PowerColor PCS HD4670 512MB GDDR3 Graphics Card: Light-Weight Champion

As a rule, sub-$100 graphics adapters are hardly of any interest to gamers, especially taking into account how demanding some of the contemporary gaming titles are. New budget graphics cards from ATI promise to break this rule.

by Alexey Stepin , Yaroslav Lyssenko
10/02/2008 | 03:55 PM

System requirements of video games on the PC platform are getting ever and ever harsher. Some titles, such as the legendary Crysis, refuse to run fast at the highest graphics quality settings even on the ATI Radeon HD 4870 X2 that costs more than $500, let alone the less advanced single-chip cards based on Nvidia’s G200 and ATI’s RV770. Although the sector of affordable graphics cards have been changed, mainly by the arrival of the Radeon HD 4850 that brought about a new level of performance into the below-$199 segment, graphics cards cheaper than $100 have not been interesting for gamers at all. They were targeted at users who didn’t take gaming seriously but who were not satisfied with the capabilities of integrated graphics solutions.

 

An example of such a card is the ATI Radeon HD 3650 we reviewed earlier. It was based on the 55nm RV635 core which was a cut-down version of the RV670 processor, quite a good solution in its time. The graphics card had all of the capabilities of the senior models of ATI’s Radeon HD 3800 series, particularly full support for HD video decoding and post-processing, but was more than modest in games. It just couldn’t run serious 3D games fast.

However, the next generation of ATI’s graphics processors just blew up the market of consumer 3D graphics, pushing the performance bar of below-$200 solutions to the level that had been previously provided by graphics cards priced at $300 or higher. Right now, the ATI Radeon HD 4850 can be considered a bestseller, its price having declined even below ATI’s original official $199.

The explosion initiated by AMD’s graphics department couldn’t but shake the graphics market, which had been stagnating a little due to Nvidia’s monopoly, down to the very bottom. In other words, it led to the development of graphics cards cheaper than $100 yet capable of delivering acceptable performance in most of today’s games, even though at low resolutions. This is especially important as more and more gaming projects are developed for multiple platforms, the developer keeping in mind the modest graphics capabilities of the main gaming consoles, Microsoft Xbox 360 and Sony PlayStation 3.

September 10, ATI officially announced the new family of graphics cards called Radeon HD 4600. In this review we will see how good the new family is and if it is much different from the previous generation of entry-level graphics hardware.

ATI Radeon HD 4600: Family Portrait

The Radeon HD 4600 series is based on the new 55nm RV730 core that has every trait of the RV770 but simpler. The developer announced three graphics card models based on that chip: two versions of Radeon HD 4670 at a recommended price of $79 and the less advanced Radeon HD 4650 at a recommended price of $69. Let’s check out the specs of the new GPU and the graphics cards based on it.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

The RV730 may seem to be a cut-down version of the RV770 at first sight. This is indeed true, yet there is one nuance that prevents us from regarding the RV730 as a simplified RV770. It is the design of the SIMD arrays that make up the execution part of the core. The RV770 has 10 such arrays, each of which consists of 16 execution modules with five ALUs in each whereas the RV730 has eight SIMD arrays with eight execution modules in each for a total of 320 ALUs. In other words, the dimension of each SIMD array is reduced by a half. Each such array is accompanied with four texture processors. Easy to calculate, there are a total of 32 texture processors. Thus, the ratio of computing and texture-mapping performance is changed in favor of the latter. It was 4 to 1 in the RV770 (160 execution modules to 40 TMUs) but 2:1 in the RV730 (64 execution modules to 32 TMUs).

This is where the architectural difference ends. All the subunits of the RV730 have the same design and functionality as those in the RV770 as described in our review of the theoretical aspects of the Radeon HD 4800 architecture. The new tessellation unit is present, too.

