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Graphics Software Upgrades

Pushing The 512MB Barrier On Video Cards 525

Posted by timothy
from the ones-normal-people-can-buy-that-is dept.
Hack Jandy writes "Remeber your ancient TNT graphics card that had 16MB of memory? ATI is pushing the texture barrier by incorporating 512MB in their newest X850 video card lineup. The catch? Even ATI acknowledges there will probably be no performance benefits to bumping the memory support from 256MB to 512MB as the cards are 'intended to demonstrate the next-generation capability to gamers." An anonymous reader points out that Gainward (which sells NVidia-based graphics cards), will shortly introduce its own 512MB card, according to Hexus.net.
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Pushing The 512MB Barrier On Video Cards

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  • by JFMulder (59706) on Wednesday February 23, 2005 @05:44PM (#11759673)
    But I remember upgrading my Cirrus Logic video card to a whooping 2 megs in 1995.
    • I remember the fun of removing the EPROM chips and RAM chips in order to upgrade my Hercules Graphics Station Card from 1 Mbyte to 2Mbyte. It's a pity something similar couldn't be done with graphics accelerator cards these days.
    • My prefered video card back in the day, yo, was the trident T9000 with 512k of RAM. simple, always worked.
      Being in the Industry pipeline, as I was, I was able to get a 9680 with 4mb of Vram back in the last days of '95... I was the shit.
    • How much RAM did a CGA/VGA card have?
      • Mine had 256 (K that is and it was VGA)
        So... I'd say 32-64K for CGA would be about right.
        -nB
      • Re:Never had one. (Score:3, Interesting)

        by plover (150551) *
        My 80 column mono card didn't have its own memory. It used a 2KB memory mapped area of the main system RAM. Over an 8-bit ISA bus.

        You kids and your fancy-schmancy color graphics adapters. Pah!

  • by mrtroy (640746) on Wednesday February 23, 2005 @05:45PM (#11759676)
    Because it is bigger than 256.

    TWICE as big!!!

    If my email tells me anything, size DOES matter.
  • by suso (153703) on Wednesday February 23, 2005 @05:46PM (#11759684) Homepage Journal
    "Remeber your ancient TNT graphics card that had 16MB of memory?

    Man you were lucky. I had to deal with a 1MB video card in my job workstation.

    Honestly, its not all that impressive to see these high numbers for video card ram. Different needs pushes the limit nowadays. It used to be pushed to deal with higher color palettes at higher resolutions. Now its all about texture mapping.
  • by Fox_1 (128616) on Wednesday February 23, 2005 @05:46PM (#11759692)
    with 16 pixel and 6 vertex pipelines clocked at 540MHz. The graphics card's 512MB of DDR3 SDRAM operate at 1180MHz speed and have 256-bit memory interface.
    Kinda sad but this card is more powerful then my PC on it's stats alone
    • by Ironsides (739422) on Wednesday February 23, 2005 @05:58PM (#11759864) Homepage Journal
      Kinda sad when your video card has more ram than first/second/third computer had disk space (combined). Your processor has more cache than your first comp had ram. And I'm waiting for the day that a processor has more cache than my first comp had disk space.
      • > And I'm waiting for the day that a processor has more cache than my first comp had disk space.

        You insensitive clod! That has already happened to me with those new 2MB L2 cache pentiums.
      • Re:Fast and Big mem (Score:3, Informative)

        by Grayputer (618389)
        --
        And I'm waiting for the day that a processor has more cache than my first comp had disk space.
        --

        *sigh* you HAD to mention that, some of us are already there ...

        The 8 inch floppies (pre hard drives) on some of the kits had 200K disk (180K, 160K, I forget), the pentium processors (300 mhz & 333 mhz) I just tossed out had 512K cache so I'm sure the ones running ( 1+ ghz & 3+ ghz) exceed the drive drive size.

        I'm not sure what size floppy drives the C64 and Vic 20 had, I think ~180K for the 1541 m
  • to bumping the video memory from 128 to 256? Seems silly at this point to go up to 512. Ah well - I'm sure they won't have problems finding kids whose parents will buy these for them.
    • by TLLOTS (827806)
      Actually there is, but you'll only like to see any real benefit in terms of games etc. at a much later date since games are typically created for the most common hardware, not the best hardware. I have no doubt that in time there will be many many games that will demand over 1GB of ram on our graphics cards, but that will be sometime off.

