Graphics Cards Guide
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The Coming Red Invasion
Competing for your Budget Dollars
Going by recent events, ATI has had a busy month with new mainstream and value segment GPUs launching at a steady pace. We have all seen the debut of the Radeon HD 4670 earlier this month, with the 4650 following that shortly. The next step then is to go down the performance ladder and today, its budget Radeon HD 4500 series is about to be unveiled. Unlike NVIDIA's myriad model names, the Radeon HD 4500 series is positioned to be slower than the Radeon HD 4600 GPUs and is hence even less of a gaming graphics card. It's also priced accordingly, with ATI pegging it at between US$45 - 55, as compared to the US$79 Radeon HD 4670.
With ATI officially extending its Radeon 4000 series architecture to the budget segment with these upcoming cards, we decided that it was the right time to look at NVIDIA's equivalent, the GeForce 9400 GT, which was released about a month ago. At US$59, it would go directly against the newcomer and we should see some interesting comparisons between the two graphics rivals, besides the typical high-end shootout.
To aid us in this venture, we have gathered a reference ATI Radeon HD 4550 512MB DDR3 card from the chipmaker, while we had on hand a Zotac GeForce 9400 GT ZONE Edition, equipped with a passive heatsink and 512MB of GDDR2. Both GPUs are at their reference clock speeds, so they should be appropriate representatives of these new SKUs.
Adding more excitement and uncertainty into this duel, we threw in some of the closer competitors in this very tightly contested segment, where the price difference could be as small as US$10. It is nevertheless a crucial market segment, since manufacturers typically sell more of these budget/mainstream GPUs than the high-end models. By no means is the list of GPUs below exhaustive, but we have tried to remove some of the older and hence less relevant models.
|Model||ATI Radeon HD 4670 512MB||NVIDIA GeForce 9600 GSO 384MB||NVIDIA GeForce 9600 GT 512MB||NVIDIA GeForce 9500 GT 256/512MB||ATI Radeon HD 3850 256MB|
|Transistor Count||Unknown||754 million||505 million||314 million||666 million|
|Manufacturing Process (in nm)||55||65/55||65/55||65/55||55|
|Stream Processors||64 Shader processors consisting of 320 Stream Processing units||96 Stream Processors||64 Stream Processors||32 Stream Processors||64 Shader processors consisting of 320 Stream Processing units|
|Stream Processor Clock||750MHz||1375MHz||1625MHz||1400MHz||670MHz|
|Texture Mapping Units (TMU) or Texture Filtering (TF) units||16||48||32||16||16|
|Raster Operator units (ROP)||8||12||16||8||16|
|Memory Clock||2000MHz GDDR3/DDR3||1600MHz GDDR3||1800MHz GDDR3||1600MHz GDDR3 or 1000MHz GDDR2||1660MHz GDDR3|
|DDR Memory Bus||128-bit||192-bit||256-bit||128-bit||256-bit|
|Memory Bandwidth||32.0GB/s||38.4GB/s||57.6GB/s||25.6GB/s (GDDR3) 16.0GB/s (GDDR2)||53.1GB/s|
|PCI Express Interface||PCIe ver 2.0 x16||PCIe ver 2.0 x16||PCIe ver 2.0 x16||PCIe ver 2.0 x16||PCIe ver 2.0 x16|
|Molex Power Connectors||No||Yes||Yes||No||Yes|
|Multi GPU Technology||Yes (CrossFireX)||Yes (SLI)||Yes (SLI)||Yes (SLI)||Yes (CrossFire)|
|DVI Output Support||2 x Dual-Link||2 x Dual-Link||2 x Dual-Link||2 x Dual-Link||2 x Dual-Link|
|HDCP Output Support||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Street Price||US$79||~US$90 - 105||~US$110 - 130||~US$70 - 89||~US$100 - 130|
To find out how these new cards would fare in the present competitive market, we took PowerColor's enhanced Radeon HD 4670 for a spin. With a ZEROtherm cooler and a slightly overclocked core, this card should give NVIDIA's GeForce 9 cards a run for its money.
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