The product looks promising overall: the new entry-level core from ATI is comparable to the previous-generation flagship RV670 in terms of computing and surpasses it twofold in terms of texture-mapping performance. The RV730 incorporates fewer transistors: 512 million as opposed to 666 million. This simplification affected the raster processor and memory subsystems. The number of raster back-ends is reduced from 16 to 8 and the number of memory controller is reduced from 4 to 2. But as the internal design of the RV730’s subunits is not simplified in any way, the raster back-ends still boast higher efficiency than those of the RV670, especially at Z-buffer operations, and also support hardware antialiasing. Each memory controller has two 32-bit channels, so the external memory bus is 128 bits wide. Considering the overall positioning of the RV730 into the entry-level sector, the modification of the memory controller is okay, but you can’t expect the new cards to deliver high performance at high display resolutions.

By the way, one of the two versions of Radeon HD 4670 features DDR3 memory for the first time in the graphics card market. This version has a lower memory frequency but a twice larger amount of memory, which is a questionable solution. We don’t think that 1 gigabyte of onboard memory can do much good to a $79 card, but it may come in handy if the card is used as a physics co-processor or mathematical accelerator. The Radeon HD 4650 costs $10 less than the senior model of the family but comes with far lower GPU and memory frequencies. It can make a good card for a HTPC as it is quiet, economical and cool but features most advanced multimedia capabilities including support for audio-over-HDMI.

Anyway, the ATI Radeon HD 4670 looks promising in comparison with the Radeon HD 3850 although may be slower at high resolutions. It will leave no chance to Nvidia’s GeForce 9500 GT or ATI’s Radeon HD 3650. We guess it is the first time in many years that ATI’s graphics card is head above its opponent in the same price category. The GeForce 9500 GT, previously known as GeForce 8600 GTS and officially priced at $79, surely has lower performance whereas the more advanced 9600 GT is considerably more expensive.

So, it looks like the wave of progress has reached the bottom of the graphics market, but we will only be sure of that after our gaming tests. Right now let’s check out a representative of the new family in more detail. It is the PowerColor PCS HD4670 512MB GDDR3 card (model number AX4670 512MD3-P).

PowerColor PCS HD4670 512MB GDDR3

Package and Accessories

We’ll be referring to the graphics card as PowerColor PCS HD4670 for the sake of simplicity. The card comes to retail in an upright medium-size box. The box design is nice but not original because of the standard magic theme. Besides the picture, there is a large caption “512MB GDDR3” on the front side of the box. This is an important note because there exist two models of Radeon HD 4670 differing in type, amount and frequency of onboard graphics memory. The caption “Professional Cooling System” explains the meaning of the PCS abbreviation. We’ll see shortly what this professionalism means.

Traditionally for PowerColor products, the interior of the box is divided with a cardboard partition whose compartments contain the graphics card and its accessories. The following is included into the kit:

The accessories are scanty but that’s all right for a $79 product. There is everything you need to use every feature of the card, save for a software HD video player. We usually criticize graphics card makers for saving on such software but this saving is justifiable here because the cost of player software is high even considering the reduced OEM pricing. Every connector of the card, save for the PCI Express slot, is covered with a plastic cap as you can often see on Gigabyte’s products.

So, the packaging and accessories of the PowerColor PCS HD4670 are good overall. Both are not original, but acceptable for this price category. If you buy this card, you won’t have to look for a DVI-I → HDMI adapter to support audio output, and HDMI connection is important for new modern HTPCs the Radeon HD 4670 is likely to be installed into.

PCB Design, Specifications, Cooling System

The PCB design of the PowerColor card differs from the reference design developed by ATI, so what we will say below refers to the particular model of the Radeon HD 4670. This graphics card is likely to come to market in many unique versions.

The PCB is very compact thanks to the low power consumption and the 128-bit external memory bus. Of course, it is a full-profile solution and won’t fit into some low-profile system cases in which the PCI Express x16 slot is not turned around by 90 degrees. Otherwise, we can see no potential installation-related problems.

