OK, you can stop checking and rechecking your eyes, they're functioning properly (albeit common sense may dictate otherwise): you're actually reading the introductory portion of a new Beyond3D architecture analysis piece. We might've been off the radar for a good while, but our IHS-penetrating gaze is as sharp as ever. OK, Rys' certainly is; the current author's is yet to be proven, but we hope it's a fine start. Now that your eyes are all welling up with the knowledge that we're still here doing hardware analysis, it's time to move on to the reason for which you're staring at your monitor.
The star of today's show is a little chip you probably already know as RV740 if you're one of those codename enamoured types, or as the ATI Radeon HD 4770 if you're into marketing monikers of medium length.
RV740 (we'll be using the codename most of the time) comes from a rather prestigious lineage, depending on how far along the genealogical tree one goes: its dad, RV770, was unarguably a brilliant cut of silicon, coming out of the blue and surprising pretty much everyone with its never seen before transistor density, and its performance. However, the grandad (RV670) was so-so at best, and the one that started the family was a dubious fellow to say the least
We're talking about R600 of course, a GPU over which many tears were shed from behind red tinted glasses, whilst diabolical laughter that would put Doctor Evil to shame could be heard rising from the corners of the earth where everything is a shade of (non-AMD) green. This trek to the past is relevant because, as you'll see in just a tad, the RV740 can afford us a look into a potential future that never came to pass, and to have a proper grasp on that we must peek a bit into the past that certainly was.
As it stands, RV740 was intended as a cheap yet mighty GPU, with unnaturally beefy technical specifications considering the sub-$100 price-point it was aimed at. However, due to certain manufacturing woes and a smattering of pure market dynamics, it finds itself in a less than optimal position nowadays, albeit one that does not make it any less interesting from a technical standpoint. With that in mind, we'll follow the tried and true recipe of looking at the architecture itself throughout the first chunk of the review, after which we'll see if those on-paper specs materialise when faced with practical tests, with IQ and real-world performance pieces possibly following if you find this initial one palatable.
A final word before entering the mad-house: given the very close ties that exist between the RV740 and the RV770, a certain degree of overlap will be apparent in the architectural analysis. In order to not step on Rys toes (it is said they are fearsome when stepped on), not everything will be fully fleshed out, with a full, in-depth look at the entire R7xx architecture being offered in a piece he's been working on for a very long time. Do not worry though, assurances have been given that the aforementioned piece will be out before the heat-death of the universe, so the wait should be...umm...acceptable.