The Radeon HD 4850, I think we can agree, is a pretty good graphics card. Since its arrival, the 4850 has set the tempo for much of the graphics card market by delivering strong performance for the price, along with a pretty good total package of image quality, features, and power efficiency.
So here’s an interesting question. As you know, chip-making technology regularly advances. What would you do, if you were in the shoes of the folks at AMD, as a follow-up to the 4850?
Their answer, it turns out, is a pretty good one. They’ve created the RV740, a new graphics chip that’s just over half the size of the GPU in the Radeon HD 4850 but packs nearly as much punch. And they’ve packaged up this new GPU into the Radeon HD 4770, a graphics card that sells for just north of a hundred bucks. Remarkably, this welterweight graphics card may be all you need to play the latest games at buttery smooth frame rates. Sounds pretty good, no? Let’s have a closer look.
The RV740 graphics processor
The RV740 is the first graphics chip to hit the market that’s manufactured using TSMC’s 40-nanometer fabrication process. Most current GPUs are made by chip foundry TSMC, and almost all use that firm’s 55nm process. The benefits of a smaller, more advanced fabrication method are fairly straightforward: smaller chips are cheaper to make and tend to consume less power. A new fab process may also enable higher clock speeds, either by allowing transistors to switch more quickly or, as is often the case these days, simply by freeing up additional thermal headroom.
A block diagram of the RV740 architecture. Source: AMD.
AMD’s first vehicle for this 40nm process shares its architectural roots with the rest of the RV700-series chips, which power the Radeon HD 4000 series of graphics processors. In fact, the RV740 architecture looks to be only a slightly scaled-down version of the RV770 GPU from the Radeon HD 4850.
As you, erm, might be able to see if you squint really carefully at the block diagram above, the RV740 has eight SIMD shader arrays, each of which contains 16 superscalar execution units. Those units have five ALUs each, so the GPU has a grand total of 640 ALUs, or stream processors, as AMD likes to call them. Each SIMD array has a texture unit associated with it, and each of those can address and filter up to four texels per clock, so the RV740 as a whole can process 32 texels per clock. In terms of both shading and texturing, then, the RV740 has 80% of the RV770’s capacity, clock for clock.
However, just like its older brother, the RV740 has four render back-ends. That gives it the ability to produce up to 16 pixels per clock, which it does with the same amount of antialiasing resolve power as the RV770, as well. Perhaps the biggest concession to its lower weight class is the RV740’s dual 64-bit memory interfacesonly half as many as its elder sibling. The first implementation of the RV740 makes up for it by using 800MHz GDDR5 memory, which transfers data four times per clock cycle rather than twice, like GDDR3. As a result, the Radeon HD 4770’s rated memory bandwidth isn’t too far behind that of the Radeon HD 4850.
At 750MHz, the Radeon HD 4770’s GPU clock frequency is a little higher than a stock Radeon HD 4850’s, allowing it to make up much of the ground lost by the omission of those shader arrays. All told, the 4770 lands roughly in between the Radeon HD 4830, which it replaces, and the 4850 in terms of key specifications. Here’s how the three compare.
|Radeon HD 4830||9.2||18.4||9.2||57.6||736|
|Radeon HD 4770||12.0||24.0||12.0||51.2||960|
|Radeon HD 4850||10.9||27.2||13.6||67.2||1088|
Memory bandwidth is the only major category in which the Radeon HD 4830 is superior; the 4770 is otherwise faster across the board. Meanwhile, the 4850 trails the 4770 solely in terms of pixel fill rate, due to the 4770’s higher clock speed.
But here’s the kicker. At 40nm, the RV740 crams 826 million transistors into a 137 mm² die. Elder brother RV770 has 926 million transistors but occupies approximately 260 mm², nearly twice the size. Nvidia offerings in this price range are based on the G92 GPU, which we’ve measured at roughly 324 mm² in its 65nm form and 256 mm² at 55nm. (Both incarnations are still out in the wild, so you don’t always know which version you’ll get.)
To give you a sense of the scale involved, I’ve included pictures of each of these chips below, next to a quarter for reference. My image sizing isn’t exact, but hopefully it’s close enough, in combination with the size reference, not to mislead.
G92 (the “b” rev or 55nm version)
G92 (the 65nm original)
Teeny, innit? Once AMD and TSMC work out the almost inevitable kinks in this brand-new fab process, the RV740 ought to bring considerable graphics power to the market at very affordable prices. That trend begins, obviously, with the introduction of the Radeon HD 4770.