The power section of the PowerColor PCS HD4670 is simple, using a two-phase regulator with two transistors in each phase for powering the graphics core. There are additional seats on the PCB to reinforce the power circuit by adding one more transistor into each phase. The circuit is based on a uPI uP6201BQ controller. The single-phase memory voltage regulator is based on an uP6101BSA chip. The card doesn’t need to be connected to the computer’s power supply, relying on the PCI Express slot only. It means its peak power consumption is lower than 75W. We guess the card is going to require 45-55 watts but we’ll check this out shortly.

There are eight GDDR3 chips on the PCB. These are Qimonda HYB18H512321BF-10 chips with a capacity of 512Mb (16Mb x 32), voltage of 2.0V and rated frequency of 1000 (2000) MHz. The card’s memory frequency is indeed 1000 (2000) MHz, ensuring a memory bandwidth of 32GBps. That’s not high as modern graphics cards go, so we can’t expect the Radeon HD 4670 to be fast at high resolutions.

The GPU die is large as it incorporates as many as 514 million transistors. The die itself is mounted on the wafer at an angle of 45 degrees. There is no protective frame on the core. As is common with ATI’s chips, an ordinary user can only learn the manufacturing date from the chip’s marking. Here, the GPU is dated the 29th week of 2008. So, AMD has had operating samples of RV730 since mid-July.  

The core frequency agrees with the official specs. It is 750MHz. The GPU has a standard configuration with 320 ALUs grouped into 64 execution modules that comprise eight execution SIMD arrays. Each such array is accompanied with four texture processors, so there is a total of 32 TMUs. The rasterization subsystem consists of eight raster back-ends. Besides, the core incorporates a full-featured video-processor (UVD 2) which, among other things, can output eight-channel HD audio via HDMI.

The card has a standard set of interface connectors, but the PCB design allow to install a HDMI connector instead of the bottom DVI-I. The card doesn’t support DisplayPort even optionally although the RV730 has this functionality even without additional translator chips. The two CrossFire connectors allow to combine up to four PowerColor PCS HD4670 into a single graphics subsystem, but this option can hardly be called for. Some gamers may want to use two such cards in a CrossFire tandem, though.

The PowerColor PCS HD4670 is equipped with a cooler from ZEROtherm hence the abbreviation of Professional Cooling System in its name. We can’t see anything extraordinary about the cooler, though. It is similar to blowers from Zalman and Thermaltake.

The RV730 doesn’t generate much heat, so the cooler doesn’t use heat pipes and its heatsink is made from aluminum. It looks stylish thanks to black anodizing. This must be the reason for the marketing folks to call it Professional. Well, we don’t have anything against this cooler. It should be able to cope with the GPU at little or no noise at all considering the size of the heatsink and the diameter of the fan. We’ll check this out in the next section of the review. The fan uses two-pin connection and probably rotates at a constant speed. Notwithstanding the translucent impeller, the fan lacks any highlighting.

The heatsink is fastened to the PCB with four spring-loaded screws. The fastening is tight. Considering the low weight of the heatsink, there is no risk of any damage to the GPU. Light-gray thermal grease is used as a thermal interface between the heatsink and the graphics core. It seems to be ZT-100 grease from ZEROtherm. Each pair of memory chips is cooled with a small individual heatsink glued with a sticky thermal pad.

The cooling system looks good. If it proved to be efficient at little noise, the title of Professional Cooling System can be considered well-deserved.

Power Consumption, Noise, Temperature

Although the PowerColor PCS HD4670 uses a nonstandard PCB, its power consumption can hardly differ much from that of the reference card. So, the results below can be applied to the reference card as well. We measured the card’s power consumption on the following testbed:

The 3D load was created by means of the first SM3.0/HDR test from 3DMark06 running in a loop at 1600x1200 with 4x FSAA and 16x AF. The Peak 2D mode was emulated by means of the 2D Transparent Windows test from PCMark05. This test is important as it simulates the user’s working with application windows whereas Windows Vista’s Aero interface uses 3D features. Here are the results:

The new card is indeed economical. Comparable to RV670-based solutions in its capabilities, the PowerColor PCS HD4670 needs less than 50W of power under load. And it sets a new record in idle mode, requiring less than 10 watts then! This makes the card an ideal choice for compact systems that often have cooling-related problems due to poor ventilation.

