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On our test system, the Radeon HD 4850 in CrossFire mode only gains a bit of performance on average compared to the HD 4870 at 1680x1050 pixels with anti-aliasing turned on. This benefit of up to 5% in performance isn’t actually worthwhile at current prices and taking energy consumption into consideration. A pair of Radeon HD 4850s would cost $360, while the single HD 4870 can be purchased for $270.
You should also take a good look at the results for the individual games, though. With anti-aliasing, the HD 4850 in CrossFire is faster at many resolutions. For example, Mass Effect running at 1920x1200 with 4xAA achieves 38.6 fps with the HD 4870, but hits 50.2 fps with the HD 4850 CrossFire. World in Conflict at 1920x1200 with 4xAA runs at 34.8 fps on the HD 4870, but 44.5 fps with the HD 4850 in CrossFire.
In 2D mode, the power consumption of the entire system increases to 177 watts. Under full 3D load, it is 367 watts, which is 79 watts more than an individual HD 4870 requires. Anyone who wishes to operate AMD’s Radeon HD 4870 in CrossFire mode will need a solid power supply with between 300 and 340 watts and 25 to 28 A on the 12 volt rail for a standard system.
In 2D mode, the paired cards are nice and quiet at just 36.3 dB(A). Only when under full load does the noise increase to a significantly louder 46 dB(A), which is also achieved by a single HD 4870. The temperatures are two degrees higher in 2D mode (for CrossFire) versus a single card. You need to remember though, that from now on you have two substantial heat sources tucked away in your PC case. Even with very good ventilation, the temperature of the remaining components should be checked frequently.