The announcement of the ATI Radeon HD 4800 architecture has enabled AMD’s graphics department to claim technological superiority after a long while. The developer has proved he is not only alive and well but has plenty of resources to develop best-in-class graphics solutions.
As a dramatic change in the company’s development strategy, ATI now focuses on creating mainstream rather than ultra-performance top-class GPUs. The RV770 processor, the heart of the new ATI Radeon HD 4800 series, has been created according to this new strategy.
Within ATI’s approach, increasing the new chip’s performance must be accompanied with a meticulous optimization of its architecture. It may sound paradoxical, but developing a best-in-class mainstream GPU that would combine high performance with low power consumption is a more difficult task than developing a new monster of the ultra-high-end class. Why? Because in the latter case you can just increase the computing resources of the chip without caring much about its power consumption, amount of transistors, size, and other factors that are not directly linked to 3D performance. This is in fact the general approach Nvidia followed while developing its GT200. Of course, the company could not avoid the problems associated the incredible complexity of the chip. The chip turned out to be huge. Consequently, there are fewer dies that can be made out of one standard silicon wafer. The yield of such complex chips is rather low, which explains the high cost of the new chip.
ATI’s developing team, on their part, did their job right and the RV770 is a true realization of the evolutionary ideas brought to the point of perfection. As our theoretical tests showed, the junior graphics card with the new GPU boasts a higher potential than the Nvidia GeForce 9800 GTX. And the Radeon HD 4850 comes at a recommended price of $199 whereas the competing solution was selling for $349 just recently!
Still, theoretical tests can only give you a hint about the performance of a graphics solution. Gamers are more interested in real games. This review is going to fill you in on that matter. The Radeon HD 4850 and 4870 cards will be tested in our standard selection of benchmarks including 15 games and two benchmarking suites from Futuremark.