      Of course with other applications for graphics cards being sought now as well, using them in scientific computing tasks etc. this may very well be useful even today. I gue
  • translation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by British (51765) <british1500@gmail.com> on Wednesday February 23, 2005 @05:47PM (#11759703) Homepage Journal
    Even ATI acknowledges there will probably be no performance benefits to bumping the memory support from 256MB to 512MB as the cards are 'intended to demonstrate the next-generation capability to gamers."

    Translation: Even though it's not practical, we'll sell it since gamers will buy it.
    • by sosume (680416) on Wednesday February 23, 2005 @05:53PM (#11759796) Journal
      Translation: Even though it's not practical, we'll sell it since gamers will buy it.


      l4m3r> W00t, I got me new gfx :D
      l0zr> What, cant be faster than my x800, lamo!
      l4m3r> but wait, its got half a gig of ram!
      l0zr> wooooah, joo r000lz!
      l4m3r> lets play quake 1!
      l0zr> yeah, th4ts sooooo 0ldsk00l!
    • "idiot" - i think you dropped this, it looks like it fits in between "since gamers"

      not all gamers are stupid enough to buy a card that will give them no performance gain. just most of them.
    • Boy gamers (Score:5, Insightful)

      by EmbeddedJanitor (597831) on Wednesday February 23, 2005 @06:21PM (#11760125)
      Are we seeing a generation of "boy gamers" equivalent to the "boy racers" that add big tail-pipes, chrome and LEDs to their cars. 512MB sounds good, but basically you're buying features - not performance.
    • Re:translation (Score:3, Informative)

      by Spy Hunter (317220)
      512 MB video RAM *is* practical, for some applications. The Slashdot blurb missed the point. More video RAM doesn't have performance benefits*, it has quality benefits. It allows more and higher quality textures and innovative new rendering techniques.

      Your current games likely won't use 512 MB of video RAM, so you're right that it isn't practical to buy one of these just now for gaming (and gamers will probably buy it anyway). But future games will benefit with more realistic graphics, and other 3D ca

      • Re:translation (Score:4, Insightful)

        by CyberKnet (184349) <slashdot@cy b e r k net.net> on Wednesday February 23, 2005 @07:01PM (#11760555) Homepage Journal
        For as long as I can remember, people have been touting the "There aren't games to fully utilize it right now, but just wait till [6,9,12] months from now!" line when trying to justify either a sale or a purchase.

        I dont get it.

        Historically, the price of video cards has dropped by around 50% over the course of 12 months. Why are people paying todays prices so they can play tomorrow's [or more!] games?

        The only reason I can think of is penis waving. So they can say "mine is bigger than yours!".

        If it were otherwise then they would have waited until the game that needed it came out.
  • by Peter Cooper (660482) on Wednesday February 23, 2005 @05:47PM (#11759710) Homepage Journal
    The catch? Even ATI acknowledges there will probably be no performance benefits to bumping the memory support from 256MB to 512MB

    There certainly will be if you want to run Doom 3 (or Half Life 2 - I think?) with totally maxed out texture quality. From all the hoop-la I remember surrounding the Doom 3 launch, even 256MB of memory isn't as much as Doom 3 in Max mode will want to use.
    • There certainly will be [performace benefits] if you want to run Doom 3

      Penalties maybe, because twice the amount of ram has to be copied... but benefits? How can you tell?
    • That's more like it - games being designed beyond current specs! I'm sick of finding a game looks "dated" not a few months after it's release because the developers capped the top specs at what I can still run on (admittedly good) 2003 hardware.
    • If you use uncompressed textures on Ultra setting, it tries to use 512 MB of video memory. I really doubt that the difference quality is really noticeable during actual gameplay. However, hardware review sites love to take screenshots and magnify them 1000x to analyze the lines on ceiling tiles, so I guess it will make them happy.
    • Everquest II wants 512 mb for their max setting as well. And it will probably help a *lot* performance wise as the drop off in performance as image quality improves is significant.