AMD intends for the first Radeon HD 4770 cards to sell for about $110 straight up, but like almost everybody involved in PC hardware these days, AMD and its partners are hooked on mail-in rebates. The initial rebates for 4770 cards should promise $10 on Tuesday (six to eight weeks from now) for a hamburger today, taking the net price down to $100, also known in sales parlance as $99.99.
As complicated as that sounds, the 4770’s value proposition should be fairly simple to see. The cards pack 512MB of GDDR5 memory, and the two examples we’ve seen sport dual-slot coolers that should be relatively quiet.
Here’s the Asus card we used in testing, which comes with a very fancy-looking cooler.
This cooler appears quite similar to the one we recently tested on an Asus Radeon HD 4850 that had a major problem: with a card installed in the adjacent sloteither a video card for CrossFire or simply something large enough like a sound cardthe fan became starved for air and the GPU overheated. Naturally, we were worried about this cooler having the same problem, so we tested the Asus 4770 in CrossFire for any signs of overheating. Happily, it passed with flying colors, keeping GPU temperatures well in check during extended use without even making too much noise. We’ve noticed that this particular cooler is affixed to several brands on Radeon HD 4770 cards selling on Newegg, so it must not be an Asus exclusive.
Believe it or not, the card pictured above is our sample of the Radeon HD 4770 from AMD, and it comes complete with a dual-slot cooler that blows hot air out of the expansion port covers. This cooler is quite the improvement over the single-slot reference cooler on the Radeon HD 4850. Compared to the Asus card, this reference one is very perceptibly heavier, likely due to the presence of more copper in the heatsink under that plastic shroud. Don’t write the Asus off yet, though. The reference cooler is potentially louder, as we’ll show.
We needed a foil for the Radeon HD 4770, and the natural choice would seem to be the GeForce 9800 GT. These sell in the same basic price range as the Radeon HD 4770, although some after-rebate deals can take net prices as low as about 90 bucks.
Asus was kind enough to provide us with a sample of its GeForce 9800 GT Matrix for use in this review, and it’s a good representative of the breed, with a tricked-out cooler and a built-in HDMI port. In spite of this extroverted exterior, the Matrix doesn’t stray too far from formula. The GPU core clock is up 12MHz from stock, at 612MHz, but its 1500MHz shader and 900MHz memory speeds are bone stock for a 9800 GT.
Speaking of straying from formula, we decided to try out some new games in different genres for this review, some with support for Nvidia’s exclusive PhysX API and some with support for the Radeon-exclusive DirectX 10.1. As you may know, we’ve generally found this latest generation of GPUs from AMD and Nvidia to be very evenly matched in terms of features and image quality, leaving price and performance as the primary deciding factors between the two brands. Perhaps looking at a broad scope of games and putting PhysX and DX10.1 into the mix will give us some new insights. Where possible, we’ve tested both with and without PhysX and DX10.1, to demonstrate the impact of these technologies.
Branching out into a bunch of new games tends to be time-consuming, so we decided to focus on the Radeon HD 4770 vs. GeForce 9800 GT match-up for the bulk of our testing. In order to also give you some broader context, we’ve included scores from 3DMark and Far Cry 2, along with power and noise testing, for a range of video cards. Those numbers were drawn from our Radeon HD 4890 vs. GeForce GTX 275 review and include results from older driver revisions, as noted in that article’s testing methods section. These scores should be decent enough as point of reference, but be aware that the comparison to the newer cards and drivers may not be perfectly exact.
For the rest of our testing, we used FRAPS to capture frame rates while playing the games. We typically recorded frame rates over five gameplay sessions of 60 seconds each. We averaged the mean frame rate from each of the five sessions, and we also reported the median of the minimum frame rates from those sessions. This method of testing will inevitably introduce some variability, but we believe averaging five sessions ought to be sufficient to give us reliable results. However, for two games, Sacred 2 and Dawn of War II, we were not confident the 60-second window was long enough given the variability of the games’ performance over time, so we extended the window to five minutes and still recorded five sessions.
Our testing methods
As ever, we did our best to deliver clean benchmark numbers. Tests were run at least three times, and the results were averaged.