We measured the card’s noise with a digital sound-level meter Velleman DVM1326 using A-curve weighing. The level of ambient noise in our lab was 36dBA and the level of noise at a distance of 1 meter from the working testbed with a passively cooled graphics card inside was 43dBA. Here are the results:

The described card comes with a nonstandard cooler, so the reference Radeon HD 4670, which comes with a different cooler, may have different results in this test.

The PowerColor card is nearly silent according to the noise level meter as well as to our own ears. The fan speed is constant but the cooling efficiency is high. The PCS abbreviation in the card’s name is justifiable as the GPU temperature, reported by ATI CCC and CPU-Z, is only 29-30°C in idle mode and 45-46°C under load. That’s an excellent result that makes the PowerColor PCS HD4670 suitable for quiet compact systems, particularly for HTPCs, especially as the superb electrical and thermal parameters of this card are accompanied with advanced multimedia capabilities.

Testbed and Methods

For our performance tests of PowerColor PCS HD4670 512MB GDDR3 we put together the following testbed:

According to our testing methodology, the drivers were set up to provide the highest possible quality of texture filtering and to minimize the effect of software optimizations used by default by both: AMD/ATI and Nvidia. Also, to ensure maximum image quality, we enabled transparent texture filtering. As a result, our ATI and Nvidia driver settings looked as follows:

ATI Catalyst:

Nvidia ForceWare:

For our tests we used the following games and synthetic benchmarks:

First-Person 3D Shooters

Third-Person 3D Shooters

RPG

Strategies

Synthetic Benchmarks

We selected the highest possible level of detail in each game using standard tools provided by the game itself from the gaming menu. The games configuration files weren’t modified in any way, because the user doesn’t have to know how to do it. The only exception was Enemy Territory: Quake Wars game where we disabled the built-in fps rate limitation locked at 30fps. Games supporting DirectX 10 were tested in this particular mode.

Besides PowerColor PCS HD4670 512MB GDDR3 we have also included the following graphics accelerators to participate in our test session:

We ran the performance tests in standard set of resolutions including 1280x1024, 1600x1200 and 1920x1200. We used 1920x1440 supporting 4:3 aspect ratio instead of the latter one in Battlefield 2142 game. We used “eye candy” mode almost everywhere, where it was possible without disabling the HDR/Shader Model 3.0/Shader Model 4.0. Namely, we ran the tests with enabled MSAA 4x antialiasing and anisotropic filtering 16x in all tests except 3DMark. We enabled them from the game’s menu. If this was not possible, we forced them using the appropriate driver settings of ATI Catalyst and Nvidia ForceWare drivers.

Performance was measured with the games’ own tools and the original demos were recorded if possible. Otherwise, the performance was measured manually with Fraps utility version 2.9.1. We measured not only the average speed, but also the minimum speed of the cards where possible.

Performance in First-Person 3D Shooters

Battlefield 2142

This game doesn’t support display resolutions of 16:10 format, so we use a resolution of 1920x1440 pixels (4:3 format) instead of 1920x1200 for it.

The new card looks good right from the start, outperforming the Radeon HD 3850 in bottom speed. It is also better in terms of average frame rate at1600x1200. Although the results of the Radeon HD 4670 are everywhere high enough for comfortable play, it cannot compete with the GeForce 9600 GT. The gap varied from 16-18% to 35% depending on the display resolution. ATI’s new memory controller is more efficient than the G94’s controller, so the defeat can be explained by the weaker RBE subsystem. The twofold difference is too big to be made up for by the architectural advantages of ATI’s rasterization processors.

Anyway, the performance of the new Radeon is high for a $79 card and even superb if you compare it with the GeForce 9500 GT. The latter can hardly provide a comfortable speed at 1280x1024 whereas the ATI solution makes the game playable even at 1920x1200.

