Today AMD has released its latest graphics processors, and this time they are aimed at the budget to lower-mainstream markets.  The release of the Radeon 4800 series certainly turned some heads, and AMD had probably the best performing parts (under pretty much every circumstance imaginable) at the $200 and $300 price levels.  To say that the Radeon 4870 and 4850 not only leveled, but overturned the playing field is not an overstatement.  In reaction NVIDIA reduced the price of their GTX 260 from $450 down to $300, and the high end GTX 280 went from $650 to $499 or so.

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Courtesy of AMD

The Radeon HD 4670 is aimed directly at the sub-$100 market, and the base product will be at $79.  If we take a look back at previous members of the $79 club we see the GeForce 6200, GeForce 7200, Radeon X1300, and other parts that historically have not performed all that well in current games.  In fact, they rarely were able to run top end games at decent quality settings, and options like AA and AF were mere fantasies.  Imagine the GeForce 6200 trying to play Far Cry at 1280×1024.  The results are not pretty (Far Cry at 800 x 600 with high quality settings it was able to average around 26 fps, depending on the tested area).  Sure, these $79 cards were able to play most games “fairly” well, and a user could dip into the more taxing titles as long as they cut quality settings down.  We can also take a look at the next generation of these budget cards with the 7300 GS and X1300 and see how well they did (F.E.A.R., which was the hot title at the time, ran at 17 fps at 800 x 600 with high quality settings).

Now we see the HD 4670, and its performance is pretty phenomenal at $79.  It is able to outperform the HD 3850 in pretty much every circumstance.  When we consider that the HD 3850 was released late last year for around $199 at the lowest, the difference that we have seen in less than one year and for almost 1/3 the price is absolutely incredible.  Gamers have honestly never had it so good.  We also must factor in the ability to provide AA performance much better than the Radeon 3000 series.  With AA enabled the 4670 often matches, and sometimes overtakes, the much more expensive Radeon HD 3870.  When we take a look at some of the specifics of the card, it is no wonder it performs as well as it does.

The most interesting number here is that the HD 4670 shares the exact same number of stream processors as the older 3800 cards.  320 units is nothing to shake a stick at, and with improvements to AMD’s Catalyst drivers and their realtime compiler, the performance of these SPs is pretty impressive.  The 4670 features have the number of RBEs (render back ends) but they feature the 4000 series’ improvements in AA performance.  The 4670 also features the same number of texture units as the older 3800s, but it includes the small improvements in performance as the rest of the 4000 series has.  AMD has optimized the design, so it is cut down to 514 million transistors as compared to the RV670 which had the ominous 666 million transistor number.  On TSMC’s 55 nm process the die size is at 142 mm square vs. the older RV670’s 190 mm square.  Not a huge difference, but certainly far more dies can be put on a wafer at that size.  The core clock on the HD 4670 is a sprightly 750 MHz, but the power consumption at max is actually under 60 watts.  It is sorta amazing how far we have come in less than a year.  The slower HD 4650 is clocked at 600 MHz core, and uses DDR-2 at 500 MHz (1000 MHz effective).

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Sapphire’s foray into the 4600 world.  Note the lack of an external power connector.  This card sucks up less than 60 watts, which is well below the 75 watt limit of the PEG slot.

The other interesting aspect of this introduction is the use of plain-jane DDR-3 rather than the more expensive GDDR-3 or GDDR-4/5.  DDR-3 for desktop memory has hit some magical numbers as of late in terms of clockspeed and price per MB.  Populating the HD 4670 with 1000 MHz DDR-3 has turned into a nice performance option with a corresponding nice reduction in price.  The performance differences between GDDR-3 and regular DDR-3 is essentially nil (though GDDR-3 is theoretically faster for graphical applications).  At $79 they are offering the 512 MB version running at 1000 MHz, but soon they will be introducing the 1 GB version running at a slightly more sedate 900 MHz.  The 4670 features a 128 bit memory bus, so overall bandwidth will not be overwhelming, but it certainly is not paltry at 32 GB/sec.

I am betting that Ryan is working on finishing his full review, but from everything that I have seen so far AMD has again pulled the rabbit from its hat with the HD 4670.  NVIDIA is again scrambling to react to this new product by further cutting the prices of the 9500 GT (55 nm version of the 8600 GTS) as well as the “new” 9600 GSO (rebranded 8800 GS) which is going for around $100.

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Small, clean, and undeniably efficient at what it does.  Oh, they can be CrossFired as well.  For $160 a user can have the same, if not slightly more, performance than the 3870X2.

This low cost, budget offering has more than enough power to handle even the latest applications (and performance hogs) at reasonable resolutions.  Older titles can be run at much higher resolutions as well as utilizing AA and AF.  The cost of entrance to playing the latest titles is now $79.  Something most of us can afford.