      For games, while a little improvement of texture resolution can help some, the real benefit (IMHO) will be in variation of textures. MMORPG type games (such as Everquest II) have a much more noticeable issue with limited ram. Most of the variation in second gen titles have worked around some of this with geometry and tinting inst
  • by FerretFrottage (714136) on Wednesday February 23, 2005 @05:48PM (#11759716)
    Why not create special drivers that allow you to use the unused vid ram as a ramdisk? If a game requires more than 256MB, then default the temp area back to file storage, but if you are only using 128-256MB for video, then let me do something useful with the remainder.

  • A use for this (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ZWheel (410394) on Wednesday February 23, 2005 @05:48PM (#11759717)
    I seem to remember someone writing a linux kernel module that lets you use extra video mem as a very fast virtual drive.
  • Now... (Score:5, Funny)

    by inertia@yahoo.com (156602) * on Wednesday February 23, 2005 @05:48PM (#11759722) Homepage Journal
    Even ATI acknowledges there will probably be no performance benefits...

    Now if we can just get those razor manufacturers to say the same about that 5th blade.
  • possible max (Score:2, Interesting)

    by BibelBiber (557179)
    What would actually be the possible maximum for graphic cards memory to use in terms of texture and so on. Is it depending on screen solution or on other things?
  • by ghoti (60903) on Wednesday February 23, 2005 @05:49PM (#11759729) Homepage
    This may not do much for games, but for scientific applications, especially visualization of large datasets, this is great. The visualization community has been using the advances made for gaming over the last years, and it's amazing what you can now do on the GPU: flow simulation, interactive visualization of large volumetric datasets with complex transfer functions, shading, etc.
    For these applications, the more memory, the better.
    • For offline rendering, it'll be great too. Granted, nVidia's Gelato , currently the only game in town, is, uh, unlikely to work with the ATI card, but perhaps we'll see a more platform-agnostic offering in the future.
  • Old fart... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by stefanb (21140) * on Wednesday February 23, 2005 @05:49PM (#11759732) Homepage
    Remeber your ancient TNT graphics card that had 16MB of memory?
    Boy, was I happy when I got my Video 7 VRAM card with a whopping 512 kilobyte of RAM... but this is so long ago, it doesn't seem real anymore.

    Cue Monty Python "uphill both ways, and we liked it" skit...

  • by mjinman (515540) on Wednesday February 23, 2005 @05:49PM (#11759735)
    The move might not matter a whole lot to the normal gamer, but those of us who are researching/using video cards as fast vector coprocessors love this as it increases the matrix (texture) size we can do operations on. (I especially love it since some of my stuff runs 40x on my Radeon X800 than my Athlon 64 - its all linear algrebra, finite difference codes)
  • yeesh (Score:4, Funny)

    by mattdm (1931) on Wednesday February 23, 2005 @05:50PM (#11759746) Homepage
    "Remeber your ancient TNT graphics card that had 16MB of memory?"

    Okay, I knew the average age of slashdotters wasn't exactly "is allowed in most bars", but, yeesh, 1999 is now ancient?

    Cue the "I remember whens"!
  • Almost Absurd (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ewhac (5844) on Wednesday February 23, 2005 @05:50PM (#11759751) Homepage Journal

    "Would you like to mount unused graphics RAM as a swap device?"

    Seriously, what's all that RAM used for when you're not playing games? It's still eating power; you may as well use it for something...

    Schwab

  • Okay... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ndykman (659315) on Wednesday February 23, 2005 @05:51PM (#11759760)
    Wow. It really says something about the gaming market when you have a card whose outward specifications looks like a P3 machine (and a nice one). 540Mhz Core (CPU) Clock, 512MB of memory. And of course, lots of overclocking.

    Here's a question. When will the GPU companies have to start playing tricks when the clock speeds finally give way to things like, oh, trying to cool a damn computer on a card without sounding like a jet plane is in your room becomes an issue. Like, well, now?
  • In my day... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by William_Lee (834197)
    We didn't use separate memory for video processing...

    We used custom video coprocessors named Denise running at 7 mhz and we liked it.

    Back then we didn't need all these fancy colors, 4096 was plenty!

