If you want the best graphics card, how much are you ready to spend? For PC gamers, that’s been an enduring conundrum.
But now that ATI has released the Radeon HD 4870, their latest high-performance graphics chipset, the answer is more complicated than ever.
This is because AMD’s graphics division is no longer competing for supremacy in 3D graphics.
As of now, it no longer cares if its GPU is the fastest in the world or not. Now it’s more concerned about saving money and working efficiently.
Last week, we got our first glimpse at ATI’s Radeon HD 4850, the series entry-level member, and were blown away by what we saw. For around £125, you can get the 4850, which is faster than the fastest single-GPU graphics card on the market just a few months ago.
Say Hello to The 4870
The new 4870 model is much more stunning than the 4850, which is already very outstanding. It’s true that it’s 50% more expensive than the 4850, but it doesn’t offer significantly greater performance. With regards to 3D performance for the dollar, the 4850 still reigns supreme.
The 4870, however, has a more impressive party trick. It makes NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 280, their latest ultra-GPU, look ridiculously expensive.
In our original evaluation of the Radeon HD 4800 series, we went into great detail about the silicon gubbins that power the 4870. To quickly recall, the brilliant part is how ATI increased the number of shaders and textures by a factor of 150 with only a 40% increase in transistors.
For the most part, the 4870 is identical to the inexpensive 4850. 800 shaders, 40 texture samplers, and 16 render output units are all carried over from the previous model.
Similarly, it has the same 256-bit memory bus and 512MB frame buffer, in addition to supporting the full suite of DirectX 10.1 features (which NVIDIA has not yet been able to match). It comes as no surprise, though. Both use the same RV770 graphics processing unit.
Cranking up The Clocks
Therefore, clock speeds are the focus of the 4870. It boosts the standard for fundamental frequencies by 125MHz, to 750MHz. Yet, memory clocks are the most exciting development.
The 4850’s GDDR3 memory clocks in at a humdrum 2GHz. However, the 4870 features the most recent GDDR5 chips from ATI, clocked at 3.6GHz.
That’s a massive improvement, given the 512-bit memory bus on the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 280 is one of its main selling points. When the GTX’s GDDR3 clock speed of 2.2GHz is taken into account, it still has higher raw bandwidth. If ATI had used GDDR3 for the 4870, though, the gap would have been much wider.
Size and power requirements are the only other major distinctions. The 4870 is a dual-slot board, thus it needs two six-pin power cords, while the 4850 is a single-slot board and can get by with just one.
Regardless, our analysis delves deeply into the design decisions that went into the GTX 280. Knowing how close the 4870 comes to NVIDIA’s best is crucial. Keep in mind that the 4870 can be had for less than £200. If you spend £400 on a GTX, you’ll be lucky to get back some of your money.
What About the Benchies?
Crysis, a 3-D Technological Extravaganza Developed by Crytek, Will Serve as Our First Benchmark. It’s the Most Complex and Visually Intensive Pc Game Ever Made. Any Video Card Will Crash and Burn if You Crank up The Image Quality to the Maximum Level.
And the Radeon Hd 4870 Is No Exception. It Might Not Quite Match the Nvidia Gtx 280 in Terms of Performance, but It Does a Respectable Job of Handling the Graphical Demands of Crysis.
With All Settings Maxed out (save for Anti-Aliasing), the 4870 Manages an Average of 21 Frames per Second at The Widely Used 1,680 by 1,050 Widescreen Resolution. In-Game, the Gtx Can Get 26 Frames per Second. That’s a 24% Difference in Efficiency.
Both Require Lowering Some Settings to A More Manageable Level in Order to Run Well Enough for Most Users.
When We Go to Call of Duty 4, One of The Most Played Fps Games Right Now, the 4870 Comes Even Closer. in Comparison to The Gtx’s 64 Fps at The Same Resolution and Anti-Aliasing Level, the 4870 only Achieves 58 Fps. That’s only A 10% Variation.
Most Significantly, the Size Is so Negligible that It Will Be Difficult to Notice Any Difference in Gameplay. It’s Essentially the Same Thing at Around Half the Cost.
What’s more, in Call of Duty 4, the Gtx Is only 18% Faster, Even at A Gigantic 2,560 X 1,600 Resolution. the Situation Is Analogous While Playing an Older Favourite Like Half-Life 2 at A Resolution of 1,920 by 1,200 Pixels. Here, the 4870 Can only Muster 102 Frames per Second While the Gtx Can Reach 122.
The Perfect Pixel Pusher?
It’s Impressive All the Way Through. However, Do We Have Any Qualms with This? the 4870’s 512 Mb Frame Buffer Is Currently Configured in A Way that Makes Us Doubt Its Longevity. in The Future, Game Engines May Require Even More Vram for Their Visuals.
Even if You Have a 30-Inch Monitor that Can Display 2,560 by 1,200, This Is Still a Problem Today. Half-Life 2’s Performance Is 28 Percent Better on The Gtx when Run at That Resolution. That’s Because the Gtx Is a More Powerful and Larger Processor.
We Have Confirmed with A Few of Ati’s Many Board Partners that 1 Gb 4870s Will Be Available in The Next Month or So. Given the Cutting-Edge Gddr5 Chips Ati Has Chosen, how Much of The 4870’s Significant Price Advantage Would the Additional Memory Eat Up?
Hot but Not Bothered
The Card’s Extreme Temperature Output Is the Only Other Minor Concern. It Came as A Bit of A Surprise, Given that We Measured Its Power Usage and Found It to Be 35 Watts Lower than That of The Gtx 280. It’s Not a Good Sign for The Future of These Cards. It Also Doesn’t Do Anything to Assist Your Overall System Temperature and Stability.
The Gtx 280 Also Has Two Further Advantages that Shouldn’t Be Overlooked. Nvidia’s Hopes for An Increase in Sales May Not Be Realised.
However, the Gtx Remains the World’s Fastest Graphics Processing Unit. It’s Pricey, but The Vast Bandwidth and Pixel Parallelism It Offers to Make It the Weapon of Choice for Gamers that Have Access to Ultra-Large Lcd Displays (24 Inches or More).
It’s Excellent News for Everyone Else, Though, Because There’s Not Much of A Reason to Shell out The £400 that Nvidia Is Asking for The Gtx 280. the GPU Developed by Ati Is Extremely Similar to Nvidia’s, yet It Costs only Half as Much.
As a Final Thought, Keep in Mind that For the Same Price as A Single Gtx 280, You Can Get Two 4870s and Operate Them in Crossfire X Multi-GPU Mode. neither Crossfire nor Nvidia’s Sli Rival Has Ever Won Over Our Hearts. Even So, if You Have £400 to Spare, a Pair of 4870s Is Hard to Beat.