Asus EAH 4770 Formula Series Review

ccokeman - 2009-06-15 22:23:13 in Video Cards
Category: Video Cards
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: July 2, 2009
Price: $149

Introduction:

Formula 1 has been the exclusive performance playground where performance is measured in speed as well as the cubic dollars it takes to develop that speed. Some people have referred to F1 as the pinnacle of racing. Of course, that depends on who you talk to, but nevertheless Formula 1 cars offer many innovations that help the car eek out that last bit of performance, adjustable air/fuel mixtures, driver adjustable wings for added downforce or speed, exotic materials to reduce weight, computerized ignition and tracking systems. Everything on the car is purpose built to help with speed or reliability. Asus has taken a page out of the F1 book with the Formula Series EAH 4770. Innovations to the EAH4770 include the heatsink, fan and electrical components. Will these innovations make the difference in the performance of the Formula series EAH4770 or will they just be around for the long haul and increase the life span of the card? Questions I intend to answer!

Closer Look:

The Asus EAH4770 came shipped to Overclockersclub.com in a plain cardboard box with no retail pakaging to speak of so I really cannot offer up any commentary as to what the final packaging or bundle will look like or contain. What was included with the EAH4770 besides the copious amount of packaging material was a small bundle that included a dual 4-pin Molex to 6-pin PCI-E adapter, quick setup guide, driver and software disc and a disc that contains the manual in several different languages. Usually there are several video out adapters included with video cards but if you look closely at the Formula 4770 you can see why there are not any in the bundle.

 

   

 

 

Let's see what's under the hood of the Formula EAH4770!

 

Closer Look:

What you have with the ASUS EAH4770 Formula is another rendition of the first 40nm video card to the market. On the outside the Formula 4770 at first glance looks like a standard HD 4770 with a special heatsink but when you look a little deeper there is more to be seen. This card is smaller than all of the behemoth video cards on the market at just over eight inches in length. The depth of the heatsink makes the Formula series 4770 a dual slot cooling solution. Along the top edge of the card there is a brace to provide additional rigidity to the PCB to prevent any droop of the PCB like I have seen on some HD4850s over time. That fix is always a welcome addition.

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

When building its latest video cards, ASUS has made some improvements that should help with the reliability as well as reducing operating temperatures of the on board components while running more efficiently. In today's economy not everyone has the financial ability to upgrade at any time and are looking for their hardware to last for a greater length of time. ASUS call these the "Ultimate Armaments." What you get are lower RDS(on) MOSFETs, solid capacitors, shielded video outputs and covered chokes. As you can see in the slide below each has a significant impact. The fan used on the Formula 4770 features a double seal that helps keep dust out of the motor increasing its life span by a large margin. This, of course, will take some testing time but with the dust that seems to accumulate in my computers this should be something easy to do. Having the fan fail on even a mid range performance card can have a devastating effect on the GPU and memory.

 

 

On the introduction page I mentioned that the EAH 4770 Formula did not arrive with any video adapters. The reason for this is that the card really does not need them as the most common outputs are already there. Instead of having two Dual Link capable DVI outputs and an HDTV output the Formula is equipped with one Dual Link DVI output, a single VGA output and lastly an HDMI port so you can play all that HD content you own without connection hassles. Looking at the Formula from the rear you can see the PCI-E 6-pin power plug, plus three of the four "Ultimate Armaments," the covered chokes, solid capacitors and MOSFETs. By pulling the heatsink assembly you get a view of the shielded video out connection points for "Ultimate Armament" number 4.

 

 

When you pull the heatsink off of the Formula 4770 you can see how the airflow is directed across the surface of the PCB. The heatsink contains small ridges along the length of the fins to add extra surface area to aid the heatsink in shedding the heat generated by the 40nm R740 core. The design of the cooling assembly accoding to Asus drops the PCB operating temperatures by 33%.

 

The EAH4770 Formula is based upon the R740 core built using a 40nm manufacturing process. The core features 826 million transistors, 640 unified shaders and 8 ROPs with a core clock speed of 750MHz. Memory comes in the form of 512MB of Qimonda memory rated for operation at 1000MHz running on a 128-bit bus with a clock speed of only 800MHz.

 

 

Let's see what it takes to get the EAH4770 Formula on track to perform.

 

Closer Look:

To install the drivers for the ASUS EAH4770 Formula, pop the driver disc into your drive and the ASUS installation GUI will auto-start. The menu has three options that you can choose from. The first option is to install VGA drivers, the second option is to install the utilities and the contact information for ASUS is the last item in line. The drivers used in this review are the Catalyst 9.6. Having the drivers on the disc comes in handy if you don't have Internet access but many times the drivers have been updated by the manufacturer before the card is purchased so downloading the latest driver is the best bet to get all of the latest bug fixes.

 

  

  

 

 

  

 

 

 

When you choose the Install VGA Driver option, the Catalyst installation starts up and you will move through the installation choosing the options best suited for your system. This process installs all of the necessary drivers needed to make the ASUS EAH4770 Formula work as intended. After finishing the installation, the customary reboot is required.

 

 

 

Once the drivers are installed you can move on to the utilities to install those most appropriate for your usage. Asus Smart Doctor is a tool that can be used as a monitoring tool as well as an overclocking tool. Unfortunately, you are limited to the maximum speeds in the Catalyst Control Panel.The adjustments are made by clicking the Settings tab. This window has four tabs, Settings, Monitor, Fan Control and Hyper Drive.

 

 

 

Gamer OSD is a handy little tool to let you record in game video or screen shots. There are three distinct tabs. The first is capture mode that allows you to capture or record a video in game. The second tab allows the user to setup hot keys for common tasks used with the app.The last tab is used to view the movies and screen shots you have captured.

 

 

 

 

One other bit of software included with the driver package is Folding@Home. When Stanford first started looking at the GPU to run the Folding@Home client, the ATI GPU was the first graphics processing unit that the application was coded for back when the X1900 series of video cards were at the top of the performance ladder. So just what is this Folding@Home, you ask? Well, when proteins don't fold correctly, the result is some really heinous diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer's, BSE (Mad Cow), and Cystic Fibrosis. By simulating how chains of amino acids fold or misfold, researchers hope to find cures for these diseases and more. You can find additional information here. If you decide to join the ranks of the people looking for a cure, make sure you select team 12772.

 

Closer Look:

Ask not what you can do for the Catalyst Control Center, ask what the Catalyst Control Center can do for you! ATI's CCC will allow you to do a few nifty things that are actually more necessary than nifty. This includes overclocking, changing resolutions, adding extra monitors, and changing visual effects. Basically, everything that has to do with the video card can be adjusted through the CCC. For this reason, I will not be able to take you through every single thing. Instead, I'll show you all the basics.

 

 

 

  

 

Information Center: In the Information Center, you can view extensive hardware information, as well as driver, CCC and DirectX versions.

 

 

Digital Panel: In the Digital Panel section, you can set and view display information, such as monitor attributes, adjustments, and color correction.

 

 

3D: In the 3D tab, you can adjust general image quality settings, as well as anti-aliasing, anisotropic filtering, and color schemes. There are also a few settings for DirectX and OpenGL.

 

 

Avivo Video & ATI Overdrive: Avivo settings allow you to alter the color settings for better viewing. ATI Overdrive gives the user control of the GPU and memory frequencies. For novice users, there is an automated clock configuration utility that will find the best overclock for your system settings.

 

 

Now that we've got everything set up, let's take a look at how the HD 4770 performs.

Specifications:

 

Model
EAH4770Formula/DI/512MD5
Graphics Engine
ATI Radeon HD 4770 Graphics
Video Memory
512MB GDDR5
Engine Clock
750MHz
Memory Clock
3.2GHz (800MHz GDDR5)
DVI Max Resolution
2560X1600
Bus Standard
128 BIT
DVI Output
DVI-I (Dual Link)
HDCP Compliant
Yes
HDMI  Out
Yes  Native
D-Sub Output
Yes 1x
Software bundled
ASUS Utilities and Driver

 

Features:

 


Testing:

To test out this new video card from ASUS, the EAH4770 Formula, I will run it through a series of game tests and synthetic benchmarks to see just how the performance compares to that delivered by similar video cards, as well as its direct competition from the green camp, nVidia. The OverclockersClub test system will be run as listed, with the processor operating at 3.0GHz. The respective video card settings that will be used are the driver defaults, with settings made in-game as noted to provide as few variables as possible. The only deviation from this method will be to disable PhysX in 3DMark Vantage. I will only be testing from 1280x1024 up to 1920x1200, as any higher than this will result in a less than spectacular performance across the board.

 

Testing Setup:

Comparison Video Cards:

 

Overclocking:

Overclocked settings:

After my experiences with the Sapphire HD 4770 being limited to clock speeds of 830MHz on the core and 850MHz on the memory, I was not surprised to see the EAH 4770 Formula have the same limitations. At this point Riva Tuner does not support the HD 4770 video cards but there are a few tweaks out there that you can use to make this a reality. Additionally, the successor to ATI tools has been released and can be used to overclock the 4770. After overclocking the Sapphire HD 4770, I felt there was more left on the table and with the opportunity to bench this card from Asus I realized just how much was left. 900MHz on the core was just stable enough to pass some of the benchmarks but not all of them so I I backed it down 10MHz at a time until I could pass all of the benchmarks. I used the same philosophy with the memory overclocking but started at the memory's rated speed of 1000MHz and jumped up 20MHz at a time until it became unstable. I ended up with just over 100MHz on the R740 core and 323MHz on the memory. Both increases are ones to be proud of for a card that competes with cards that cost more.

  1. Far Cry 2
  2. Crysis Warhead
  3. BioShock
  4. Call of Duty: World at War
  5. Dead Space
  6. Fallout 3
  7. Left 4 Dead
  8. 3DMark 06 Professional
  9. 3DMark Vantage

 

Testing:

Far Cry 2:

Featuring a new game engine named Dunia, this game looks to be another one to stress your video card. Built specially for Far Cry 2, this engine allows for real-time effects and damage. This next generation first-person shooter comes to us from Ubisoft, surprisingly - not from Crytek. The game is set in a war-torn region of Africa where there is a non-existent central government and the chaos that surrounds this type of social environment. If you have seen the movie Blood Diamond, you know the setting. Ubisoft puts the main storyline of the game into focus with these statements: "Caught between two rival factions in war-torn Africa, you are sent to take out "The Jackal," a mysterious character who has rekindled the conflict between the warlords, jeopardizing thousands of lives. In order to fulfill your mission you will have to play the factions against each other, identify and exploit their weaknesses, and neutralize their superior numbers and firepower with surprise, subversion, cunning and, of course, brute force." In this Far Cry game, you don't have the beautiful water, but instead the beauty and harshness of the African continent to contend with. Most games give you a set area that can be played through, while Ubisoft has given the gamer the equivalent of 50km2 of the vast African continent to explore while in pursuit of your goals. The settings used are just a few steps below the maximum in-game settings and offer a good blend of performance vs. visual quality.

 

Settings:

   

 

 

 

When compared to the Saphire HD 4770 the performance between the two cards is almost identical. When overclocked, this little card really comes to life with frame rates that are playable at 1920x1200. At 1920x1200 the frame per second increase is 18 FPS, or an increase of almost 50% higher than the stock performance.

 

Testing:

Crysis Warhead is a standalone expansion pack situated in time with the storyline of the original Crysis. As Sergeant "Psycho" Sykes, you have a secret mission to accomplish on the far side of the island. Along the way there are EMP blasts and Aliens to contend with, as you hunt down the KPA chief. This game uses an enhanced version of the CryEngine 2.