BioShock

BioShock doesn’t support FSAA when running in Windows Vista’s DirectX 10 environment. We benchmark graphics cards without FSAA in this game.

If the new Radeon has any problems with rasterization performance, they only show up in the somewhat lower bottom speed than that of the GeForce 9600 GT. Both cards deliver playable speeds at resolutions up to 1600x1200 inclusive. Their speeds fluctuate too much at 1920x1200, bottoming out below 25fps. The Radeon HD 3850, on its part, maintains a frame rate higher than 30fps. This card isn’t yet outdated.

The GeForce 9500 GT is totally routed by the Radeon HD 4670, losing from 46% in the lowest resolution to 55% at 1920x1200.

Call of Juarez

The game doesn’t support resolutions above 1920x1200, so there are no results for 2560x1600.

Call of Juarez relies on the GPU’s computing power in the first place and also needs a lot of graphics memory. Therefore the Radeon HD 4670 feels much better in this game than the Radeon HD 3850. It is two times as fast as the GeForce 9600 GT at resolutions above 1280x1024, let alone GeForce 9500 GT 256MB. There is no playing comfort here, though. None of today’s single-chip graphics cards, including the GeForce GTX 280, can run this game at a comfortable speed at the highest graphics quality settings.

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

The new Radeon is slower than the GeForce 9600 GT but the difference isn’t big, 7-8% at 1600x1200, and both cards deliver the same level of playing comfort. The cards have similar average speeds at 1920x1200 but the bottom speed is only 20fps with each of them. Well, entry-level solutions are not meant for such high resolutions. The Radeon HD 3850 and GeForce 9500 GT 256MB are even slower as their texture filtering speed is lower and they have two times less of graphics memory. As a result, these two cards cannot ensure comfortable speed even at 1280x1024.

Crysis

This game is tested at the High level of detail, excepting the Shaders option which is set at Very High. This way we try to achieve a compromise between image quality and speed.

The Radeon HD 4670 is somewhat slower than the GeForce 9600 GT. The gap varies from 5 to 15%, being the biggest at 1600x1200. The new Radeon is 1.5 to 2 times faster than Nvidia’s entry-level solution GeForce 9500 GT.

Crysis has too harsh system requirements and is not playable on the tested cards at our settings. You’ll have to lower the level of detail on your entry-level card if you want the game to have a playable speed.

Enemy Territory: Quake Wars

The frame rate is fixed at 30fps in this game as this is the rate at which the physical model is being updated at the server. Thus, this 30fps speed is the required minimum for playing the game.

The new Radeon is somewhat slower than the GeForce 9600 GT at 1280x1024 but goes ahead at the higher resolutions thanks to the more efficient graphics memory management typical of ATI’s GPUs. The gap is as large as 30-32% at 1920x1200, and ATI’s solution, unlike its opponent, even ensures some reserve of speed although costs less. The GeForce 9500 GT 256MB, which comes at a comparable price, is limited to 1280x1024 only.

Half-Life 2: Episode Two

ATI’s new solution is always in the lead in this game, leaving no chance to the GeForce 9600 GT and 9500 GT 256MB at resolutions higher than 1280x1024. Moreover, it is not much slower than the more advanced Radeon HD 4850: the gap is only 10% even at 1920x1200.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that the Radeon HD 4670 is an advanced solution. The game engine of Half-Life 2 just doesn’t need much hardware resources.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl

The game doesn’t support FSAA when you enable the dynamic lighting model, but loses much of its visual appeal with the static model. This is the reason why we benchmarked the cards in S.T.A.L.K.E.R. using anisotropic filtering only.

The Radeon HD 4670 isn’t brilliant in S.T.A.L.K.E.R. The game is optimized for Nvidia’s solutions, and the new Radeon is too slow even at 1280x1024. Well, the GeForce 9500 GT 256MB doesn’t provide an acceptable speed at the lowest resolution, either.

