Radeon HD 4870: Better Than GTX 260!

Radeon HD 4870: What’s Improved?

Specifications of the Main Cards
GPU HD 4850 HD 4870 GTX 260 GTX 280
GPU frequency 625 MHz 750 MHz 576 MHz 602 MHz
ALU frequency 625 MHz 750 MHz 1242 MHz 1296 MHz
Memory frequency 1000 MHz 900 MHz 999 MHz 1107 MHz
Memory bus width 256 bits 256 bits 448 bits 512 bits
Memory type GDDR3 GDDR5 GDDR3 GDDR3
Memory quantity 512 MB 512 MB 896 MB 1024 MB
Number of ALUs 800 800 192 240
Number of texture units 40 40 64 80
Number of ROPs 16 16 28 32
Shading power 1 TFlops 1.2 TFlops 715 GFlops 933 GFlops
Memory bandwidth 64 GB/s 115.2 GB/s 111.9 GB/s 141.7 GB/s
Number of transistors 956 million 956 million 1400 million 1400 million
Engraving process 0.055µ 0.055µ 0.065µ 0.065µ
Die surface area 260 mm² 260 mm² 576 mm² 576 mm²
Generation 2008 2008 2008 2008
Shader Model supported 4.1 4.1 4.0 4.0

Radeon HD 4870 The difference between the Radeon HD 4870 and its little brother the 4850 can be summed up in two characteristics: theoretical power, increased by 20% solely via higher clock speeds (the number of ALUs remain unchanged, unlike Nvidia’s approach), and above all memory bandwidth, which has almost doubled (+ 80%). This change is the result, as we’ve seen, of the use of GDDR5, with an equivalent frequency that’s nearly doubled compared to the GDDR3 used on the Radeon HD 4850. This type of memory is expensive, but less so than using a 512-bit or at least a 448-bit bus, which would have been necessary to achieve an equivalent bandwidth using GDDR3 memory as Nvidia has chosen to do — not to mention higher power consumption (memory chips + controller). The result is that the Radeon HD 4870’s bandwidth is similar (in fact 3% higher) to the GeForce GTX 260’s.

By the way, the theoretical superiority of the 4870’s raw processing power over the GTX 260’s is particularly impressive considering that the 4870’s GPU has a die surface area that’s barely 45% of the Nvidia card’s!

On the other hand, we can’t help but mention the obvious limitation that emerges from a reading of these specs – the memory quantity, still limited to 512 MB on the 4870. That’s only slightly over half as much as the GTX 260, and even when you consider that the Radeon cards suffer much less than the GeForce ones when using central memory in cases of frame buffer limitations, we’ll need to keep a close eye on how performance and rankings evolve as resolution increases. Also note that certain manufacturers, such as PowerColor, have already announced 1-GB versions of the Radeon HD 4870, but they won’t be available to do that before the end of July.

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  • finally ATI is getting some love
    I have the 4950 and it is great
  • sidereus
    nice review..I wonder why the 4850 can not render race driver : GRID
  • mpasternak
    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
  • eltouristo
    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.
  • lightfoot__
    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.
  • 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).
  • oafed
    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.
  • septagent
    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.
  • timaahhh
    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.
  • eurodj
    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
  • jimmysmitty
    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.
  • Chazwuzzer
    Gawd, I can't wait to get my mits on one of these. I should prolly get my order in now...
  • caamsa
    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.
  • martel80
    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.
  • Shadow703793
    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.
  • falchard
    Would be interesting if they actually tested these cards on an AMD Platform. Why do that always test AMD parts seperately?
  • Shadow703793
    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.
  • Shadow703793
    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!
  • JAYDEEJOHN
    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
  • homerdog
    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.
  • ram1009
    I've had nothing but problems from all the ATI boards I've owned. Very bad drivers. I'll stay with Nvidia.
  • Haiku214
    I think you mean 4850. My 4850 renders GRID quite well.
  • ZootyGray
    Re 4850/4870 temps at idle and load - FAN SPEED WORKAROUND!

    Check This Out!
    http://www.techpowerup.com/64398/ATI_Radeon_HD_4850_Fan_Speed_Workaround_Posted.html

    AND this!

    This was the first info I found re temp/fan controls.
    http://forums.guru3d.com/showthread.php?p=2751569#post2751569

    Seems you can dial in a lower temperature by changing the stock fan speed. And you can tweak your preferred noise level. Interesting read. I expect driver updates, as do others. I copied this info, cos I get a feeling it's going to be del'd. (?) Personally, I have not done this, cos I don't have a card :) to do it on! :) But it's a HOT item.
  • urahozer
    i want to know the quality settings used on Crysis, was it on Very High?