Sapphire HD 4770 Review

ccokeman ClayMeow - 2009-05-01 18:27:40 in Video Cards
Category: Video Cards
Reviewed by: ccokeman   ClayMeow   
Reviewed on: May 31, 2009
Price: $99

Introduction:

Enter the Sapphire HD 4770, ATI's first video card equipped with a GPU manufactured using a 40 nanometer manufacturing process. In the current economic situation, people just dont have the disposable income they had even last year and are more frugal when it comes time to spend those hard earned dollars. The HD 4770, priced at $99, give or take a few dollars, is a card that looks to fill the performance void at the $100 price point. The card contains 826 million transistors, 640 shader processing cores, and 512MB of GDDR5 running through a 128-bit bus, to bring the crucial memory bandwidth back up to a respectable level. Clock speeds come in at 750MHz on the R740 core and 800MHz on the memory. So just where will the HD 4770 fall on the performance ladder when compared with cards priced just a bit higher? Will this force the competition into further price drops to compete for this price/performance point? Let's see just what the HD 4770 has to offer for your money.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

Closer Look:

The graphic detail used by Sapphire on the packaging is always well done and this box is no different, with the latest version of Ruby prominently featured on the front panel. The front panel carries the product designation (HD 4770), as well as some of the capabilities of the video card, such as Crossfire X capabilities, the use of 512 MB of GDDR5 memory, HDMI with 7.1 sound, the 40nm process, and game physic processing abilities. The slogan "Driven by Performance Fueled by Fantasy" is dead center of the front panel and the message is repeated on the back panel. The back panel also contains descriptions of the technologies listed on the front, while bringing more information about UVD 2.0, Crossfire X ,Microsoft DX 10.1, and more.

 

 

Inside the outer shell is the box that contains the HD 4770. The 4770 is packaged in an anti-static bubble wrap style bag, locked into the box tightly on all four sides to prevent damage in transit. The manual and included software from Power DVD sit on top of the card, while the hard parts such as the crossfire bridge, power connection and adapters for the DVI connections are hidden below.

 

 

 

The bundled accessories included with the Sapphire HD 4770 are the manual, two software titles from Cyberlink, a DVI to D-sub adapter, a DVI to HDMI adapter, a Crossfire bridge connection, a HDTV to Composite dongle,and a 4-pin to 6-pin power adapter. The included accessories should be enough to get you connected to the display of your choosing, while the software brings along added functionality.

 

 

Closer Look:

The Sapphire HD 4770 is slightly smaller than the average performance video card. It is designed for use in a 16x PCIe slot and is PCIe 2.0 compliant. Instead of a single slot cooling solution, the HD 4770 comes with a large aluminum heatsink and takes up the space of two expansion slots. Quite different from the reference design. The back side of the red PCB contains no memory chips.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The front end of the HD 4770 contains pretty much standard fare when it comes to display connectivity, with two Dual-Link capable DVI ports and an HDTV output. HDMI is supported  through the supplied DVI to HDMI adapter. The mounting bracket contains ventilation slots to allow some air to to be discharged out the back of the chassis instead of discharging it all inside the case. The rear end of the HD 4770 holds the 6-pin PCIe power connection and a flat heatsink over the power regulation circuit.

 

 

Cooling the HD 4770 is the job of the copper-colored aluminum heatsink. The cooler only directly pulls heat from the RV740 core instead of the standard reference solutions that cool the memory, GPU core and voltage regulation components. The fan contains nine fins and is inaudible over the rest of my case fans when the drivers are controlling the fan speeds. When the fan speed is pushed to 100 percent you can hear it, but it is not nearly as loud as the reference design. Load temperatures are quite acceptable with this cooling solution at 50 degrees Celsius under load with the fan at 100%. Drop the fan speed down by letting the driver control the fan speeds and you end up at 60 degrees Celsius. Both pretty reasonable. The HD 4770 is Crossfire X capable and can be used in up to a four-card Crossfire solution with the appropriate motherboard.

 

 

Once you pull the heatsink off, you can see just how small the RV740 core really is. The RV 740 GPU is packed full with 826 million transistors and 640 shader cores and is the first GPU based on the 40nm process manufactured at TSMC. The memory ATI chose to use on the HD 4770 is GDDR 5 manufactured by Qimonda and is rated for operation at 1000MHz. The GDDR5 memory is 512MB in size and runs though a 128-bit bus. The extra bandwidth allows for more memory bandwidth than GDDR3 at a comparable speed. Clock speeds come in at 750 MHz on the CPU and 800MHz on the GDDR5 memory.