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

When you get right down to it, high settings and anti-aliasing are not strong points for the 4770s in Crysis Warhead. Overclocking did not bring the benefits it did in Far Cry 2.

 

Testing:

BioShock is one of the creepier games you can play. The building of a perfect Utopian society undersea gone horribly wrong. Its inhabitants driven mad with the introduction of tonics and genetic modifications. Now Rapture is just a shadow of its former glory with little girls looting the dead of what little they have left while being shadowed by guardians known as "Big Daddys". It is a demanding game that will make your hardware scream for mercy. This first-person shooter allows for an infinite number of weapons and modifications to provide a unique experience each time it is played. The environment, as well as the storyline, will wrap you up for hours on end.

 

Video Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ASUS EAH 4770 Formula delivers playable frame rates at each resolution. Comparing the performance of the Formula to the Sapphire card really shows little difference when at stock speeds. Against some of the stronger cards the Formula holds its own with overclocking being the great equalizer of performance, allowing the Formula to almost equal the performance of the 4870 and 9800GTX.

 

Testing:

Activision's Call of Duty: World at War goes right back to the bread and butter of the franchise - WWII FPS action. In this rendition, you start off in the South Pacific and move through a series of missions that flip back and forth between the Russian front and the island hopping advance toward the Imperial Japanese homeland. Included is a mission on Peliliu Island, arguably one of the more difficult and costly battles in the Pacific theater. The gameplay in the single player mode is rather short, but the game makes up for this shortcoming in online gameplay. If you thought COD4 looked nice, this game is amazing with the graphics maxed out playing at a large resolution. I will use Fraps to measure a section of gameplay in the Semper Fi map on Makin Island to compare performance of these video cards.

Settings:

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At stock speed the performance delivered by the Formula is equal to that of the Sapphire HD 4770 and within 3 FPS of the performance delivered b the HD 4850 at 1920x1200. At 1920x1200 the action would slow down a bit in massive firefights but is stil playable at the maximum in game settings. When overclocked, the performance jumps by 9 FPS across all three resolutions and that means you really do not have to compromise the settings to play this game.

 

Testing:

In Dead Space, as part of the crew of the USG Kellion you are headed on a repair mission to repair a ship in distress. Things go from bad to worse, starting with the crash landing of the seemingly silent and "dead" ship, the USG Ishimuru. Offering a non-traditional, over-the-shoulder viewing angle, the game gets right into the action as soon as the ventilation systems are activated. From there things get worse with the appearance of the Necromorphs. Survival now becomes a primary concern for the primary character Isaac Clarke. Survive and you may find the loved one that was aboard the Ishimuru.

Settings:

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

The Asus EAH 4770 Formula has no problem playing Dead Space at 1920x1200 with frame rates that are easily above the 60 FPS that some gamers say is the threshold for playability. Overclocking the Formula showed solid gains in performance with the largest increase seen at the 1280x1024 resolution with a 25 FPS jump in performance.

 

Testing:

Fallout 3 takes place after the nuclear holocaust that nearly wipes out civilization and leaves the world an irradiated mess. The vault, or fallout shelter, you are born in is Vault 101, situated in the Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia area. The premise of the game is that the Vault has been sealed for 200 years and now your father has opened the vault and escaped without a trace. The Overseer believes you are involved, so you must escape as well into the wasteland that was once our nation's capital. I find myself looking for landmarks since I am familiar with the streets of Washington DC.

Settings:

 

 

  

 

 

 

The EAH 4770 Formula can play Fallout 3 without trouble up to 1920x1200. Performance compares well with the 9800GTX and GTS 250 when overclocked. The benefit from overclocking grew as the resolution increased.

 

Testing:

Left 4 Dead is a new release from Valve that leaves you as part of a group of survivors in a world where an infection has rapidly turned the populace into a zombie horde. Your goal is to make it to a rescue point, all while fighting what seems like overwhelming odds. Along the way there are safe houses where you can replenish your weapons and health. The movie "I Am Legend" comes to mind to set the stage for this game. But unlike the movie, there are four characters and not just a lone gun and his faithful companion. The horde is not at all like the typical slow walking, foot shuffling zombies. These zombies are quick and work with pack mentality. You have but one job; survival!

Settings:

 

  

 

 

 

 

The ASUS EAH 4770 takes some overclocking to compete with the stronger cards but when pushed the 40nm core does a fine job competing with every card but the HD 4870.

 

Testing:

3DMark06 is one of the benchmarks that always comes up when a bragging contest begins. 3DMark06 presents a severe test for many of today's hardware components. Let's see how this setup fares. The settings we will use are listed below.

 

Settings:

 

  

 

 

 

The ASUS Formula EAH 4770 performs slightly lower than the Sapphire rendition of the 4770. When overclocked the performance takes a substantial jump into HD 4850 territory.

 

Testing:

Featuring all-new game tests, this benchmark is for use with Vista-based systems. "There are two all-new CPU tests that have been designed around a new 'Physics and Artificial Intelligence-related computation.' CPU test two offers support for physics related hardware." There are four preset levels that correspond to specific resolutions. "Entry" is 1024x768 progressing to "Extreme" at 1920x1200. Of course, each preset can be modified to arrange any number of user designed testing. For our testing, I will use the four presets at all default settings.

 Settings:

 

  

 

 

 

 

The ASUS EAH 4770 Formula pulls ahead of the GTS 250 from the performance preset on up and the 9800GTX+ at the Extreme preset. Overclocking gives the ASUS Formula the muscle to compete with all of the cards from the performance preset to the Extreme preset.

 

Conclusion:

When I first saw the car silhouette on top of the fan the first thing I thought was, "boy, is this one gonna go over well." The fact of the matter is that this card did indeed fly and deliver some incredible performance numbers when I started pushing the clock speeds. It did this while staying cool and incredibly quiet. So quiet that I could not hear it running and had to reach in and feel the fan to see if it was indeed spinning. While the F1 car style heatsink housing may not be for everyone, it is unique and does serve a purpose, not just as bragging rights for the younger crowd. The airflow is directed to points across the PCB, reducing operating temperature by 33% over the reference design. The heatsink itself has micro ridges that increase the available surface area to promote better cooling, something you will need if you intend to push the limits of this card. The directed airflow helps with the PCB but the 40nm core was 11C cooler at 49C than the reference design with the fan controlled by the driver, a substantial improvement over the reference design. However, with the fan manually controlled and the Formula EAH 4770 overclocked, the temperature of the R740 core never went above 52C under load. The benefits of cooler components can be increased life span or higher overclocking, if you so choose. Overclocking the Formula EAH 4770 provided some really solid performance numbers that in most cases equaled or bested the performance of the HD 4850. The maximum stable speeds I could run the formula at were 852MHz on the core and 1123MHz on the GDDR5 memory. The core speed increase is over 100MHz higher than the 750MHz stock core clock speed while the memory is 323Mhz higher than the stock 800MHz.

Asus has designed a card that uses what it calls the "Ultimate Armaments" to build a card that performs well not only at stock speeds but to push the envelope when overclocked. Lower RDS on MOSFETs that run cooler, solid capacitors for a longer service life, shielded DVI connections for improved clarity and covered chokes for cooler operation and better efficiency are the things that ASUS uses to separate its products from the reference design cards. Pricing on the reference HD 4770 cards runs anywhere from $99 to $119, which is right at the price point for many of the reference design HD 4850s, which could put a crimp in the sales of the 4770. Rumors of a shortage of 40nm chips may have prompted AMD/ATI to drop the price on the HD 4850 to keep the pressure on nVidia at this price point since really this is where the money is made for the most part. What you have in the Asus EAH4770 is a video card that performs above its price point when overclocked, delivers cooling performance without the noise penalty associated with AMD/ATI reference heatsinks and is built with high quality components for a price that won't break the bank.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: