this, they recruited some assistance from the Switzerland-based Artic Cooling company.

The PowerColor HD 4770 Professional Cooling System is derived from a Artic Cooling design which has been around for a number of years now, called the Accelero. As GPU coolers go, the PCS is fairly standard design. It consists mostly of an array of aluminum heat fins, aligned in parallel with the length of the card. A high-quality fan is perched on top that can reach high RPMs while generally remaining quiet.

Compared to the stock cooler found on standard HD 4770 cards, the PowerColor PCS is an improvement. However, it would be fair to say that this isn't all that really necessary however, as our prior tests have shown that the reference-design HD 4770 cooler is able to keep things quite cool for the HD 4770 (operating at the same speeds.)

The PowerColor HD 4770 PCS has two DVI ports.

Specifications 

As you are probably now aware, there are three important technical specifications to note when talking about HD 4770s. First off, you have a GPU built with a 40nm fabrication process -- currently the only GPU built on this incredibly small scale. Second, the use of 512MB of GDDR5 -- most cards out there only get by with GDDR3. And third, the HD 4770 only has a 128-bit memory interface, while the rest of the competition on the market uses a 256-bit memory interface.

Rumors have abound recently, through forums and various hardware sites, that a new generation will soon be arriving from ATI. But for now, we'll have to be content with the broad feature set that is currently found in HD 4000 generation; such as: DirectX 10.1 support, Shader Model 4.0 support, CrossfireX support (enabling you to connect the HD 4770 to between one to three more CrossFireX compatible cards for added performance, if your motherboard supports it.) As other HD 4770 cards, with the HD 4770 PCS you'll also have the ability to process high-definition video through the GPU's Unified Video Decoder engine, and the ability to utilize your GPU for some select software applications, such as video transcoding.

While it would appear that the HD 4770 PCS would be a great candidate for a bit of overclocking on PowerColor's part, alas, this is not the case. Judging from the absence of factory-overclocked HD 4770 cards on the market, it seems that ATI is not encouraging partners to OC the HD 4770 -- probably because it would infringe to closely on other models marketspace, such as the HD 4850.

 

 

  GTS 250

9600 GSO

9600 GT

9800GT 512MB

HD 4830

 HD 4850 HD 4870 HD 4770

Processing Cores

128

 96

64

112

640

800 800 640

Core Clock

738

 550

650

600

575

625 750 750

Shader Clock

1836

 1375

1625

1500

575

625 750 750

Memory Clock (effective) 

2200

 1600

1800

1800

1800

1986 3600 3200

Memory Interface

256 bit

192 bit

256 bit

256 bit

256 bit

256 bit 256 bit 128 bit

Memory 

1GB GDDR3

384MB GDDR3

512MB GDDR3

512MB GDDR3

512MB GDDR3

512MB GDDR3 512MB / 1GB GDDR5 512MB GDDR5

Fabrication Process

55nm

65nm

65nm

55nm

55nm

55nm 55nm 40nm

 

 

Box and bundle

Following a fairly long tradition, the PowerColor HD 4770 PCS comes in a box featuring with a heavily armored woman, holding a sword, on it. 

As for the bundle, it is fairly standard for a video card in this price range. It includes a driver CD, manual, a DVI-HDMI adapter, a DVI-VGA adapter, a molex-to-PCIE power adapter, and a composite video cable. 

Perhaps a CrossFire bridge would have been nice to see here -- because as you'll see soon in the benchmarks, the HD 4770 is good candidate for a CrossFire setup.

Overclocking

We didn't have tremendous overclocking hopes for the PowerColor HD 4770 PCS, as our previous attempts on other HD 4770 cards had not been anything terribly exciting. However with the better fan featured on today's HD 4770 PCS, we were anxious to try again.

Keeping the fan going at 100%, we were very surprised to find that we had much better luck overclocking the PowerColor HD 4770 PCS than we did other HD 4770s that we have so far reviewed.

We settled upon a clock speed of 855 MHz for the core, and 1030 MHz for the memory -- a very nice increase from the default 750 / 800 clocks. This overclocking potential turns the HD 4770 PCS into an even better deal than we had expected.

 

Hardware

For this review, we did two entire sets of benchmark charts: one set just testing the PowerColor HD 4770 PCS, and for the other, two HD 4770's running in CrossFire. The second HD 4770 used for these tests was a reference design VisionTek HD 4770.

Software

For the drivers, all the ATI cards used the Catalyst 9.6 drivers, and all the Nvidia cards used Forceware 186.18 drivers.

Here is our current line-up of benchmarking programs:

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.

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 GPUs and be a good measure of the game's engine.

Crysis: Warhead: Games don't get much more demanding than Crysis. We used the 'Gamer' pre-set level of details, which is the middle level setting out of 5 options. We ran the benchmark on the 'avalanche' map, using the FrameBuffer Crysis benchmarking tool, version 0.29, in DX10 mode.

Devil May Cry 4: This Capcom action game runs well on most systems; but at 'Super High' detail settings, even the fastest systems get taxed. This is built-in benchmark.

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.  

Far Cry 2: This open-world FPS is great looking game that really puts the strain on a gaming rig. We used the built-in benchmarking tool, and the overall 'Very High' quality setting was used.

Furmark: This intensive, synthetic benchmark models a ring of fur. We benched at 1680x1050.

Street Fighter IV: You have probably heard of this famous fighting game. It has 3D graphics, but generally does not require much GPU horsepower to run well. We used Capcom's stand-alone PC benchmarking tool for our tests, and ran everything at its highest possible settings, using 4xAA, and the 'Watercolor' setting.

Unreal Tournament 3: We tested the game using a fly-through of the vehicle capture-the-flag map 'Suspense.'ShangriLa (map) running for 90 seconds. Details were set to 'High', and a AF setting of 16x was 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.

If you would like any further information about our benchmark settings, feel free to ask us in the forums.

Ready for some benchmarking?

How about we start off with these, for Futuremark's Vantage.

What about two HD 4770s running in CrossFire?

Vantage seems to see some serious horsepower here. Let's see if this holds tree for the games.

Nvidia cards do not fair as well as ATI cards in this one particular test, it seems. Here the HD 4770 puts in some impressive numbers.

Alas, it seems Furmark does not take advantage of more than one GPU:

The HD 4770's fiercest competition is often Nvidia's 9800 GT -- especially inexpensive overclocked models, such as the Sparkle 9800 GT in our tests.

Here the 9800 GT takes an slight edge:

However in CrossFire mode, the PowerColor HD 4770 PCS really shines, even putting in better numbers than the GTX 285, which often sells for $350 - $400 USD.

The PowerColor HD 4770 PCS does fine here in this demanding game, for a video card around the $100 mark. Though the OC'ed 9800 GT does again take a slight lead.

A pair of HD 4770's again offers excellent performance here in Far Cry 2, competiting with the best video cards available.

The HD 4770 is certainly able to keep things going in Street Fighter IV, at maximum detail settings, with x4 AA.

The performance of pair of HD 4770's is outstanding, considering you are looking at spending only about $200 USD for this top-end kind of performance.

Many games are powered by the Unreal engine, and you shouldn't have any troubles playing any of them with a HD 4770.

Performance tapers off at the extreme resolution of 2560x1600, but the CrossFire'd HD 4770s continue to put in excellent numbers here in Unreal Tournament 3.

 

Overall, in World In Conflict, the PowerColor HD 4770 PCS does quite well here, competiting well against the more expensive video cards in our line up.

While the pair of HD 4770s becomes overwhelmed at the highest resolution tested, at the lower resolutions, the HD 4770s continue to keep up with the fastest single-GPU cards.

Here the Sparkle 9800GT appears to offer a bit better bang for buck -- but nonetheless the HD 4770 puts in some good numbers.

The pair of HD 4770s has no problem beating out the GTX 275, consistently.

Warhead is a demanding game with the details maxed (at 1680x1050, and 2xAA) -- but the HD 4770 is able to chug along with other cards in its price bracket.

If you have a 2560x1600 capabe display, than perhaps you are better going with a single GPU high-end video card, instead of the pair of HD 4770. But at lower resolutions, the CrossFire HD 4770 setup continues to impress.

Operating Temperatures

To measure core GPU temperature, we used the hardware monitoring program in RivaTuner 2.24. The idle temperature was taken after leaving nothing running, on Vista's desktop, for a minute. The load temperature was taken after a 100,000ms run of Furmark at 1680x1050 with no AA.

Previous testing has shown that the HD 4770 runs quite cool, thanks no doubt to the 40nm design. The PCS cooler from Arctic Cooling improves matters further, keeping operating temperatures postively chill.

Power Usage

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 took the sustained peak power drain readings at the end of 200,000ms run of Furmark at the maximum resolution.

The PowerColor HD 4770 PCS delivers big performance, but does not require tremendous amounts of power to do so. A 450W PSU should be enough to get the job done.

In CrossFire mode, a pair of HD 4770s is likewise extremely efficient on delivering performance-per-Watt. Only a 550W PSU is needed to keep both video cards happy.

Conclusion

As with earlier HD 4770s we have tested at Neoseeker, the PowerColor HD 4770 PCS offers great bang for the buck. Selling for about $100, you can expect the HD 4770 to be able to handle all but the most demanding of the games available today.

PowerColor has put together a nice rendition of the HD 4770 here -- the cooler, made by Artic Cooling, keeps temperatures quite low. Although the PowerColor HD 4770 PCS is modified beyond the reference design HD 4770s, the Powercolor HD 4770 PCS does not sell for any more than the other, standard models. Which is nice to see.

Today we took a look at the HD 4770's CrossFire performance, and it was very impressive. While a single HD 4770 represents great value for allowing you to game with reasonable framerates in most games, the HD 4770 offers even further value due to the upgrade path available for gamers with CrossFire capable motherboards. Not even necessarily combining the HD 4770 with another HD 4770 -- which works quite well -- but also choosing to CrossFire-up future cards, from perhaps new generations, when your HD 4770 can no longer sastify the demands of increasingly demandin games.

All-around, the PowerColor HD 4770 is a good choice for someone with about $100 USD to spend on a video card.

»Neoseeker.com

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