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Closer Look:

To install the drivers for the Sapphire HD 4770, pop the driver disk into your drive and the Sapphire installation GUI will auto-start. The menu has three options that you can choose from. The first option is to install the Catalyst Control Center and drivers by clicking ATI Easy Install. The drivers used in this review are the Catalyst 9.5. The other two options available with the installation GUI include a link to the online manual in several different languages, as well as a link to download the latest Adobe Acrobat Reader.

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When you click the ATI Easy Install option, the Catalyst Control Center installation will begin. This process installs all the necessary drivers needed to make the Sapphire HD 4770 fully functional. After finishing the installation, the customary reboot is required.

 

 

 

As an added bonus, Sapphire has included several pieces of software from CyberLink. Everyone has heard of PowerDVD, a program to play all the DVD, Blu-ray, and HD content you desire. DVD Suite includes PowerProducer 4, PowerDirector 5, Power2Go 5.5, and Medi@Show 3, as well as trial versions of Power Backup 2.5, PowerDVD Copy, and LabelPrint 2. While the HD 4770 is not specifically designed for use as an HTPC type video card, it is more than capable of performing this function. Just to see how well the HD 4770 performs in this role, I took a quick look through both the movie 300 and one of my favorites, Beerfest! I just couldn't find Full Metal Jacket. But if you take a look at the screen shot from Beerfest, you can see the CPU loading is in the 1 to 2% mark, meaning the HD 4770 is carrying the decoding load, not the CPU. This of course has the by product of improved performance while watching HD content.

 

 

 

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:

 

GPU:

HD 4770

ASIC Core:

RV 740

Core Clock:

750MHZ

BUS:

PCI Express x16

Ports:

2 Dual-Link DVI, Video Out (S-Video, Composite, HDTV)

Cooling:

Active-FanCooler

MFG Process:

40nm fabrication process

Transistor Count:

826 million transistors

Stream Processors:

320

Memory Clock:

800MHz (3200MHz effective)

Memory Configuration:

16mx32

Memory Type:

GDDR5

Memory Bandwidth:

51.2GB/s

Memory Size:

512MB

Memory Interface:

128-Bit

RAMDAC:

Dual 400MHz

HDTV:

YES

HDMI:

HDMI 1.3/HDMI Ready

HDMI MODE:

DONGLE

Native Display Support:

10 bit

3D Resolution:

2560x1600

TV-OUT Resolution:

720

Dual Display support:

Hydravision4

Hollywood Q.VIDEO:

YES

 

Features:

 

All information on this page courtesy of Sapphire Technology @ http://www.sapphiretech.com/presentation/product/?psn=000101&pid=251

Testing:

To test out this new video card from Sapphire, 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:

Overclocking the HD 4770 involved so little drama that there really is not a lot to report, other than the fact I was limited to the clocks in the Catalyst Control Center because none of the popular software overclocking utilities are supporting the HD4770 yet. To get to the point, all it took to overclock the HD 4770 was to adjust the sliders to the maximum settings of 830/850, bump the fan speed to 85%, and let her rip. No fuss no muss overclocking. I can't help but think that ATI has been a bit conservative with the maximum clock speeds considering the GDDR5 memory on this card is rated for operation at 1000MHz. There is obviously some performance left on the table for the future.

  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:

 

 

 

 

 

 

At 1920x1200, the HD 4770 from Sapphire delivered performance that is comparable to that of the GTS 250, 9800GTX+ and the HD 4850. The maximum differential between the comparable GPUs was 4 FPS if you take the HD 4870 out of the equation. This is a pretty stout start for a budget card.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All the cards in this comparison struggle when you throw high settings and anti-aliasing at them. Surprisingly the HD 4770 delivers a performance at 1920x1200 that, while unplayable, is equal to all the comparison cards save the HD 4870.

 

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 HD 4770 is no where near the performance level of the other comparison cards until it is overclocked. At that point, it delivers 2 more FPS than the GTS 250 at 1920x1200. But it still delivers seamless gameplay performance with the in-game settings at the maximum level in all three resolutions.

