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Radeon HD 4870: Driver Update From 8.6 To 8.8

Do New Drivers Really Boost Performance?
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 The Radeon HD 4870 is ATI’s fastest single-chip card

The driver versions are listed directly after the chip name. The resolutions go from 1280x1024 to 1680x1050 to 1920x1200 pixels, first without anti-aliasing (0xAA), then in the same order with anti-aliasing (4xAA, and in Mass Effect 8xAA as well). The two upper lines of figures represent the frame rates;, the lower line is the difference in performance in percentage.

Assassins Creed in fps 1280
0xAA
1680
0xAA
1920
0xAA
1280
4xAA
1680
4xAA
1920
4xAA
Overall
HD 4870 (512 MB) 8.6 57.3 57.6 58.3 43.9 43.7 43.5 304.3
HD 4870 (512 MB) 8.8 57.7 58.4 57.9 44.4 43.5 43.8 305.7
Difference in performance in percentage 0.7 1.4 -0.7 1.1 -0.5 0.7 0.5

The results are within a reasonable margin of error. The new driver brings no performance gain.

Call of Duty 4 in fps 1280
0xAA
1680
0xAA
1920
0xAA
1280
4xAA
1680
4xAA
1920
4xAA
Overall
HD 4870 (512 MB) 8.6 178.0 150.2 121.3 134.2 110.1 94.7 788.5
HD 4870 (512 MB) 8.8 182.1 149.5 126.2 137.6 110.7 92.1 798.2
Difference in performance in percentage 2.3 -0.5 4.0 2.5 0.5 -2.7 1.2

The fluctuations are a little higher, but again, not particularly notable. A slight increase in 3D speed can be seen in the 1280 resolution.

Crysis High in fps 1280
0xAA
1680
0xAA
1920
0xAA
1280
4xAA
1680
4xAA
1920
4xAA
Overall
HD 4870 (512 MB) 8.6 31.4 32.2 29.3 27.1 24.9 20.1 165.0
HD 4870 (512 MB) 8.8 31.9 29.7 29.5 26.9 24.1 21.1 163.2
Difference in performance in percentage 1.6 -7.8 0.7 -0.7 -3.2 5.0 -1.1

The wide variations in Crysis also indicate optimization of an error in the driver. This one is tough to explain. To rule out a measurement error, the results were tested several times; 1 fps to 2 fps lies in the tolerance range.

Crysis Very High in fps 1280
0xAA
1680
0xAA
1920
0xAA
1280
4xAA
1680
4xAA
1920
4xAA
Overall
HD 4870 (512 MB) 8.6 29.2 20.8 17.8 21.1 13.4 10.8 113.1
HD 4870 (512 MB) 8.8 28.8 22.0 18.1 22.0 15.7 11.4 118.0
Difference in performance in percentage -1.4 5.8 1.7 4.3 17.2 5.6 4.3

In the Very High setting, fluctuations of the frame rates can also be seen. There does not appear to be any reason for these variations, although a performance increase is almost always seen.

ET: Quake Wars in fps 1280
0xAA
1680
0xAA
1920
0xAA
1280
4xAA
1680
4xAA
1920
4xAA
Overall
HD 4870 (512 MB) 8.6 66.8 64.8 65.8 64.9 65.4 64.1 391.8
HD 4870 (512 MB) 8.7 67.7 65.4 66.2 66.6 64.2 64.2 394.3
Difference in performance in percentage 1.3 0.9 0.6 2.6 -1.8 0.2 0.6

The Radeon HD 4870 should technically fail this one entirely, as the Catalyst 8.8 driver refused to start Quake Wars. However, the Catalyst 8.6 and Catalyst 8.7 worked perfectly, so the Catalyst 8.7, was used for the test. The measurements are within the margin of error. However, as with Call of Duty 4, we found minimal gains in the CPU-heavy 1280 resolution.

Half-Life 2 Episode 2 in fps 1280
0xAA
1680
0xAA
1920
0xAA
1280
4xAA
1680
4xAA
1920
4xAA
Overall
HD 4870 (512 MB) 8.6 105.9 100.9 100.2 105.4 100.4 100.1 612.9
HD 4870 (512 MB) 8.8 107.2 101.4 100.6 105.8 101.5 100.1 616.6
Difference in performance in percentage 1.2 0.5 0.4 0.4 1.1 0.0 0.6

Half-Life 2 Episode 2 already runs optimally on the AMD card. Greater performance increases should not be expected from the new graphics driver.

Mass Effect in fps 1280
0xAA
1680
0xAA
1920
0xAA
1280
4xAA
1680
4xAA
1920
4xAA
1280
8xAA
1680
8xAA
1920
8xAA
Overall
HD 4870 (512 MB) 8.6 94.8 89.8 82.5 64.0 48.3 38.6 62.7 47.3 37.8 565.8
HD 4870 (512 MB) 8.8 95.9 92.2 81.9 63.9 48.4 38.8 62.1 47.1 37.5 567.8
Difference in performance in percentage 1.2 2.7 -0.7 -0.2 0.2 0.5 -1.0 -0.4 -0.8 0.4

With Mass Effect there is no change; the minor differences and fluctuations are normal.

MS Flight Simulator X SP2 in fps 1280
0xAA
1680
0xAA
1920
0xAA
1280
4xAA
1680
4xAA
1920
4xAA
Overall
HD 4870 (512 MB) 8.6 25.7 25.1 25.1 25.9 25.6 25.6 153.0
HD 4870 (512 MB) 8.8 25.2 25.9 25.9 25.9 25.8 25.7 154.4
Difference in performance in percentage -1.9 3.2 3.2 0.0 0.8 0.4 0.9

No relevant improvements are seen; the results lie within the measuring tolerances.

World in Conflict in fps 1280
0xAA
1680
0xAA
1920
0xAA
1280
4xAA
1680
4xAA
1920
4xAA
Overall
HD 4870 (512 MB) 8.6 46.9 50.3 47.8 43.8 37.7 34.8 261.3
HD 4870 (512 MB) 8.8 48.0 49.9 47.5 43.9 37.0 33.8 260.1
Difference in performance in percentage 2.3 -0.8 -0.6 0.2 -1.9 -2.9 -0.5

The driver update does not make any visible change; the measurements are within the usual fluctuations.

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