Our test systems were configured like so:
|System bus||QPI 6.4 GT/s
|North bridge||X58 IOH|
|Chipset drivers||INF update
Matrix Storage Manager 188.8.131.527
|Memory size||6GB (3 DIMMs)|
DDR3 SDRAM at 1333MHz
|CAS latency (CL)||8|
|RAS to CAS delay (tRCD)||8|
|RAS precharge (tRP)||8|
|Cycle time (tRAS)||24|
with Realtek 184.108.40.20645 drivers
Asus Radeon HD 4770 512MB PCIe
with Catalyst 8.60-090316a-078299C drivers
Asus GeForce 9800 GT 512MB PCIe
with ForceWare 185.68 drivers
|Hard drive||WD Caviar SE16 320GB SATA|
|OS||Windows Vista Ultimate x64 Edition|
|OS updates||Service Pack 1, DirectX
March 2009 update
Thanks to Corsair for providing us with memory for our testing. Their quality, service, and support are easily superior to no-name DIMMs.
Our test systems were powered by PC Power & Cooling Silencer 750W power supply units. The Silencer 750W was a runaway Editor’s Choice winner in our epic 11-way power supply roundup, so it seemed like a fitting choice for our test rigs.
Unless otherwise specified, image quality settings for the graphics cards were left at the control panel defaults. Vertical refresh sync (vsync) was disabled for all tests.
We used the following versions of our test applications:
- Sacred 2: Fallen Angel 2.40.0 build 1551
- Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II 1.2.1
- Tom Clancy’s HAWX 1.01
- Mirror’s Edge 1.01
- World of Warcraft trial version
- Far Cry 2 1.02
- Left 4 Dead
- 3DMark Vantage 1.0.1
- FRAPS 2.9.8
The tests and methods we employ are generally publicly available and reproducible. If you have questions about our methods, hit our forums to talk with us about them.
Specs and synthetics
GeForce 9500 GT
GeForce 9600 GT
GeForce 9800 GT
|GeForce 9800 GTX+||11.8||47.2||23.6||70.4||470||705|
|GeForce GTS 250||12.3||49.3||24.6||71.9||484||726|
|GeForce 9800 GX2||19.2||76.8||38.4||128.0||768||1152|
|GeForce GTX 260 (192 SPs)||16.1||36.9||18.4||111.9||477||715|
|GeForce GTX 260 (216 SPs)||17.5||45.1||22.5||117.9||583||875|
|GeForce GTX 275||17.7||50.6||25.4||127.0||674||1011|
|GeForce GTX 280||19.3||48.2||24.1||141.7||622||933|
|GeForce GTX 285||21.4||53.6||26.8||166.4||744||1116|
|GeForce GTX 295||32.3||92.2||46.1||223.9||1192||1788|
|Radeon HD 4650||4.8||19.2||9.6||16.0||384||–|
|Radeon HD 4670||6.0||24.0||12.0||32.0||480||–|
|Radeon HD 4770||12.0||24.0||12.0||51.2||960||–|
|Radeon HD 4830||9.2||18.4||9.2||57.6||736||–|
|Radeon HD 4850||10.9||27.2||13.6||67.2||1088||–|
|Radeon HD 4850 1GB||11.2||28.0||14.0||63.6||1120||–|
|Radeon HD 4870||12.0||30.0||15.0||115.2||1200||–|
|Radeon HD 4890||13.6||34.0||17.0||124.8||1360||–|
|Radeon HD 4890 OC||14.4||36.0||18.0||124.8||1440||–|
|Radeon HD 4850 X2||20.0||50.0||25.0||127.1||2000||–|
|Radeon HD 4870 X2||24.0||60.0||30.0||230.4||2400||–|
We’ve already discussed how the 4770 compares to a couple of its siblings, but here’s a broader look at the specifications of recent video cards. Note that these numbers are, where applicable, derived from actual clock speeds of the cards we’ve tested; some of them stray from the baseline clocks established by the chipmakers.
That’s not the case with our Radeon HD 4770, though. Even so, you can see that the 4770 has a higher pixel fill rate than the GeForce 9800 GT, and depending on whether you count the G92’s dual-issue capability or not, nearly two or three times the peak shader FLOPS. The 9800 GT leads by a pretty clear margins in terms of memory bandwidth and texture filtering capacity, but the RV700-series GPUs tend to overachieve on this front compared to their specs.
In fact, the 9800 GT almost catches the 4770 in the pixel fill rate test, and the 4770 takes a lead in the texturing benchmark.