 

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. This game just may be my reason to move to a 30-inch monitor. 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:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The performance of the HD 4770 in CoD:WaW at 1920x1200 is equal to or relatively close to that of both the GTS 250 and the overclocked 9800GTX. The overclocked performance of the HD 4770 is right on target with the FPS delivered by the HD 4850 staying within 2 FPS.

 

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:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dead Space is a title that favors the green camp, but the Sapphire HD 4770 played through at frame rates you can't really complain about. 1920x1200 is no problem with the stock clock speeds. Just for kicks, I played at 2560x1600 to see how big of a performance drop I would see, and still the HD 4770 delivered 50 FPS.

 

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:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At 1280x1024 you would be hard pressed to tell the difference in performance when playing Fallout 3 with any of the comparison cards. Once you reach 1920x1200 though, the cards' performances do vary greatly. By toning the settings down a bit, the HD 4770 would be all the more capable of playing at 1920x1200. Even with the settings at the maximum level, it still delivered playable frame rates in demanding situations.

 

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 Sapphire HD 4770 delivers lower FPS in this title. The frame rates that are delivered are playable all the way through 1920x1200. At 1920x1200, the performance differential between the direct competition for the HD 4770 amounts to 4 to 6 FPS against factory overclocked cards.

 

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 HD 4770 delivers a respectable performance, however it is just out gunned in this test by cards that are a bit more powerful. Even when overclocked, it comes up short of the nVidia options and the HD 4850.

 

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 Sapphire HD 4770 is obviously not the fastest card out there. But once you reach the Extreme preset, it holds its own pretty well. At this level, it delivered a higher score than the two nVidia offerings and performed up to the level of the HD 4850 when overclocked. The overclocked scores of the HD 4770 eclipsed those of the HD 4850 at all four presets. Pretty stout when you consider the price point this card is meant to compete at.

 

Conclusion:

What you get with the HD 4770 from ATI and Sapphire is a card that fits its niche perfectly. With the economy the way it is and people reluctant to spend big dollars on a video card upgrade, the $100 price point is where the money is going to be made. Coming in at least $30 less than the 9800GTX+ and only $20 less than the HD 4850, you have to wonder if this card will take over the slot the HD 4850 currently holds. As well as the HD 4770 performs against the GTS 250 and 9800GTX+, it offers excellent performance for your dollar. The HD 4770 was playable in almost all the benchmarks up to 1920x1200. Crysis Warhead with AA on is just too much for video cards in this performance range. The performance is not stellar, but is playable. By reducing the visual quality settings slightly, the HD 4770 should handle just about any game in the 1680x1050 to 1920x1200 range. Overclocking the HD 4770 was a little disappointing in a way. The HD 4770 is not yet supported in any of the commonly used overclocking utilities, so the limits imposed in the Catalyst Control Center seem uncommonly low at 830MHz for the R740 core and 850MHz on the GDDR5 memory. The Qimonda memory is rated to perform at 1000MHz, so you are left feeling there is more, much more, left on the table. Reaching the limits was as easy as pegging the sliders to the max and applying the clock change. Kind of less than dramatic!

The cooling solution is far from what you normally see with a reference card; the use of a dual-slot solution instead of the single slot used in the HD 4850, HD 4830 and HD 4670. This is a welcome sight since subpar cooling and excruciating noise were a fact of life when and if you could adjust the fan speed. The cooling solution on the HD 4770 looks much like an Intel CPU heatsink and does an admirable job in dissipating the heat generated by the 40nm core. When overclocked, I measured load temperatures of 50 degrees Celsius when the fan was run at 100% and 60 degrees when the drivers were in charge of the show. Even at 60C I did not see any performance issues due to heat. With an open design like this though, there is one drawback when used in a less than optimally vented case; most of the heat generated will be discharged into the case, driving up component temperatures. The upside here is that the fan noise, while audible, is not what I would call incredibly loud. It was audible over my Scythe Kaze fans, but the pitch was not such that it was out of the norm driving me nuts.

As the first 40nm card delivered, the HD 4770 delivers respectable performance above that of the HD 4670 and almost equal to that of the 9800GTX+, depending on the game being played. At $100 or less, there is nothing that competes in this price point that can deliver the performance that the HD 4770 delivers. Once the overclocking tools are available to support clock speeds above 830/850, this card should fly.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: