Evolution: it is the key to the PC industry’s survival. It’s how ATI has grown from being the underdog of the industry to one of the most interesting GPU manufacturers on the planet. Normally this process is slow, taking thousands and thousands of hours… but every so often, evolution leaps forward!

Back when ATI released its HD 38xx series, we were stunned by the performance benefits with the move to the 55nm process. It was far beyond anything we expected, mainly because up to that point most of the company’s products left something to be desired. Granted, Nvidia did come back and take away the performance crown again, but ATI didn’t care – it was now competing on a value-for-money basis, and ever since then they’ve been slapping Nvidia around for fun.

This latest slap to Nvidia’s face comes in the form of the HD 4770. Not only has ATI beaten Nvidia in the race to be the first to the 40nm process, but it’s also been released at a price that, well…is marvellous! R1400+ for a card that has more power than the outgoing HD4830? Most would think I’m joking, but I’m not, really.

The HD 4770 has the new RV740 core architecture, and it comes endowed with a 750 MHz core, 3,2 GHz GDDR5 memory, a 128-bit bus, and it just misses the required power mark that would enable it to run off the PCI-E slot exclusively. The 80 watt TDP doesn’t stress the PSU at all, so this is your replacement for your HD 4670, HD 4650 and lower-version cards if you’re looking for more muscle.

The two biggest highlights are the 40nm process and the GDDR5 memory. With the new process, higher clock speeds than previous generations are possible (971 MHz is possible on the Asus HD 4770 with a voltage boost), less power is required to operate the hardware, and to top it all off, it is much cheaper to produce. It also enables ATI to squeeze in 826 million transistors, very close to the 956 million on the HD 4830/4850. On the 55nm process, this card would easily have been more expensive than the HD 4830, and would suck up more power to boot.

The GDDR5 memory is surprising on a card like this, especially in the highly-contested budget segment. Normally with GDDR3 on a 128-bit bus we’d see average bandwidth return, but on the HD 4770 bandwidth is at 51.2GB/s, again very close to the 57.6GB/s run by the HD 4830. All this adds up to 960Gflops of power, just 40Gflops short of the HD 4850. By now I’m sure you can see for yourself why this card is special. Never before has the budget range had so much power – yes, the HD 4670 did a similar thing, but the HD 3850, which it mimics, was already old hat.

If nothing else, then this should convince you: Crysis Warhead on the Gamer setting, at 1920*1200 resolution, with AA turned off will give you 27fps. At similar settings, Far Cry 2, GTA IV, and World in Conflict all run in the high 30s.