The shader benchmark results are closer than you might think given the disparity in theoretical capacities, but the 4770 only ties the 9800 GT once, in the GPU cloth test, where the GeForces do especially well. The 4770 runs the board otherwise, signaling that its shader superiority isn’t just on paper.
Far Cry 2
We tested Far Cry 2 using the game’s built-in benchmarking tool, which allowed us to test the different cards at multiple resolutions in a precisely repeatable manner. We used the benchmark tool’s “Very high” quality presets with the DirectX 10 renderer and 4X multisampled antialiasing.
This gives us some context in which to place the $100-ish graphics cards we’re featuring today, but with these image quality settings, Far Cry 2 is rather hostile turf for both of them. The 4770 performs about as expected compared to the Radeon HD 4850, though, just a few frames per second behind it. The 9800 GT can’t keep up with its ostensible competition here.
Tom Clancy’s HAWX
HAWX is one of several games we used in this review that probably delayed our publication date by causing me to conduct additional, uh, testing beyond the necessary amount. I haven’t seen too many good flying games lately, and the mix of arcade, sim, and RPG (really) elements in HAWX makes quite the cocktail.
At least, that’s my excuse.
HAWX will run in DirectX 9, but it looks best in DX10, where some additional lighting effects come into play, including ambient occlusion. This game also uses DirectX 10.1 to improve performance on Radeon graphics cards.
For the record, DirectX 10.1 is a set of extensions to Microsoft’s main graphics programming interface. DX10.1 gives developers more control over the way antialiasing hardware operates and enables a new form of data organization, a cube map array, that can help accelerate certain lighting algorithms, including an approximation of global illumination. Both of these things typically result in performance increases, if developers take advantage of them. Since DX10.1 compatibility is an all-or-nothing deal and today’s GeForces can’t support the full DX10.1 feature set, no current GeForce GPU can claim to be DX10.1 compliant. AMD has taken an active role in encouraging game developers to use DX10.1, and some recent games like this one make use of it, as a result.
We tested the 4770 with both DX10 and DX10.1 to see the difference, using 1680×1050 resolution with all of the in-game quality options at their best and 4X AA enabled.
The newest Radeon runs HAWX faster than the 9800 GT either way, but turning on DX10.1 gives it an additional boost. This one isn’t even closethe 9800 GT’s average frame rate is lower than the 4770’s minimum.
Sacred 2: Fallen Angel
Sacred 2 is billed as an “action RPG” in the vein of Diablo II, but it has much prettier graphics. The game’s developers have raised the ante even further by adding some effects courtesy of Nvidia’s PhysX technology, which enables GPU-accelerated physics on recent GeForce GPUs. PhysX uses the shader processors to handle mathematical simulations of things like collisions, fluid flow, and realistic cloth.
I don’t believe there’s anything inherent in the architecture of current Radeon GPUs that would prevent them from being similarly effective at processing physics routines. In fact, AMD has demonstrated GPU-accelerated physics using a combination of the OpenCL GPU-compute API and Havok middleware. But Nvidia owns PhysX and has elected not to extend support for GPU acceleration to third parties.
Like most games that use hardware-accelerated PhysX, the effects in Sacred 2 don’t involve actual physical interactions in a way that affects the outcome of the game. They just enhance its looknot a bad contribution from a graphics card, if you think about it.
In Sacred 2, turning on PhysX effects (via an option in a game menu) is mostly about leaves and other bits flying around on the screen. Without PhysX, the game looks great and seems fairly normal. With PhysX, you get lots and lots of leaves swirling about everywhere, especially when you cast a spell. I’d say the additional smithereens kicking about are an improvement overall, but they are probably overdone. Developers: just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Sometimes, less is more.
We tested Sacred 2 at 1680×1050 resolution using its “high” quality presets along with 2X antialiasing. I chose 2X AA because going up to 4X seems to exact a big frame-rate hit. As a result, I found myself playing this game (for way too many hours) at 2X AA for the best combination of image quality and performance, even when I wasn’t testing.
Without PhysX, the 4770 runs Sacred 2 faster than the 9800 GT does. To me, the 4770 runs the game fluidly at these settings, while the 9800 GT feels a little sluggish from time to time.
With PhysX enabled, the 9800 GT’s frame rates drop quite a bit. You might have to compromise on antialiasing or dial back some other in-game quality settings to offset the hit. Then again, I tried turning on PhysX effects with the Radeon HD 4770, where the CPU has to do all of the work, and the performance hit there was brutalwe were into the 3-4 FPS range, too slow to play at all.
