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Do New Drivers Really Boost Performance?

Radeon HD 4870 CrossFire: The Benefit Of CPU Overclocking

In some games, a CPU at its default clock speed is not able to realize the full potential of a Radeon HD 4870. Running two graphics cards in CrossFire mode amplifies this issue, making overclocking particularly attractive for anyone with a high-end array of 4870s.

Assassins Creed in fps12800xAA16800xAA19200xAA12804xAA16804xAA19204xAAOverall
HD 4870 CF (512 MB) 8.855.455.956.742.642.142.9295.6
HD 4870 CF (512 MB) CPU@3.4764.064.664.849.548.648.8340.3
Difference in performance in percentage15.515.614.316.215.413.815.1

The 18.2 percent additional CPU clock rate is converted by the CrossFire combination to 15 percent higher frame rates. The big performance boost makes us want a 4GHz CPU to better show off the pair’s potential.

Call of Duty 4 in fps12800xAA16800xAA19200xAA12804xAA16804xAA19204xAAOverall
HD 4870 CF (512 MB) 8.8147.5140.0129.6135.4116.8107.3776.6
HD 4870 CF (512 MB) CPU@3.47154.1148.6136.1138.4123.4113.7814.3
Difference in performance in percentage4.56.15.02.25.76.04.9

Call of Duty 4 shows a 5 percent overall performance improvement.

Crysis High in fps12800xAA16800xAA19200xAA12804xAA16804xAA19204xAAOverall
HD 4870 CF (512 MB) 8.829.325.826.724.221.320.4147.7
HD 4870 CF (512 MB) CPU@3.4732.130.630.127.024.323.7167.8
Difference in performance in percentage9.618.612.711.614.116.213.6

Crysis gains a lot; even the overclocked CPU is not sufficient to fully tax the CrossFire combination. Here, the graphics card clearly has higher available performance just waiting to be used by an even more powerful processor.

Crysis Very High in fps12800xAA16800xAA19200xAA12804xAA16804xAA19204xAAOverall
HD 4870 CF (512 MB) 8.826.724.820.922.018.012.9125.3
HD 4870 CF (512 MB) CPU@3.4730.427.925.724.720.813.2142.7
Difference in performance in percentage13.912.523.012.315.62.313.9

The increased performance attributable to the higher CPU clock rate is readily taken advantage of, yet only when we get to 1920x1200 pixels with anti-aliasing enabled do we get close to the combo’s limit.

ET: Quake Wars in fps12800xAA16800xAA19200xAA12804xAA16804xAA19204xAAOverall
HD 4870 CF (512 MB) 8.765.065.665.262.662.762.5383.6
HD 4870 CF (512 MB) CPU@3.4775.774.974.170.470.070.0435.1
Difference in performance in percentage16.514.213.712.511.612.013.4

Again, with the Catalyst 8.8 the game does not start, so the test values were measured using the Catalyst 8.7 graphics driver. In Quake Wars, the additional 18.2 percent CPU clock rate results in significantly better frame rates. In CrossFire mode, the cards don’t even get close to their limit. A much more powerful CPU would use the duo more effectively.

Half-Life 2 Episode 2 in fps12800xAA16800xAA19200xAA12804xAA16804xAA19204xAAOverall
HD 4870 CF (512 MB) 8.8104.799.598.3102.599.097.1601.1
HD 4870 CF (512 MB) CPU@3.47115.3109.3107.8112.7108.7107.6661.4
Difference in performance in percentage10.19.89.710.09.810.810.0

Half-Life 2 Episode 2 shows 10 percent higher frame rates in all test resolutions. CrossFire clearly has greater potential, and a more powerful CPU will be able to unleash additional power.

Mass Effect in fps12800xAA16800xAA19200xAA12804xAA16804xAA19204xAA12808xAA16808xAA19208xAAOverall
HD 4870 CF (512 MB) 8.892.691.789.387.386.274.788.084.072.7766.5
HD 4870 CF (512 MB) CPU@3.4798.796.293.594.990.975.893.889.873.7807.3
Difference in performance in percentage6.64.94.78.75.51.56.66.91.45.3

A minor increase could be measured, but in the 1920 resolution with anti-aliasing (4xAA and 8xAA) the cards approach their limits.

MS Flight Simulator X SP2 in fps12800xAA16800xAA19200xAA12804xAA16804xAA19204xAAOverall
HD 4870 CF (512 MB) 8.824.524.924.424.625.024.7148.1
HD 4870 CF (512 MB) CPU@3.4727.428.128.427.928.728.9169.4
Difference in performance in percentage11.812.916.413.414.817.014.4

The flight simulator also gains from the overclocking processor to the tune of double digits. In CrossFire, the Radeon HD 4870 offers greater power when the duo is supplied with a more powerful CPU.

World in Conflict in fps12800xAA16800xAA19200xAA12804xAA16804xAA19204xAAOverall
HD 4870 CF (512 MB) 8.846.046.945.643.446.043.2271.1
HD 4870 CF (512 MB) CPU@3.4749.452.550.146.852.050.6301.4
Difference in performance in percentage7.411.99.97.813.017.111.2

With anti-aliasing, the CrossFire combination is even faster; the additional 18.2 percent CPU clock rate is converted by the graphics cards into 17.1 percent higher frame rates. Here, again, there’s still a lot of potential available to the dual-card setup, and a higher-clocked CPU would almost certainly provide additional 3D performance.

  • pcgamer12
    Great article.
    Reply
  • cangelini
    LedrosTo bad you used 8.8 drivers instead of the 8.9 ones. Real smart people.
    This is observed in the piece and should not affect performance.
    Reply
  • curnel_D
    Lol.
    Reply
  • neiroatopelcc
    SoulLance"Unfortunately for AMD and its customers, the PowerPlay optimization for energy-efficient 2D operation is not included in the Catalyst 8.8 driver for the Radeon HD 4870. Quake Wars refuses to start using the Catalyst 8.8, but it works fine with the Catalyst 8.6 and 8.7."But neither should comments like this appear when everyone on the planet reads a labels that clearly say "Use latest drivers from manufacturer".
    Can you please translate this into english?
    I have no idea what you mean to say with your comment, other than the obvious (that you disagree on some level with the article)
    Reply
  • randomizer
    He's saying you shouldn't criticise newer drivers because most hardware and software packaging has a label, or a section in the manual, telling you to use the latest drivers. So latest = best as far as he is concerned.
    Reply
  • In reference to overclocking graphics cards, I'm pretty sure that XFX card warranties cover overclocking to some degree, though you'd have to double check their warranty fine print.
    Reply
  • neiroatopelcc
    SneppyIn reference to overclocking graphics cards, I'm pretty sure that XFX card warranties cover overclocking to some degree, though you'd have to double check their warranty fine print.Having had experience with two failing xfx cards (both 8800gtx's actually), I've got to warn you though, that their warranty is a bit fictional. While they may actually cover broken products, you can easily risk waiting months for a replacement.
    Proof of my claim in case someone unexpectedly doubts it : http://www.opel.cc/xfx8800gtx/xfx.htm
    That was the first failing card. The second I haven't even bothered sending in, and just bought an 4870 instead of waiting months.
    Reply
  • cryogenic
    We all know there were cases in the past when "Newer drivers provided substantial performance improvements" in various applications or games. Analyzing performance with a few select driver sets can can't lead to the conclusion that drivers are irrelevant, or that from a "professional" stand point the latest drivers shouldn't be chosen.
    Reply
  • randomizer
    CryogenicAnalyzing performance with a few select driver sets can can't lead to the conclusion that drivers are irrelevantBut it can lead to the conclusion that current drivers are irrelevant, or rather less relevant.
    Reply
  • cryogenic
    randomizer
    That's a good,true and useful conclusion, but it's not a general one, only specific to this particular set of drivers.
    Reply