NVIDIA recently expanded the way we need to think about the GPU. There are many other things you can do with the GPU other than rendering games. GPGPU is AMDs project on this, I call it parallel processing. AMD has opened up the GPU as well to be used for stream computing. Very coincidentally on a press-briefing all of a sudden a video transcoding example was given. 3rd party vendors can open up their API and use the GPU for, for example transcoding a high-def video stream to a smaller definition on for your IPOD etc etc. Honestly, NVIDIA has the CUDA platform which has much more reach and is easier to use and program. So while the new series 4000 products without a doubt can handle stream processing very well for a multitude of applications, chances are pretty slim that consumers will actually see anything of it as it needs to be developed by software vendors who need to open up the code through CAL (Compute Abstraction Layer), for those interested AMD does have a really nice SDK available on that. AMD however did release a new version of AVIVO XCode (download here) which allows you to transcode from one file format to another, enabling the same video clip to play on industry standard home DVD/DivX players, PCs or portable media devices such as the Apple iPod, Sony portable gaming device, Creative Zen and many others. At this stage there are very limited options available though.
Radeon HD 4850 & 4870
In case you missed it, read our full review here. The first product released was the cheapest one. Both the 4850 and 4870 products have the same chip, make no mistake. What you'll notice is that the 4850 will run at a 625 clock frequency and comes with 512MB GDDR3 memory (framebuffer) clocked at 1986 MHz. these two factors are pretty much the biggest difference opposed to the big brother which we'll get into in a second. Obviously the Radeon HD 4850 is again Crossfire/CrossfireX compatible, meaning if your mainboard allows it you can get four of these cards working. Power requirements aren't bad either. You may expect a 110 Watt peak watt power consumption. As mentioned earlier, good news also for the High-definition freaks, the new UVD 2.0 engine is built in as well, meaning we can now do dual-stream decoding and also push 7.1 channels of lossless sound though HDMI. Fully dual-link DVI and HDCP compatible, of course. Again we'll talk about it later.
At a 199 USD introduction price, this product is just going to rock, but don't take my word for that, judge for yourself once we show you the benchmark results. Last thing I need to mention, all these features did not make this a huge bulky product, in fact it's a nice single-slot design. So yes, this is going to be an interesting product for sure.
Suggested retail price: 199 USD
The bigger brother of the 4850 is the Radeon HD 4870, we see exactly the same GPU mounted on this board, yet there are some distinct differences to be found. The performance of this product is tweaked and maximized. You will notice that AMD's board partners will have higher clock frequencies on this product boosting out some more performance. Yet more importantly, this is the product you guys hear so many rumors about .. the product with GDDR5 memory. GDDR5 is a first for sure, I think at this very moment only Samsung is making the memory, I have slight reservations about mass availability of this product at actual launch time. Which could drive prices up. There are some distinct advantages to be found for GDDR5 memory. It's has much higher frequency based memory versus tight timings. In the end this gives the Radeon HD 4870 a performance boost as GDDR5 memory will leverage overall peak bandwidth to a theoretical (roughly) 3.6 Gbps. And that's just crazy fast (GDDR3 on 4850 = 2.0 Gbps). This is the biggest difference between the two models. Next to the memory, and I already mentioned this, you can expect higher clock frequency for the core/shader domain, 750 MHz will be the default clock frequency and memory wise ... the frequency see 3600 MHz.
Faster clocks obviously will also result into a slightly higher peak wattage at 160watt, yet also it does create more heat. Due to that this product is based on a dual-slot design. We'll obviously look at power consumption and heat levels in this article as well. Features wise we see the same stuff. The new UVD 2.0 engine supporting dual-stream decoding (Bluray 2.0 standard), 7.1 Channel lossless sound pass-through over HDMI. DirectX 10.1 and backwards compatibility ... pretty much the entire shebang.
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