Performance in Third-Person 3D Shooters

Lost Planet: Extreme Condition

The Radeon HD 4670 is at least no worse than the GeForce 9600 GT, but both cards have low frame rates at the highest level of detail. You’ll need something better, at least a Radeon HD 4850, to play the game in that mode.

Tomb Raider: Legend

The Radeon HD 4670 must be hamstringed by its weak RBE subsystem in this game. This is the only reason we can think of to explain that this card is slower than the Radeon HD 3850 at 1280x1024. However, the new Radeon is as fast as its predecessor at the higher resolutions and even beats it at 1920x1200. Alas, this has little practical value because the frame rate is barely acceptable even at 1280x1024. This game is the single test so far in which the GeForce 9500 GT 256MB is but slightly slower than the Radeon HD 4670 and even superior to it at 1280x1024.

Performance in RPG

Hellgate: London

The Radeon HD 4670 is as fast as the GeForce 9600 GT but has a higher bottom speed at resolutions above 1280x1024. However, this is the only resolution you can play the game more or less comfortably at because the bottom speed of both cards is below 25fps even then. Anyway, the results are good, especially for the ATI solution, which is somewhat cheaper. The GeForce 9500 GT 256MB, which costs the same money, is even worse in this test.

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

The game loses much of its visual appeal without HDR. Although some gamers argue that point, we think TES IV looks best with enabled FP HDR and test it in this mode.

Theoretically, the Radeon HD 4670 was supposed to be slower than the GeForce 9600 GT in open scenes and faster in closed environments, but we see just the opposite in practice: the texture-mapping and rasterization subsystems of the RV730 show their best here. However, we can note that the Radeon HD 4670 has a rather low bottom speed in the open scenes, which may be due to the small amount of raster back-ends. Anyway, the new card from ATI is certainly better than the GeForce 9500 GT 256MB.

Performance in Strategies

Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts

The new add-on to Company of Heroes is tested in DirectX 10 mode only since it provides the highest quality of the visuals.

The GeForce 9600 GT is 10% ahead of the Radeon HD 4670 at first, but their become equals at 1600x1200. The overall level of performance remains unacceptably low at every resolution, so you’ll have to turn FSAA off and lower the level of detail if you want to play this game on an entry-level graphics card. ATI’s new solution is no breakthrough here, but looks far better than the GeForce 9500 GT 256MB.

Command & Conquer 3: Kane’s Wrath

The add-on to C&C 3: Tiberium Wars brought no changes into the technical aspect of the game. The game still having a frame rate limiter, you should consider the minimum speed of the cards in the first place.

This game can still be of some use for us if we benchmark entry-level graphics cards. The current generation of such cards is so advanced that the difference can only be seen at 1920x1200 or higher resolutions.

Although the difference is small, we can see that the Radeon HD 4670 ensures more comfortable conditions than the GeForce 9600 GT. The GeForce 9500 GT 256MB is too slow even at 1280x1024.

World in Conflict

Having fewer raster back-ends, the Radeon HD 4670 is, however, getting closer to the GeForce 9600 GT as the resolution grows up. The gap shrinks from 25% at 1280x1024 to 6-7% at 1920x1200. Nvidia’s cards may have problems with memory management. The new solution from ATI is ahead of the GeForce 9500 GT 256MB by 6-7% at 1280x1024 to 40% at 1920x1200.

The overall level of performance is very low, though. You can’t play the game on these cards at the highest graphics quality settings and with 4x MSAA.

Performance in Synthetic Benchmarks

Futuremark 3DMark06

As we already know from the gaming tests, the new solution from ATI boasts high performance for its price, so the overall score of 3DMark06 indicates that this benchmark is not adequate when it comes to modern graphics hardware.

Judging by the SM2.0 tests, the Radeon HD 4670 is awfully slow, but we couldn’t see that in real applications. The SM3.0/HDR tests are far from reality, too. The RV730 processor should be much better than the G94 at computations-heavy tasks. Still, ATI’s success is clear even in 3DMark06 if you compare its result with that of the GeForce 9500 GT 256MB.

