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The Card, The Test

Radeon HD 4870: Better Than GTX 260!
By , and Florian Charpentier

Like the Radeon HD 3870, but unlike the Radeon HD 4850, the Radeon HD 4870 is a double-slot card. That should enable it to contain the heat produced by the RV770 more easily, or at least vent all of it out of the computer case. But the resemblance stops there. The HD 4870 requires not one but two six-pin PCI Express connectors, and its length has been increased slightly – to 9.5" (24.1 cm) compared to 9" (22.8 cm) for the Radeon HD 3870 and 10.5" (26.7 cm) for the GeForce GTX 260. Also, its fan is not the Arctic Cooling model made up of straight blades, but a return to the more traditional multi-fin type.

Radeon HD 4870

We used the Sapphire model of the card to run these tests. The box includes a 2-GB standard USB key in the brand’s colors, PowerDVD 7 OEM with six channels, Cyberlink DVD Suite 5 and the full version of 3DMark06. The USB key is a plus, but it would have been nice to throw in a game, given the segment this card is aimed at.

Radeon HD 4870

The Test The setup for this round of tests was the same as for our article on the Radeon HD 4850.

Radeon HD 4870

Test Configuration:

  • Asus P5E3 Deluxe (Intel X38)
  • Intel Core 2 Quad QX6850 (3 GHz)
  • Crucial 2 x 1 GB DDR3 1333 MHz 7-7-7-20
  • Western Digital WD5000AAKS
  • Asus 12x DVD drive
  • Cooler Master Real Power Pro 850W
    • Windows XP, Vista, Vista SP1
    • ForceWare 177.39 beta (9800 GTX +)
    • ForceWare 177.34 beta (GTX 260 and 280)
    • ForceWare 175.16 WHQL (9800 GTX, 9800 GX2, 8800 Ultra)
    • Catalyst 8.7 beta (HD 4850, HD 4870)
    • Catalyst 8.6 WHQL (HD 3870)
    • Catalyst 8.5 WHQL (HD 3870 X2)
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  • 5 Hide
    Anonymous , July 3, 2008 3:24 PM
    finally ATI is getting some love
    I have the 4950 and it is great
  • 0 Hide
    sidereus , July 3, 2008 3:43 PM
    nice review..I wonder why the 4850 can not render race driver : GRID
  • 0 Hide
    mpasternak , July 3, 2008 3:51 PM
    for the pure gamer at heart, the 4870 seems to be a steal.

    however, what are the possibilities for a CUDA like processing environment or handling Physics engines? I think AMD has done a great job making a pure video card, but I believe the future will be with unified technologies of having the GPU assist in other tasks as well.

    Time will Tell
  • 5 Hide
    eltouristo , July 3, 2008 3:55 PM
    Would REALLY help alot if there were charts with these new cards and some of the last gen (what's in the desktop charts now) that way I could
    see how much I could gain by upgrading. Maybe thats an update to the desktop charts that just hasnt been dont yet? Seems like it would have already been.
  • 1 Hide
    lightfoot__ , July 3, 2008 4:00 PM
    Under load, the heat sink did its job and the temperature didn’t rise all that much – at least not as much as the little Radeon HD 4850.

    The 4850 went up 6* and the 4870 went up 10*... I think the 4870 went up more, but you (Tom's) said it went up less.
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , July 3, 2008 4:05 PM
    LOL you don't even have your drivers working properly if a 3870 and 3870x2 are matching each other in performance. Crossfire on the card isn't even working properly, check any bench of a 3870x2 vs 3870 in Call of Duty 4 (ATI preferred drivers).
  • 0 Hide
    oafed , July 3, 2008 4:06 PM
    The real key is what all the prices on these cards are when Nehalem is released.

    LOTS of enthusiasts are planning a Nehalem build toward the end of the year. I image they will be getting 4850/4870s or GTX260/GTX280s. All depending on where the prices are I imagine.
  • 1 Hide
    septagent , July 3, 2008 4:08 PM
    eltouristoWould REALLY help alot if there were charts with these new cards and some of the last gen (what's in the desktop charts now) that way I couldsee how much I could gain by upgrading. Maybe thats an update to the desktop charts that just hasnt been dont yet? Seems like it would have already been.