  • by Anita Coney (648748) on Wednesday February 23, 2005 @05:52PM (#11759781) Homepage
    Ever wonder why GPUs are such a big deal and sound cards are such an after thought? It's all about numbers. ATI and nVidia can increase clock speed and double memory and make it look really impressive. Sound cards can't really do that.

    If I were Creative I'd start including massive amounts of RAM on my cards. Plus, I'd throw a CPU in there too, if there isn't one already, and start hyping the clock speed. I'd even have a program to overclock both.

    That way all the ignorant fanboys would start buying them simply for bragging rights.
    • Creative needs to start by working on their drivers/software. Ugh!
    • It's all about numbers. ATI and nVidia can increase clock speed and double memory and make it look really impressive. Sound cards can't really do that.

      That and the fact most games spend no time on the sound, so they don't make use of anything a sound-card has to offer.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 23, 2005 @06:20PM (#11760117)
      It's all about numbers. ATI and nVidia can increase clock speed and double memory and make it look really impressive. Sound cards can't really do that.
      Rubbish. My 512.1 sound card will rock the audio world... They're a bugger to set up, though... "Front left. Front slightly less left. Not quite so front but still on the left"...
    • by glsunder (241984) on Wednesday February 23, 2005 @06:54PM (#11760491)
      When I overclocked my soundcard, I thought I had broke it. The dog wasn't happy either.
    • by tsangc (177574) on Wednesday February 23, 2005 @07:02PM (#11760568)

      Ever wonder why GPUs are such a big deal and sound cards are such an after thought?


      I think the reason why soundcards don't change very much because the fundamental methods of generating sound isn't compute intensive.


      With 3D video, you're computing the display output, ray tracing, shading, whatever it is. Algorithms not samples define the visuals. Certainly there are "samples" (ie, texture maps) but these themselves need to be rendered through computation. At the same time, resolutions for display are increasing, requiring more computational horsepower. Hence a need for progressively faster CPUs to drive larger, more details and faster framerate visuals.


      With audio, a lot of the audio world is still sample based--there usually aren't algorithms generating sounds from fundamental principals. If there are, it's in a highly specific use (ie, virtual instruments in something like Cubase, which uses the main CPU) or it's in some sort of environmental processing, like DSP effects, positioning etc which don't require that much performance past existing products today that have integrated DSPs. That and audio resolution in general isn't increasing--not at a rate compared to someone going from a 800x600 to 1920x1280 pixel display. Even adding extra channels doesn't seem to drive this requirement further.


      As a result, I guess you just don't see the requirement to have "more powerful sound cards".

  • by AK Marc (707885) on Wednesday February 23, 2005 @05:53PM (#11759788)
    The most anyone would ever need for video RAM is 640 MB. You can quote me on that.
  • ... because I'm missing somthing... why would having more memory not be helpful?
    • Think about it in relation to normal computer usage. At some point, you have so much ram that you have already loaded all of your applications into main ram. At that point, any increase in ram will do absolutely nothing. Same thing goes for video cards. At some point, the game isn't going to be able to use that extra ram. 256 Meg is already overkill for just about all games. I don't know of any that can take advantage of 256 over 128 (yet).
  • Who had more RAM? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dpilot (134227) on Wednesday February 23, 2005 @05:54PM (#11759807) Homepage Journal
    When I first got my G400 and plugged it into my K6-3, the G400 had 32MB and the K6-3 had 64MB. That the two are in the same ballpark seems crazy.

    Now the K6-3 is still in service, though upgraded to 192MB. But the new GEForce we got for the kids' computer (equipped with 512MB) came with 256MB, more than my main desktop, and half as much as it's resident machine.

    On a more serious note, it would be interesting to understand how transient the data in that graphics card is, and how much main memory you need in the PC in order to pump enough data into the graphics card to really use all of that graphics ram.
  • by robyannetta (820243) on Wednesday February 23, 2005 @05:54PM (#11759813) Homepage
    I play EverQuest 2. [flame on]

    In the game, I have the option of clicking an "Extreme performance" tab that will tax the hell out of my video card (if it can handle it).

    Sony's software has a warning that says "...to be used on video cards with a minimum of 512MB video memory..."

