The best ATI video card that I have been able to soft-mod is the hd3870 I have modded the 4870 several times but for some reason there is not a big increase if any at all I can point you to the right direction though
The thread above is where I found all the info for both my 3870 and 4870.
Also it appears that the soft-mod takes better under a windows XP environment. It will work in 7 just not as effective. Also one last thing in any graphic intensive program it also depends on your processor and the way the program utilizes the processor cores will effect whether or not having a better graphics card will even matter. If you have a mediocre processor then upgrading graphics will do little.
Its no problem at all I spent a good deal of time with trial and error along with research and benchmarking. I do not know if your wanting to game or do 3d modeling. If it is for gaming your better off using updated drivers from AMD instead of soft-modding it into a workstation card. workstation cards really only shine in 3d modeling and drafting environments
I didn't see any real improvements on my 4870 until my quad core hit 3.97GHZ but that was with autocad MEP 2010 which will only utilized 1 out of the four cores so with CAD it was better to have and amazing dual core instead of a quad core.
It's for my gf, she uses 3dmax studio and acad 2010, she mostly dies interior design but she does model alot on 3d
Having used both programs (along with SolidWorks/Inventor) I can tell you that unless the 3D work is pretty complex, a normal gaming card will be fine and won't make much of a difference even if you switch to a workstation. In 2D work, it doesn't really make a difference.
For rendering, the CPU and RAM (and in some cases the HDD) makes all the difference.
It is worth a shot but you need the right bios and edit the clocks and voltages to match the old firmware to stay with in the limits aka stock. I have a 3870 and using it now but I have never flashed any thing except for nvidia cards which is an ease even when there is multiple cards or the nf200 switch is present. I have also read about clock dividers being used on ati cards but don't have any info how that would affect things in a normal environment. So I would do is start looking for bios dumps from actual cards as well the proper tools to edit the bios roms. The last but simplest way you would do is edit the device ID from with in the bios to fool windows and the driver into thinking it is a different card than it actually is. I dropped a hint there about how to make asymmetric sli.
So would u suggest I grab an nv card and flash it to a workstation?
You can but you got to know what your are doing and either have the right rom on hand or know the device ID codes which the same applies to ati cards as for matrox no one mods them. So I would start looking up the codes in gpu z searches (pc not mac) and get a throw away card then start editing the original rom or a dump from off another card. The reason why I first looked into this was to mod my 9800gt into being able to be put in sli with a GTS250 both which have the same core but with out attempting a straight dump or changing the hardware mask (shaders). Got any cards your could experiment that are expendable like a 8600gt or a 3650?
Basically all you are trying to do is get to the professional features in the driver package with out changing the board. Remember the old days of the geforce6 ware in riva tuner you could enable quadro features but every thing up from the gf7 was locked well this is one way around that, basically the driver needs to think that it is a professional card instead of the normal consumer variant. On some nvidia cards this would be a good idea provided if there is room for mistakes like soft modding a gtx280 into a quadro which would fly in cs4.
Well the 8600gts came in and to my displeasure its bricked, bad vram (code 43). Oven reflow to ruled out bad bonding it posted all the same with draw errors. Perhaps I might be able to bring some life into it someday if I had spare GDDR3 chips (4x64) but could hunt for (4x128) that run at the same voltage and have similar timings. I still remember the days were some cards had removable vram (Trident lol).
For what L1qu1d described, I would suggest just leaving the 4870 as is and just running standard ATI Catalyst drivers. Modding it into a FireGL, if successful, is fairly risky and you may end up with a cool paper-weight.
If you want an actual FireGL, you can find them on eBay and Craig's List fairly priced.
I would also be willing to trade a FireGL V3600 I have for your 4870.
Bottom line, the 4870 will do what you described for the GF reasonably well.