We’ve already covered the way that Mirror’s Edge uses PhysX, if you’re not familiar. For our testing, we chose to play through a portion of the game that includes the long slide down the side of a building shown in the screenshot above. This segment starts out in a hallway, which you run through while a helicopter outside pours bullets in through the glass, shattering the windows and causing the blinds to warp and wiggle. Without PhysX effects enabled, the blinds aren’t even there, and there are fewer shards of glass flying about. Once you’re out of the hallway, the spruced up PhysX effects continue with enhanced bullet impact effects and the like.
Again here, Mirror’s Edge looks great without the added eye candy, and sometimes the extra smithereens seem a little over the top. Generally, though, they’re a welcome visual improvement.
The 9800 GT and 4770 are very evenly matched without PhysX enhancements in the picture. With PhysX enabled, the 9800 GT maintains decent frame rates, while even our fast quad-core processor isn’t sufficient to keep the 4770 in playable territory. At least the 4770 was quick enough here to allow me to test. In some other areas of the game, leaving PhysX enabled with the Radeon card slowed performance to a crawl.
World of Warcraft
World of Warcraft is, not to put too fine a point on it, the single most popular PC game everand a likely application for a graphics card in this price range. To test WoW performance, we used the trial version of the game, cranked up all of the image quality settings to “ultra,” and enabled 4X antialiasing. Even that wasn’t too much of a challenge for these cards, so we bumped the display resolution up to 1920×1200. I then took it upon myself to do something about the terrible wolf menace. Over and over again. This may not be the most strenuous test of WoW performance, but playing solo against computer-run monsters should keep network traffic out of the equation, so that the video cards are our primary constraint.
Both of these cards run WoW perfectly well at this resolution, but the 9800 GT has a pronounced lead over the Radeon. That perhaps makes some sense, because the simpler shader effects in WoW aren’t likely to tax either GPU too much, so the 4770’s superior shader throughput probably isn’t much help to it. The 9800 GT’s higher memory bandwidth could be giving it the edge here. Just a guess, though.
Dawn of War II
The final game in the mix today is Dawn of War II, a real-time strategy game with a bit of an unconventional bent. I was shocked to be able to pick up and play almost immediately, with very little help from a tutorial. This one has fast action, too, with no time spent on building units. DoW2 doesn’t use DX10.1 or PhysX, but it does look very nice and turned out to be easier to benchmark than most RTS games I’ve tried.
Chalk up another one for the Radeon HD 4770, which takes this game in convincing fashion.
We measured total system power consumption at the wall socket using an Extech power analyzer model 380803. The monitor was plugged into a separate outlet, so its power draw was not part of our measurement. The cards were plugged into a motherboard on an open test bench.
The idle measurements were taken at the Windows Vista desktop with the Aero theme enabled. The cards were tested under load running Left 4 Dead at 2560×1600 resolution.
True to form for a small, 40nm GPU, the Radeon HD 4770 draws less power than any other graphics card we measured under load. When idle at the Windows desktop, it draws more power than a couple of GeForce cards, though not the 9800 GT. Nvidia has made some nice strides in idle power use with its newer designs, but the older 9800 GT (which is just a renamed GeForce 8800 GT) doesn’t benefit from that work.
We measured noise levels on our test system, sitting on an open test bench, using an Extech model 407738 digital sound level meter. The meter was mounted on a tripod approximately 8″ from the test system at a height even with the top of the video card. We used the OSHA-standard weighting and speed for these measurements.
You can think of these noise level measurements much like our system power consumption tests, because the entire systems’ noise levels were measured. Of course, noise levels will vary greatly in the real world along with the acoustic properties of the PC enclosure used, whether the enclosure provides adequate cooling to avoid a card’s highest fan speeds, placement of the enclosure in the room, and a whole range of other variables. These results should give a reasonably good picture of comparative fan noise, though.
I’ve tested the stock-AMD and Asus versions of the Radeon HD 4770 here, since they have different coolers. As you might expect from looking at the power consumption numbers, though, neither has to be very loud to keep the RV740 GPU cool. Surprisingly, the Asus 9800 GT Matrix is the noisiest card we tested under load. The Matrix cooler has aggressive fan speed settings and is made for overclocking. I know for a fact we’ve tested much quieter GeForce 9800 GTs in the past.