    I agree about the charts. I don't consider buying a 4870 vs an older card like an x1950, but it sure would be nice to see how much it has improved over time.

  • 1 Hide
    timaahhh , July 3, 2008 4:28 PM
    Thank you ATI. Though I won't be buying your card cause I just bought an 8800 GT maybe this will force nVidia to drop there prices and give me a cheap step up :D .
  • 0 Hide
    eurodj , July 3, 2008 4:32 PM
    I loved ati since the rage era, im so glad they are back in the game again, i might even consider trading in my 9800gtx sli for a 4850 crossfire down the line, maybe when i setup to ddr3. But for now best bang for the buck cards are the 9800gtx and the 4850 in my opinion
  • 0 Hide
    jimmysmitty , July 3, 2008 4:41 PM
    I want either a 48701GB or a 4870X2. I have a 2900Pro 1GB and going to 512MB would not work for me. Plus I wounder if at much higher resolutions if another 512MB would help.
  • 0 Hide
    Chazwuzzer , July 3, 2008 4:48 PM
    Gawd, I can't wait to get my mits on one of these. I should prolly get my order in now...
  • 1 Hide
    caamsa , July 3, 2008 4:58 PM
    I wonder where they tested these cards? My 4850 runs between 52C idle and usually never above 65C while under load. I just use ASUS SmartDoctor which allows you to control the fan speed. Before using smartdoctor the fan speed never changed and it did run at 80C under load.
  • -2 Hide
    martel80 , July 3, 2008 5:25 PM
    WTF is going on with those locked minimum clock speeds? I'm already pissed off by HD 3870 running at 300/1126 in XP, what a waste of power! Why don't they offer the possibility to manually (in control panel) underclock the card all the way down to 150-200/300-400 MHz is beyond me.
  • 0 Hide
    Shadow703793 , July 3, 2008 5:30 PM
    Finally AM/ATI's on the field. Glad to see the card is performing well esp. given the price. Now all ATI has to do optimize the drivers. Congrats to Toms on a good article written in a while.
  • 0 Hide
    falchard , July 3, 2008 5:33 PM
    Would be interesting if they actually tested these cards on an AMD Platform. Why do that always test AMD parts seperately?
  • -1 Hide
    Shadow703793 , July 3, 2008 5:37 PM
    martel80WTF is going on with those locked minimum clock speeds? I'm already pissed off by HD 3870 running at 300/1126 in XP, what a waste of power! Why don't they offer the possibility to manually (in control panel) underclock the card all the way down to 150-200/300-400 MHz is beyond me.

    This is because just like underclocking a CPU there is a minimum frequency and a minimum voltage that is needed. Also these are gaming class GPUs aimed at raw power(= more power use + heat)and not really to be energy efficient. Although energy efficiency (usually goes hand in hand with heat output) counts to a certain extent when OCing and higher clock speeds these negatives of lower energy efficiency can be overcome through better HSFs/smaller manufacturing process etc.
  • 2 Hide
    Shadow703793 , July 3, 2008 5:38 PM
    falchardWould be interesting if they actually tested these cards on an AMD Platform. Why do that always test AMD parts seperately?

    Because the Phenom's aren't very good!
  • 1 Hide
    JAYDEEJOHN , July 3, 2008 5:39 PM
    From what Ive heard, the 150 clock is one of the gen clocks on a few of the bios, just not implemented yet. Give it time
  • 0 Hide
    homerdog , July 3, 2008 5:54 PM
    Yes, the idle clocks aren't going nearly low enough with the current BIOSs. I've actually seen a BIOS floating around that had the right idle clocks (160/500MHz I think). Hopefully this will be corrected soon.

    On a separate note, what's up with RV770 and UE3? I hadn't realized until now that the GeForce cards really pull ahead in those tests. With any other engine it wouldn't be that big a deal, but UE3 is kind of important.
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