AMD’s reference design sports a dual-slot cooler consisting of a heavy copper heat sink/heat pipe combo and a single 6.0 cm fan. The fan, which is mounted toward the rear of the card (the board is 9.5 inches long and the fan’s hub is positioned 6.75 inches from the mounting bracket), draws air from inside the case, blows it over the GPU and memory, and then exhausts the warm air outside the case by way of the vents in the mounting bracket.
AMD’s reference design cooler is relatively quiet, but that acoustic respite comes at the cost of high GPU-operating temperatures. Catalyst Control Center (CCC) reported the GPU baking at an operating temperature of 78 degrees Celsius while idle. When we put a load on the GPU with the Far Cry 2 benchmark, temperatures jumped to 83 degrees Celsius. The board’s two six-pin power connectors are mounted on the top rear edge of the PCB, which can lead to a tight fit in smaller cases.
A digital video signal is output through two dual-link DVI connectors on the mounting bracket. AMD provides an HDMI-to-DVI adapter if you wish to integrate your rig as a home-theater setup. Analog video (composite, component, and S-video) is output through a DIN connector that requires an adapter cable. AMD’s overall HDMI solution is better than Nvidia’s, because AMD’s cards have an onboard ASIC that routes the digital audio through the PCI Express (PCIe) bus, while Nvidia cards depend on a hard-wired connection to a S/PDIF header on the motherboard and those pins aren’t available on every motherboard. The adapter, however, adds 1.75 inches to the space required behind your PC—which can be a real problem if you’re trying to stash a home-theater PC in an entertainment center. This being a reference design, the GPU’s core clock is set to run at 750 MHz and the 512 MB of GDDR5 memory (manufactured by Qimonda) runs at 900 MHz. AMD doesn’t bundle additional software with its wares.
AMD Radeon HD 4870 street price: $289.99 (AMD)