Speaking of noisy coolers, you should hear how the reference 4770 card sounds at power-on, when it briefly cranks up to full speed. The thing has a medium-pitched whine/roar, evoking the infamous Dustbuster on the GeForce FX 5800 Ultra, not the silky-smooth hiss of, say, a Radeon HD 4870 reference cooler. Obviously, the 4770 cooler had no need to reach top speed when we tested noise levels, but I found that it did briefly step to a higher gear from time to time as I used it in other games. To give you some idea how this cooler’s peak speed compares to its usual noise levels, I manually set its speed to 100% and measured a noise level of 63 dB. By contrast, the Asus card’s cooler topped out at just 58.4 dB, worlds apart to my ears.
I used GPU-Z to log temperatures during our load testing. In the case of multi-GPU setups, I recorded temperatures on the primary card.
The 4770 matches the 9800 GT at a relatively cool 65°C. That’s a far crywell, 20°, reallyfrom the temperatures we’ve observed under load with a stock Radeon HD 4850. Among the cards tested, only two Asus Radeon HD 4800-series cards maintain lower temperatures, although those same coolers essentially fail in CrossFire mode, as the numbers above reflect. (They were recorded just before the system locked up.)
Overclocking the Radeon HD 4770 using AMD’s new Overdrive auto-tuning tool was as simple as pressing a button and being patient. Finding the card’s top GPU and memory speeds took some time, but when the dust had settled, we had a GPU clock of 820MHz and memory speeds of 840MHz. That’s a 70MHz increase in GPU clocks, but only 40MHz in memory.
Looks to me like the 4770’s memory speed is the limiting factor in its performance here. The GPU headroom we found is great, but isn’t enough to take the 4770 up to 4850 levels.
The Radeon HD 4770 looks pretty darned good to me. The performance contest between the 4770 and the GeForce 9800 GT isn’t a clean sweep for either card, likely for the reasons we saw illustrated in our look at the cards’ specifications and synthetic performance results. The 4770’s peak shader arithmetic power is unmatched by the 9800 GT, but the GeForce has notably more memory bandwidth. Which card is faster will depend largely on the requirements of the game in question.
Still, the 4770’s shader power gave it a bit of an edge overall in the games we tested, and I’d be more confident about its ability to crunch through advanced visual effects future games, too. The 4770 uses a little less power than the 9800 GT, which also enables some nice, low noise levelswithout the high GPU temperatures we eyed with suspicion on the reference Radeon HD 4850s.
I suspect Nvidia will respond by dropping prices, perhaps sufficiently to make the 512MB version of the GeForce GTS 250 into a direct competitor for the 4770. If they do that, hey, it’s game on again. However, there have to be some limits to Nvidia’s price flexibility with a larger 55nm chip and a 256-bit card. We’ll have to watch and see how this one shapes up.
Then again, I know times are hard, but one has to wonder about the value proposition of any of the cards in this price range when you can sometimes snag a Radeon HD 4870 for $150. Dropping another 40 bucks on the 4870 would take you into another performance league entirely and guarantee more longevity from your graphics card. Also, with these newer games, we did see some marginal frame rates from the 4770, even at the relatively low display resolution of 1680×1050. In many cases, moving up to a more capable GPU will mean fewer image quality compromises with current and near-future games.
As for our look at PhysX and DirectX 10.1, I had hoped to test at least one more DX10.1 game to keep everything even-Steven, but I just ran out of time. There are some good candidates out there, like Stalker: Clear Sky and Battle Forge. I’m hoping to get to them before too long.
For now, I suppose I should modify what I’ve been saying about PhysX and DX10.1 for some time now. They are indeed in many ways equal and opposite features that make their respective GPU types more compelling. Yes, PhysX and DX10.1 are as much about software differences are they are about hardware capabilities, but they do offer their advantages. I’ve said repeatedly that I wouldn’t pick, say, a GeForce over a Radeon in order to get PhysX, or vice-versa for DX10.1. But we are, after all, dealing with graphics cards here that cost about the same as two top-flight games. If you’re upgrading in order to play a specific game or two, heck, follow your fancywithin reason. If you’re all about Mirror’s Edge, go for the GeForce. If HAWX is your thing, definitely get the Radeon. Just be careful: as we saw, the 4770 is probably the better card for Sacred 2, even though it lacks PhysX compatibility. There’s still much to be said for picking the best card overall.