$99 – The new “high end” for GPUs

AMD’s launch off the Radeon HD 4770 redefines the graphics card market, and has the potential to make $99 the new “high end” for GPUs.

The last couple of years have been great for PC gaming enthusiasts looking for more power and more frames per second. Not only have we seen some fantastic high end GPUs from both AMD and NVIDIA (the Radeon HD 4870 and the GeForce GTX 295 are both excellent cards), but we’ve also seen prices drop to the point where you can pick up the HD 4870 for only $270.

AMD’s new Radeon HD 4770 is built around the RV740 GPU and is priced to dominate the $99 to $109 market. The price point is important since AMD believes that this is a sweet spot for GPUs.

Not only does the 4770 deliver the goods when it comes to price and performance, but it is also the first GPU based on the 40nm manufacturing process from either AMD or NVIDIA. Not only does this smaller manufacturing process deliver a faster GPU, it also means that the HD 4770 it uses less power, and it has to dissipate far less heat, which improves reliability and stability. The 40nm process also allows AMD to pack an incredible 826 million transistors onto the GPU.

The new HD 4770 is a dual-slot air-cooled graphics card with a core clock speed of 750MHz. It also features 640 stream processors and 512MB of super-fast GDDR5 memory. All this hardware comes together to deliver 960 GFLOPs of power at an average power consumption of only 80W.

Note for upgraders: The HD 4770 does require you to have a 6-pin PCIe power connector on your PSU (or some sort of adaptor).

The HD 4770 is AMD’s answer to NVIDIA’s 9800 GT, and side-by-side comparisons of performance per Watt and performance per $ shows that the HD 4770 dominates the aging 9700 GT.

What’s interesting about the HD 4770 is that it is, as far as most gamers are concerned, the highest-end graphics card they need. Why? Because if you are playing your favorite games (Crysis, Far Cry 2, Left 4 Dead, Call of Duty 5 …) at screen resolutions of no more than 1600×1200 or 1920×1200 (or the equivalent in wide-screen) you can get all the gaming power you need for under $99!

Note: At least until games start to place an increasing demand on hardware. Although with most PC games being console ports (or they are ported to consoles), and consoles have less power and performance to offer than a PC, this isn’t a likely scenario.

Let me put that another way for non-techies out there. If you are running a system that is kitted out with an LCD monitor that’s 17″, 19″, 20″, 22″ or 24″ (regular or wide-screen) then this graphics card is all you need. In fact, unless you have a $1,000+ 30″ panel fitted (those puppies go up to a whopping 2560 x 1600), you don’t need anything more potent than the HD 4770 or the GeForce GTS 250 because even if you do spend on the hardware, there’s no effective to unlock its potential at the lower resolutions.

Note: There may still be a place for dual-card setups if you make use of technologies such as PhysX.

With the HD 4850 512MB retailing for around $130, and NVIDIA’s GeForce GTS 250 1GB (which is faster than the HD 4700) retailing for about $120, the HD 4770 does have competition snapping at its heels and pretty soon the average user will have a selection of sub-$99 high-end cards to choose from.

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