The individual tests don’t tell us anything new. The Radeon HD 4670 is far slower than the GeForce 9600 GT in the first test, and then the gap is smaller in the second test. The new Radeon beats the GeForce 9500 GT in the second test, which is normal considering the tenfold advantage in terms of computing resources.

The Radeon HD 4670 is but slightly behind in the first SM3.0 test, equaling the result of the Radeon HD 3850. Alas, the new card is slow in the second test, being only superior to the GeForce 9500 GT 256MB. The results of the individual tests agree with the overall scores.

Futuremark 3DMark Vantage

We minimize the CPU’s influence by using the Extreme profile (1920x1200, 4x FSAA and anisotropic filtering).

3DMark Vantage reveals the true potential of the new card which is two times as fast as the Radeon HD 3850 and GeForce 9500 GT 256MB which are limited by their 256 megabytes of graphics memory. The availability of only eight raster back-ends is clear when the Radeon HD 4670 is compared with the GeForce 9600 GT. It’s normal because the Extreme profile uses a resolution of 1920x1200 together with 4x MSAA, and the rasterization subsystem has a very high effect on the overall performance in this mode.

ATI’s new solution is 7% and 20% behind the GeForce 9600 GT in the first and second tests, respectively. This could be expected considering the specifics of the tests. The Radeon HD 4670 is far faster than the GeForce 9500 GT 256 MB in both tests, of course. The latter comes at a similar price but has far weaker computing resources.

Conclusion

Summing up the results of our tests, we can say that the Radeon HD 4670 passed them successfully due to the impressive computing capabilities and strong texture-mapping section of the RV730 chip. However, the new card’s performance could not be but affected by the reduced number of raster-back ends and the cut-down 128-bit memory bus. You can look at our summary diagrams to evaluate the card’s success.

The Radeon HD 4670 isn’t brilliant at 1280x1024, being faster than the GeForce 9600 GT in four tests only. And it is only in Half-Life 2 that its advantage is over 10%. In the other tests the new card is slower than its opponent by 6% to 42%. But you should keep it in mind that the GeForce 9600 GT has a 256-bit memory bus and costs more. The Radeon HD 4670 looks good in comparison with the GeForce 9500 GT 256MB, losing to it somewhat in one test only (Tomb Raider: Legend).

Despite having only eight raster back-ends, the Radeon HD 4670 looks better at 1600x1200 when it beats the GeForce 9600 GT in six tests. Its efficient graphics memory management helps to achieve those victories. Considering the equal results in Command & Conquer 3, the overall score is 6:9 in favor of Nvidia, but the GeForce 9600 GT is more expensive. When competing in the same price category, the Radeon HD 4670 is unrivalled, leaving no chance to the GeForce 9500 GT 256MB. The latter could hardly be competitive even if it had 512 megabytes of onboard memory.

Oddly enough, the new entry-level card from ATI got most victories at a resolution of 1920x1200 it is not actually meant for. It beats the GeForce 9600 GT with a score of 9 to 7 but cannot provide a playable frame rate in most of the games. We are talking about a $79 product after all. The GeForce 9500 GT 256MB looks hopeless against the Radeon HD 4670.

So, the Radeon HD 4670 performed well in our tests considering its low recommended price. It is somewhat inferior to the GeForce 9600 GT in most of today’s games, but costs less (and may get even cheaper in the future) and has more advanced multimedia capabilities. Thus, ATI’s new card is surely the best entry-level product now.

The particular model we discussed today, the PowerColor PCS HD4670 512MB GDDR3, features a unique PCB design and a silent but effective cooler. If you are limited in your PC budget, this graphics card is going to be a good choice. For a modest sum of money you will have good performance at resolutions up to 1680x1050/1600x1200 and a full spectrum of multimedia functionality including support for HD audio.

PowerColor PCS HD4670 512MB GDDR3 Summary

Highs:

Lows: