ATI Radeon HD 4850 RV770 Sneak Peek

As many of you are no doubt aware, AMD is about to release a new line of ATI Radeon graphics cards based on the GPU that was internally codenamed RV770.  Cards based on the GPU were supposed to launch next week, on June 25 to be specific, but due to some unforeseen circumstances, we are able to offer you some preliminary information and benchmark scores a little early.

Like the RV670 used on the Radeon HD 3800 series, the RV770 GPU powering the Radeon HD 4850 is manufactured on TSMC's 55nm process node.  A full wafer of RV770 dies is pictured to the left.  At the heart of the GPU lies 800 stream processors, which give it considerably more muscle than the previous generation.  Of course, there is more to the RV770 than just having more stream processors, but we have to save that information for the official launch.

For now, we can show you what the card looks like, tell you its basic specifications, and provide some preliminary performance information.

ATI Radeon HD 4850 (RV770)

Sapphire Radeon HD 4850

The Sapphire Radeon HD 4850 you see pictured here has a core GPU clock speed of 625MHz with 512MB of GDDR3 memory clocked at 993MHz.  The memory is connected to the GPU via a 256-bit memory bus.  The card is cooled by a single slot, copper fansink, that remained relatively quiet during our brief testing, but man did it get hot.  The drivers reported an idle temperature of around 80'C, and the card was way too hot to touch.  Pricing for the card is expected to be set at $199.

NVIDIA GeForce 9800  GTX+

Of course, NVIDIA caught wind of the impending Radeon HD 4850 launch and was prepping a product to rain on AMD's parade.  Out of the blue, a couple of graphics cards arrived here in the lab based on a "new" GPU from NVIDIA.  What you see pictured above is the upcoming GeForce 9800 GTX+.

What does the "+" designate you ask?  Well, this card is based on a 55nm version of the G92 - down from 65nm on previous products.  The GeForce 9800 GTX+ will arrive with an MSRP of $229, which is much lower than what current GeForce 9800 GTX cards are selling for, so expect the GTX+ to push the current GTX down into the sub-$200 price bracket in the coming weeks (think mid-July).

The GeForce 9800 GTX+ offers a GPU clock speed of 738MHz, a shader clock of 1836MHz, and 512MB of GDDR3 Memory clocked at 1.1GHz (2.2GHz DDR).  Like the current 9800 GTX, the new card will support 2- and 3-Way SLI configurations.  Unfortunately, we do not have a driver to test the GTX+ just yet, but we will soon, so stay tuned.  For now, here's how the Radeon HD 4850 stacks up to a handful of other cards in a few games and benchmarks...

As you can see, the Radeon HD 4850 fares quite well in all of the tests.  It's not quite as fast as the new GeForce GTX 260, but keep in mind that card carries an MSRP that is double that of the 4850.  With the small sampling of tests we ran, so far, it seems like the Radeon HD 4850 will edge out a stock GeForce 9800 GTX and hang with the Radeon HD 3870 X2.  Stop back next week for the full story.