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Right off the bat, it’s clear that the Radeon HD 5870 is a fast card. It hangs close to the Radeon HD 4870 X2. However, a GeForce GTX 295 killer it is not—at least not in this first measure of real-world performance. Bear in mind, though, that this is a single GPU going up against ATI’s former dual-processor flagship, along with Nvidia’s dual-GPU champion.
When you shift the comparison to the GeForce GTX 285, ATI stomps the single-GPU board at all three resolutions. With the GeForce GTX 285 currently selling for as little as $340 online, though, ATI does make you pay a premium for the card's additional performance and functionality.
Clearly, S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky is off-limits at 2560x1600 for most of these single-card configurations (though the two 5870s and GTX 285s handle that setting with Extreme details set). Nevertheless, gamers with 24” monitors should have little trouble cranking up to 1920x1200 with the image quality settings turned all the way up in this demanding title.
The rest of the field sets the stage for the arrival of ATI’s Radeon HD 5850, which wasn’t ready for testing at launch, but should follow shortly. Expected to still out-perform the GTX 285 at an incredible $259 price point, that card might end up defining the performance sweet spot.
When we turn on 4xAA, ATI’s efforts to improve anti-aliased performance shine through. Whereas the Radeon HD 5870 trailed the 4870 X2 previously, it’s now the faster offering (albeit only slightly).
But if you’re talking single-card configurations, none of these boards will really do the trick with such an intense combination of settings. Even at 1680x1050 the Radeon HD 5870 can only muster 36 frames.
Where you will witness utter dominance is with a pair of 5870s, which slingshot past the Radeon HD 4870 X2 and GeForce GTX 295 (as expected, given the price difference), emerging as the only solution capable of these settings at 1680x1050 and 1920x1200. Even the two GeForce GTX 285s in SLI are handily trounced.