iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






ATI RADEON HD 4870 X2 2x1024MB PCI-E

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Out of doubt, this product can be theoreticallytwice as fast as the 4870 card. But in practice, it's 1.5-1.8 times as fast, sometimes even slower. When you read graphs and performance gain values, you must keep in mind that dual-GPU cards (both from AMD or NVIDIA) have a big drawback: software distribution of load between processors. So maturity and performance of a given game depends solely on how well programmers finetuned the corresponding driver. There are a lot of games, where all these superpowerful dual-GPU cards demonstrate low performance and lags, to make things worse. It happens, when a processor has finished its previous task and gets an easy assignment, while the second processor is loaded "to the brims", so overall performance slumps. So we get a huge spread of instant FPS (from 5 to 60 or higher). Visually, it will look as lags, which may irritate some gamers. I repeat for those readers, who are in the habit of snatching phases out of context and then complaining about them in forums – these lags are not bound to happen, it's just a possibility. It all depends on a given game, driver versions, and subjective attitude of a gamer.

AMD has tried to design the fastest graphics cardin the world. Whether the company has succeeded or not is up to gamers to decide, because we must mention some spread of results. Besides, the new card is outperformed in a number of tests. So we cannot give a single-value estimate – whether it's a king or not. As we can see, the drivers need some polishing.

Besides, we must stress that all winning resultswere registered only in universally recognized games with benchmarks, or in 3DMark, for which developers finetune drivers in the first place. But gamers play not only these games... We already described some of the problems with HD 3870 X2 in detail (in our 3D-Quality issued in February, 2008).

Nevertheless, preliminary research shows thatRADEON HD 4870 X2 has fewer problems with lags (we just played 2-3 games, where the 3870 X2 card apparently suffered from problems with instant FPS). Out of doubt, it's all possible owing to the new into-GPU bridge and perfected drivers. Anyway, we shall continue to look into this issue. It will clear up very soon, because our 3D-Quality will be released in a couple of days, which will give us details how the 4870 X2 card performs in other games without built-in benchmarks.

It's a pity AMD abandoned the idea of powerfulsingle-GPU solutions to compete with top single-GPU cards from NVIDIA. The company manufactures single-GPU cards only in the Mid-End segment, and then uses them to build top dual-GPU solutions.

Drawing a bottom line, we should note that R700 isa really very fast GPU. Despite its potential shortcomings, it threatens top products from NVIDIA. So we have already witnessed response from the Californian company dropping prices for GeForce GTX 280/260.

As always, the final choice is up to the reader.We can only inform you about products and their performance, but can't make a buying decision. In our opinion, that should solely be in the hands of the reader, and possibly their budget. ;)

And here is one more thing, we'll repeat itin each review. Having decided to choose a graphics card on your own, you should be aware that you change one of the key components of your system unit, which may require additional configuration for better performance or you may have to enable some functions to achieve higher quality. This is not an end product, it's just a component. So you should understand that you'll have to learn 3D graphics basics in order to get maximum performance from a new graphics card. And some graphics in general. If you don't want to deal with it, you shouldn't upgrade your computer on your own: you'd better buy ready PCs with preconfigured software and technical support from your system integrator, or game boxes, where no configuration is required, everything necessary is already configured in a game.

And one more thing: we want to add a few wordsabout our benchmarks:

In our updated article about FRAPS, we illustrated how crude and inaccurate tests with this utility are. Testers do not have other tools, except for benchmarks built into games.

This article and the first review explain that it's sometimes possible to test games with integrated and IDENTICALLY looped demos (although with lots of potential errors, because measurement accuracy depends on a given tester: will he/she start/stop FRAPS in time or do it later/earlier). But I have run across situations, when demo load changes abruptly in the very beginning or end. So a half-second delay in starting/stopping the utility changes the average FPS by 15-20%. That's not a measurement error, such a test is a total waste of time. You delay the test once, then you start it too early (not intentionally, of course), and you end up with absolutely different performance ratios.

But even that's not the most important thing. Thefact is, there are almost no games with built-in demos anymore. So testers are forced to use a totally unacceptable method (in our opinion), when they measure gaming performance by walking a straight line from the initial point in a scene to a selected finish spot (the nearest fence, street lamp, tree, etc.)

We all understand that it's impossible to navigateto a finish spot in PRECISELY the same route with different cards and in different resolutions. Besides, such games always introduce random elements into a scene, objects may be placed slightly differently ON THE SAME SCENE.

Unfortunately, web sites that publish a hugenumber of tests do not reveal their procedures in each game (except for those with built-in benchmarks)

So we are of the opinion that it's better to offera limited number of game tests, but each one should be crystal clear and accurate, and they should all show differences between graphics cards.

To find more information regarding the currentgraphics card market and the performance of various cards, feel free to read our monthly special i3D-Speed and i3D-Quality.

We express our thanksto
AMD Russia
and Nikolay Radovsky
for the provided graphics card

PSU for the testbed was kindly provided by TAGAN

                               The Dell 3007WFP monitor for the testbeds was kindly provided by NVIDIA

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