    I have a Geforce 6800 with 256MB of DDR3 memory and dual 400MHz RAMdacs. This "Extereme performance" option taxes the hell out of the card. I'm getting one frame per second in this mode!

    It is really how much memory you have, or should they just add more processing power to the cards? Perhaps a quad RAMdac?

    • You'll be interested to know that Everquest II was designed completely shittily (is shittily a word?). It uses nothing higher than Pixel Shader 1.0, and uses the GPU on your card for almost nothing.

      EQ2 is almost entirely bottlenecked by the CPU of the machine. This has been proven by shader dumps, performance comparisons between card and CPUs and the fact that if you watch your GPU temp will remain idle when playing EQ2 but max out on Doom3 for example. SOE can't code a game for shit, and the fact they ha

    • What is likely happening is: the card is hardly used at all; it is sitting there idle most of the time. The bottleneck is elsewhere. Specifically, since you don't have enough video RAM to store all the textures, the rest are stored in system RAM and copied over the AGP or PCI Express bus every frame (like el cheapo video cards used to do). This is the reason video RAM exists: using main memory over an AGP or PCI Express connection is extraordinarily slow in comparison.
  • Shoes to fill out (Score:4, Informative)

    by MyIS (834233) on Wednesday February 23, 2005 @05:55PM (#11759831) Homepage

    I think this is great. And there is already software to fill out these new specs too.

    There is a next generation of engines that make the gap smaller and smaller between real-time graphics and rendered animated films. Take a look at this Unreal Engine 3 page [unrealtechnology.com] for example.

    What makes these new engines exciting is not just the fancy graphics. Increasing the resources on the hardware ultimately allows for a much more streamlined art pipeline, easier engine development and overall a faster and simpler product creation.

    • by StikyPad (445176)
      Eh.. this guy [unrealtechnology.com] still looks unnatural to me. The chains around him STILL look like the flat textures they are, as do his teeth, and the joints on the gun. I'm sure the chains will stretch unnaturally as the creature moves, and the barrel of the gun is still a hexagon.

      There's still a long way to go and, in fact, I don't think we'll ever reach the point where a single processor will be capable of creating an image on the fly that matches the quality of a prerendered.
  • by winkydink (650484) * <sv.dude@gmail.com> on Wednesday February 23, 2005 @06:01PM (#11759902) Homepage Journal
    I guess then its only purpose is to help make up for other, um, shortcomings?
  • Pffftt.... (Score:2, Redundant)

    by Nonillion (266505)
    512k should be enough video ram for anybody..
  • 640k (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 23, 2005 @06:02PM (#11759915)
    You'll never need more than 640k...
  • So..... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TrevorB (57780) on Wednesday February 23, 2005 @06:03PM (#11759918) Homepage
    If it has 512MB of memory, and a hefty GPU, can it run Linux?
  • Not Funny (Score:2, Funny)

    by spin2cool (651536)

    I still use a 16 MB card, you insensitive clod!!

  • by purduephotog (218304) <hirsch@inorbi t . com> on Wednesday February 23, 2005 @06:05PM (#11759939) Homepage Journal
    ... on higher end video cards, that is.

    3D Labs WildCat VP990 Pro 512mb
    Quadro FX4400 PCI-EXPRESS SLI 512MB.
    I think Dome makes the 3rd card I'm thinking of - 512mb there too (or maybe we asked them to, I can't remember).

    So .... yeah. 512mb in a CONSUMER card? Sounds good. But that's really nothing new at all for professional cards....
  • My card (Score:2, Interesting)

    by pyro_dude (15885)
    Remeber your ancient TNT graphics card that had 16MB of memory?

    No. I am still using the ATI All in Wonder that I found mispriced at $30 instead of $180 at CompUSA (and they had no problem giving it to me at the lower price, even when I informed them about it). It must be from the late 90s, cause I have upgraded just about all my stuff except my speakers since I got my computer in 98, but that has remained the same. It has 8 MB of memory.

    And yet I have now gotten a Viewsonic monitor [viewsonic.com], which the card ca

  • Well... sooner or later we're gonna hit the point where textures are so big you can't fit any more detail into them. When that happens, I doubt there'll be much more reason to upgrade your card for Video Ram reasons.
  • by songofthephoenix (858004) on Wednesday February 23, 2005 @06:09PM (#11759993)
    The Wildcat Realizm 800 already broke that barrier:

    640MB GDDR3 total memory

    512MB GDDR3 unied memory with 512-bit-wide interface bus

    128 MB GDDR3 DirectBurst memory with 128-bit-wide interface bus

    Full Specs Here [3dlabs.com]

  • by wowbagger (69688) on Wednesday February 23, 2005 @06:22PM (#11760143) Homepage Journal
    Let's see:

    Assume you were to use an OpenGL based window manager, wherein each window on your screen is little more than a polygon with a texture applied to it.

    Assume you are working at 1600x1200 resolution, 24 bit color depth (padded to 32 bits for possible alpha channel).

    Your frame buffer alone takes 7.3 MiBytes.

    If you have a 32 bit Z buffer, add another 7.3 MiBytes.

    Each 2D window in use will consume texture memory, so if we assume that the remaining 497.4 MiBytes of memory on the card as window memory, that lets us open roughly 68 full-screen windows before consuming all texture memory on the card.

    If some of the windows are 3D windows themselves, you are going to want them to have their own Zbuffers - so double the memory usage for them.

    While 68 windows may sound like a lot, given that most GL compositing schemes I've heard of want to keep ALL windows available, even if they are not mapped, to avoid expose events to the apps and to speed window open and close events, and I could see you getting to 30 windows pretty easily. Allowing double that for headroom doesn't seem like so bad an idea to me.

    And I've ignored the XVideo overlay needs.
    • All in all this is a pretty fair assessment, but I think it leans a bit to the pessemistic.

      First, I doubt a window manager would actually use a 32 bit z-buffer. 8 bit would be overkill here (enought to specify a unique depth for 256 windows). Even a 3D window manager would get by on 16 bit depth no problem, I believe it's the most commonly used depth for most true 3D apps now.

      Also, I doubt that in many cases more than a small number of true 3D windows would be needed. Someone who is working with 30+ windo
      • Someone who is working with 30+ windows open most likely has mostly terminals, web pages and text editors open, with maybe a few 3D apps.

        Doesn't matter. The window server (Quartz in my case) treats all of them as texture-mapped polygons, where the "texture" is their actual content.
        • Yes, but the parent was stating a difference between apps which require 3D capabilities themselves vs. those that only require 3D like capabilities from the window manager.

          2D apps treated like textured polys do not need their own depth buffer, frame buffer, etc. They just need a texture buffer, and the window manager treats them like texture polys in a single, comprehensive 3D app. Conventional 3D apps require their own depth buffer, frame buffer, textures, etc. in addition to that used by the window manag
  • ECC Video RAM (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Gary Destruction (683101) * on Wednesday February 23, 2005 @06:42PM (#11760340) Journal
    Okay, sure, the idea might sound stupid but more and stuff is being off-loaded to video cards and 512MB of RAM is alot.
    There's programs you can download to test system memory, but I haven't seen any to test video memory. I know the professioal strength ones like Microscope and Troubleshooter can test video memory, but those full blown diagnostics programs.
    You wouldn't believe the damage that bad video RAM can cause. And the whole time, you'd swear it was the system memory. Example, if you have a video card with bad video RAM and you increase the Iopagelocklimit on say Windows 2000, to 8000 hex (32k pages), you'll get all kinds of programs and system processes crashing. Userinit.exe might not even work when you try to log in. Services will fail, lots of em. Remember those blank windows in win98 that said the task isn't responding? It's Winoldap.mod that's hanging and I've found that faulty video RAM is usually the culprit.
  • by Mr2cents (323101) on Wednesday February 23, 2005 @07:00PM (#11760547)
    "Remember your ancient TNT graphics card that had 16MB of memory?"

    I remember saying "One day, video cards will have 16MB of memory".
  • by emarkp (67813) <slashdot&roadq,com> on Wednesday February 23, 2005 @09:10PM (#11761539) Journal
    I work on scientific visualization software (using OpenGL). We're looking into 3D textures for volumetric rendering, and trust me, the 512MB could be used easily.

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