Asus EAH4870 Dark Knight Review

tacohunter52 - 2009-03-29 00:31:16 in Video Cards
Category: Video Cards
Reviewed by: tacohunter52   
Reviewed on: April 20, 2009
Price: $224.99


There was once a time where kings ruled the land. Together a king and his knights would destroy their enemies and conquer new lands. Sadly, those days are gone, but one knight still lives on: The Dark Knight. No, I'm not talking about Batman. I'm talking about Asus's Dark Knight video card series. If nVidia is one kingdom then ATI is another land all together. The two are in a desperate fight to take over the territory and maintain control. As soon as one is able to hold any ground, the other sends another strike.

We just recently looked at Asus's ENGTS GTS 250, which was a member of this dark family. It featured a custom cooler with four heat pipes and didn't perform half bad. However, the ENGTS 250 isn't the only Dark Knight hanging around. ATI, with the help of Asus, has turned its 4870 into a medieval, armor clad god.

Today we will be looking at the EAH4870, which as stated above, is a member of Asus's Dark Knight series. If a video card's cooling solution is its armor, then the EAH4870 must have gone to the same blacksmith as then ENGTS 250. It uses the same four heat pipe cooling solution, which worked pretty well on the 250. It was both cool and quiet, the latter being something ATI's 48XX series cards aren't known for. Anyway, enough talk, let's find out if this Knight can live up to its title.


Closer Look:

If the video card is the knight, then its packaging must be its trusty steed. Packaging is always important, and every company does it differently. The EAH4870 came packaged in a slightly longer box then usual. Featured on the front of the box is a very detailed picture of the Dark Knight riding a horse. Also located on the front of the box is Asus's logo that reads "Rock Solid, Heart Touching." Under the horse you'll see that the card is indeed an EAH4870, and that it is a member of the DARK KNIGHT family. You'll also see that the card uses 1GB of GGDR5 memory. On the back of the box you'll see three main sections. The first section is titled "Powerful Features" and lists all of the EAH4870's features. The second section is titled "ASUS Exclusive Innovation." It lists the programs that come with the card. You'll also have a brief description of what each program does. The third section is titled "Recommended System Requirements." I bet you can't guess what's in this section. You'll also find Asus's logo, the video card's name, a "Maximum Refresh Rate (hx) Table," and a sticker telling you to register at Asus's website.



Lifting the front tab will give you two things. The first being information on the EAH4870's cooler. It shows you information on the four main parts of the fan, which are "four heat pipes" that enable average temperature on heat sink to enhance the heat transfer effects, "aluminum alloy" that is much lighter and has good thermal conductivity to help heat dissipation, and "large area" of heat sink to dissipate more heat. The big heat sink sucks a great amount of cool fresh air into the system with a noise level of only 32dB. On the right side you'll see information about GamerOSD. Basically, it shows you that you can adjust Display Settings, enable Video Capturing, and take screen shots. Every side of the box features Asus's Logo and the EAH4870's name, as well as a slogan saying "Enjoy Ultimate Gaming Experience with World's Fastest DDR5 Memory."



When you open the main box, you'll find a secondary black box. The box is completely black except for Asus's Logo in gold lettering centered in the middle. Upon opening this box, you'll see that everything has been safely packed in smaller black boxes with nothing but Asus's logo in gold lettering. Removing the first black box reveals the EAH4870, which is held securely in place by styrofoam. The box that rested on top of the video card contains your manual, drivers, and a free mouse pad. The box to the right of the GPU contains your accessories. Included with the accessories, you'll receive a DVI to VGA adapter, a DVI to HDMI adapter, a Crossfire bridge, a Molex to 6-pin adapter, and a component cable.



You can tell that Asus took a lot of care in packaging the EAH4870. As a result, it is some of the better packaging I have seen. Also, the idea to include the mouse pad was great, because if you're like me, you're too lazy to go and buy one. THANKS ASUS!!!

Let's find out what the EAH4870 looks like under the hood.

Closer Look:

ATI's RV770 core has been out for a while now, and it has had a pretty good run. For a while the RV770 came out on top in the 4870X2, though of course that was a dual GPU solution. Then again, the 295 is the best card out there, and it's almost two 280's. Asus's EAH4870 or "The Dark Knight," like all 4870s, utilizes the RV770 core. Along with ATI's core, the Dark Knight is adorned with 1GB of GDDR5 memory on a 256-bit bus and Asus's custom four heat pipe cooler. The RV770 core is nothing to laugh at either. It holds a little less then a billion transistors. Sadly though, our Knight didn't go through any "training," as it is stock clocked at 750MHz with a 900MHz memory clock. That's 
OK though, because it should give us plenty of room to put the Dark Knight through our own training.














The Dark Knight stuck to the trends in connectivity. It sports two DVI ports and one Component port. The Knight is armed with a DVI to VGA adapter and a DVI to HDMI adapter in order to be prepared for whatever you have to throw at it. As with all 4870s, the Dark Knight has two Crossfire ports, as well as an included Crossfire bridge.



Now let's look at the Knight's suit of armor, aka the heat sink. The Dark Knight's cooler is the same as the one we saw on the ENGTS 250. It has four heat pipes spread to both sides of the card. Unlike many coolers, there is no contact with the memory modules. However, if the EAH4870 is anything like the ENGTS 250, it won't need it. One major problem I had with this card is that the fan has NO shroud. Normally this wouldn't really be a problem, but the fan cable is a bit too close for my liking. If you aren't careful, I can see the wire getting easily eaten by the fan.



The heart and soul of the Dark Knight is located in the center of the card. Of course, it is in the form of an RV770 chip. The eight memory modules are formed in a square around the RV770 chip. Unlike nVidia, ATI went with the newer, faster technology. As a result, the Dark Knight is equipped with 1GB of GDDR5 memory. The EAH4870's PCB is red, and toward the back is the fan's power slot. Also located in the back are the card's two 6-pin power connectors.




Now that we have seen how the Knight is armed and built, let's get it installed.

Closer Look:

Even though we may very well wish differently, graphics cards are not, and probably will never be, plug and play hardware. This means that after you physically install it, you'll need to emotionally install it as well. Goofballness aside, you will need to have the correct drivers installed in order for your new video card to function correctly. Lucky for us, installing drivers is WAY easy. "Alls Yous Gots To Do" is pop the driver disc into your optical drive. Okay I lied, that isn't "Alls Yous Gots To Do." After you've placed the driver disc into your optical drive, wait for the auto run to pop up. Once this has happened, you'll be greeted with Asus's install screen. From this screen you'll have three options. The first option is to install the drivers. Clicking on this option will bring you to the "Next" screen. Directly after the "Next" screen, you'll be brought to what I call the "Are you sure you want to install this program even though you put the disc in your computer and then clicked next" screen. At this screen you'll have to click install. However, after you've done this, you're pretty much home free, or at least until everything has finished installing. Then you'll have to click finish and choose if you want to restart your computer now or later. You'll have to click "Finish" again! Yeah for extra buttons!!! After clicking "Finish" for the second time you can give yourself a pat on the back. You've successfully installed your video card drivers. The best part is you only had to go through eight screens to do it.

















Okay, so now the drivers are installed, but what about the programs that were included on the driver CD? You'll be able to install these programs by clicking the second option at ASUS's install screen. For those of you that are curious, the option is titled "Utilities." Once again you'll have to click "Next", "Install", choose whether to restart now or later, and then click "Finish."




ASUS included three programs with the EAH4870. These programs consist of "Video Security," "GamerOSD," and "SmartDoctor." Let's begin with "Video Security."

Video Security:

If you haven't guessed what Video Security does, well you're in the same boat as me. Until I looked it up I honestly had no clue what this program was for. Although now it seems very obvious, because "security" is in the program's name. "Video Security" allows you to monitor your belongings via different types of hardware through remote locations by using the Internet. This category, of course, usually means cameras, but hey what the heck, I'm sure someone can rig a sonar sensor to monitor their house. If you're not big on security, or don't own any cameras, this program allows you to watch TV via a TV tuner. Of course, you'll be without sound, but as long as your computer is on you'll have the ability to quickly catch the scores on the latest game or know there is a flood warning without leaving your computer. If you're using this program for what it's meant to be used for, you'll have multiple options. These include recording only if something unusual is detected, sending private messages via Scype, sending an email that there has been an intruder, and of course, constantly recording.







GamerOSD is a nifty little program for anyone who wants to record themselves playing a game. When I say this, I mean record only the game, not actually the person sitting at their desk playing. That's what my brother thought I meant. For anyone interested in making "Frag" videos, GamerOSD would be perfect. Unfortunately, Fallout 3 and GamerOSD have some sort of disagreement, so I was not able to play Fallout 3 with GamerOSD installed on my computer. Uninstalling the program immediately fixed that problem.



Smart Doctor:

SmartDoctor is Asus's monitoring/overclocking utility. You'll be able to monitor things such as temperature, and fan speed. Well actually, that is all you can monitor. In addition to the ability to monitor basic card facts, SmartDoctor allows you to overclock your video card on the fly. You can easily adjust the Engine (core) and memory clocks by moving the sliders left and right. Moving them to the right will increase your clock speeds, while moving them to the left will result in a decrease. Under SmartDoctor settings you'll have four tabs. These tabs consist of Settings, Monitor, Fan Control, and HyperDrive. Under the Settings tab you'll be able to change monitor poll interval, disable warnings during games, minimize SmartDoctor during games, and Minimize SmartDoctor after reboot. The Monitor tab will allow you to adjust voltage alarm settings, temperature alarm settings, and fan alarm settings. The Fan Control tab will allow you to adjust fan speed and temperature boundaries. Last, but not least, is HyperDrive. HyperDrive will automatically overclock your card during games. If need be, you can set the clock speed to that which HyperDrive will clock your card. No, that does not mean if you put a core clock of 900 that HyperDrive will automatically make it work. I found that out the hard way.




Now that we've got the drivers and programs installed, let's take a quick look at the CCC.

Closer Look:

nVidia has the "nVidia Control Panel" and ATI has the "Catalyst Control Center." In truth, they are one and the same and quite similar to the built in Windows display settings. Basically, they let you change, well, display settings. There are way too many settings for me to go over every single one before you grow old, so I will take you through the basics.













Information Center: In the Information Center you can view extensive hardware information as well as driver, CCC and DirectX versions.



Digital Panel: In the Digital Panel section you can set and view display information such as monitor attributes, adjustments, and color correction.



3D: In the 3D tab you can adjust general image quality settings as well as Anti-Aliasing, Anisotropic Filtering and color schemes. There are also a few settings for DirectX and OpenGL.



AVIVO Video & ATI Overdrive: AVIVO settings allow you to alter the color settings for better viewing. ATI Overdrive gives the user control of the GPU and memory frequencies. For novice users there is an automated clock configuration utility that will find the best overclock for your system settings.



Enough of the boring stuff, let's find out how the EAH4870 performs.



Graphics Engine:
ATI Radeon HD 4870
Bus Standard:
PCI Express 2.0
Video Memory:
Engine Clock:
Memory Clock:
3.6GHz (900 MHz DDR5)
Memory Interface:
CRT Max Resolution:
2048 x 1536
DVI Max Resolution:
2560 x 1600
D-Sub Output:
Yes x 1 (via DVI to D-Sub adaptor x 1)
DVI Output:
Yes x 2 (DVI-1)
HDMI Output:
Yes x 1 (via DVI to HDMI adaptor x1)
HDTV Output (YPbPr):
HDCP Support:
TV Output:
Yes (YPbPR to S-Video and Composite)
Adaptor/Cable bundled:
1 x DVI to D-Sub adaptor
1 x DVI to HDMI adaptor
1 x HDTV-out cable
1 x CrossFire cable
1 x Power cable
Software Bundled:
ASUS Utilities & Driver
Special Bundled- Leather Mouse PAD
The card size is 4.376 inches x 9.5 inches



ASUS Features:

Graphics GPU Features:


All information on this page provided by


It's time to find out if this "Dark" card can live up to its title of "Knight." I'll be putting this card through a series of game tests and synthetic benchmarks in order to see how the EAH4870 performs against its opponents. The "Dark Knight" will be paired up with the OCC test rig listed below. The CPU will be clocked at 3GHz and all video cards will be set at the driver defaults. All cards will be tested under the same game conditions in order to provide as few variants as possible.


Comparison Video Cards:


Overclocked Settings:

I decided that I would try and push the "Knight" as far as it would go using the Catalyst Control Center. However, after I had gotten to a core clock of 850 and was still able to pass CCC's built in test, I decided something probably wasn't right. Like any sane person would do, I switched over to Rivatuner. That is after all what ANY sane person would do, isn't it? I began by increasing both the core and memory clocks by increments of 20MHz.. I was able to jump twice with stability, but on the third jump, not so much. With a core clock of 810 and a memory clock of only 960, I was fairly certain the core clock was the source of instability. So I lowered it to 809 and did a quick 3DMark Vantage run. To my surprise it actually worked, so I decided to test out L4D. Of course, I was greeted with a few minor artifacts. This means the occasional green flicker on the screen. I then lowered the core clock to 808 and reran both 3DMark and L4D, this time everything worked perfectly. Now that I had gotten the core clock set as high as it would go, I began working on the memory. At this point I was getting tired. It was 4:37 AM and I had now been at this for 77 hours straight testing for you, so I just randomly set the memory clock to 1020. I ran the tests and...they failed. I then began lowering the memory clock by 1MHz increments until I could successfully run through all of my tests, as well as a little extra game time in Fallout 3 without any problems. The resulting clock speed was 1015Mhz.. I know that these aren't the best speeds, but I was going for stability rather than just a "screen shot clock." However, I did try to see how far I could push the "Knight" and still semi-run the games. This turned out to be a core clock of 840MHz and a memory clock of 1096MHz. Believe me, when I said "semi-run" the games, I meant "semi-run" the games. I'd have a total play time of about ten minutes before a crash. All in all, I'd say a core clock increase of 58MHz and a memory clock increase of 115MHz isn't all that bad. It also isn't the best, but hey I'll take it.



  1. Far Cry 2
  2. Crysis Warhead
  3. BioShock
  4. Call of Duty World at War
  5. Dead Space
  6. Fallout 3
  7. Left 4 Dead
  8. 3DMark 06 Professional
  9. 3DMark Vantage


Far Cry 2:

Featuring a new game engine named Dunia, this game looks to be another one to stress your video card. Built especially for Far Cry 2, this engine allows for real time effects and damage. This next generation first person shooter comes to us from Ubisoft surprisingly - not from Crytek. The game is set in a war-torn region of Africa where there is a non-existent central government and the chaos that surrounds this type of social environment. If you have seen the movie Blood Diamond, you know the setting. Ubisoft puts the main storyline of the game into focus with these statements: "Caught between two rival factions in war-torn Africa, you are sent to take out "The Jackal," a mysterious character who has rekindled the conflict between the warlords, jeopardizing thousands of lives. In order to fulfill your mission you will have to play the factions against each other, identify and exploit their weaknesses, and neutralize their superior numbers and firepower with surprise, subversion, cunning and, of course, brute force." In this version of the game, you don't have the beautiful water, but instead the beauty and harshness of the African continent to contend with. Most games give you a set area that can be played through, while Ubisoft has given the gamer the equivalent of 50km2 of the vast African continent to explore while in pursuit of your goals. The settings used are just a few steps below the maximum in-game settings and offer a good blend of performance vs. visual quality.











The "Dark Knight" offered great performance in this game. It was able to perform about the same as both Sapphire's 4870 and the GTX 260. On top of that, the "Dark Knight" completely killed the other "Dark Knight" (i.e. the GTS 250). Of course, the 250 is not supposed to be competing with the 4870, so this doesn't really mean much. With the overclock, the "Dark Knight" was able to perform about the same as the 4890. I personally think that is pretty cool.


Crysis Warhead:

Crysis Warhead is a standalone expansion pack situated in time with the story line of the original Crysis. As Sergeant "Psycho" Sykes, you have a secret mission to accomplish on the far side of the Island. Along the way there are EMP blasts and Aliens to contend with, as you hunt down the KPA chief. This game uses an enhanced version of the Cryengine 2.













The "Knight's" performance in Crysis Warhead was what you'd expect. It was outperformed by the GTX 260 and the 4890 in all resolutions, as well as Sapphire's 4870 in the higher one. With the overclock the EAH4870 was able to more than beat the GTX 260. In fact, with the overclock, the "Dark Knight" was able to perform about the same as the 4890.



BioShock is one of the creepier games you can play. The building of a perfect Utopian society undersea gone horribly wrong. Its inhabitants driven mad with the introduction of tonics and genetic modifications. Now Rapture is just a shadow of its former glory with little girls looting the dead of what little they have left while being shadowed by guardians known as "Big Daddys". It is a demanding game that will make your hardware scream for mercy. This First Person Shooter allows for an infinite number of weapons and modifications to provide a unique experience each time it is played. The environment, as well as the story line, will wrap you up for hours on end.












The "Dark Knight's" performance in Bioshock was not so great. The "Dark Knight" was outperformed by everything except the ENGTS 250. Even when overclocked, the "Dark Knight" did not gain any ground.. Oh well, I guess you can't win them all.


Call of Duty World at War:

Activision's Call Of Duty World at War goes right back to the bread and butter of the franchise - WWII FPS action. In this rendition, you start off in the South Pacific and move through a series of missions that flip back and forth between the Russian front and the island hopping advance toward the Imperial Japanese homeland. Included is a mission on Peliliu Island, arguably one of the more difficult and costly battles in the Pacific theater. The gameplay in the single player mode is rather short, but the game makes up for this shortcoming in online gameplay. If you thought COD4 looked nice, this game is amazing with the graphics maxed out playing at a large resolution. This game just may be the reason to move to a 30 inch monitor. I will use Fraps to measure a section of gameplay in the Semper Fi map on Makin Island, to compare performance of these video cards.











If the "Dark Knight" performed poorly in Bioshock, its performance in COD:WaW completely makes up for it. Let me break it down for you by resolution. In the low resolution the "Dark Knight" performed exactly the same as the GTX 260, but worse than the Sapphire 4870 and the 4890. An overclock didn't improve the "Knight's" standings, but it did add a few extra FPS. In the middle resolution the "Dark Knight" once again performed the same as the GTX 260. Not only that, it outperformed every other card and tied with the 4890. With an overclock the "Dark Knight" was able to beat every card. At the high resolution the "Dark Knight" was able to outperform every card except the 4890. Even with an overclock, the "Dark Knight" only lost to the 4890 by 1 FPS. I'd say the "Dark Knight" kicks some serious tail in this game.


Dead Space:

In Dead Space, as part of the crew of the USG Kellion, you are headed on a repair mission to repair a ship in distress. Things go from bad to worse starting with the crash landing and the seemingly silent and "Dead" ship, the USG Ishimuru. Offering a non-traditional over the shoulder viewing angle, the game gets right into the action as soon as the ventilation systems are activated. From there things get worse with the appearance of the Necromorphs. Survival now becomes a primary concern for the main character Isaac Clarke. Survive and you may find the loved one that was aboard the Ishimuru.













Something about this game must not agree with the EAH4870's stock settings. At stock speeds the "Dark Knight" lost to every card. However, when overclocked, the "Dark Knight" outperformed every card except the 4890. Is anyone else confused? I'll admit these scores are a bit strange, but I ran through the tests multiple times with similar results. I guess the lack of performance at stock speeds was tacked onto the overclocked speeds.


Fallout 3:

Fallout 3 takes place after the nuclear holocaust that nearly wipes out civilization and leaves the world an irradiated mess. The vault, or fallout shelter, you are born in is Vault 101, situated in the Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia area. The premise of the game is that the Vault has been sealed for 200 years and now your father has opened the vault and escaped without a trace. The Overseer believes you are involved, so you must escape as well into the wasteland that was once our nation's capital. I find myself looking for landmarks, since I am familiar with the streets of Washington DC.












Here is another game where the EAH4870 was outperformed by everything except the ENGTS 250. Once again, the overclock didn't really help anything. However, the scores for this game are so similar between the cards that the "Dark Knight's" performance didn't really bother me. After all, FPS in the mid 70s is better than FPS in the low 20s.


Left 4 Dead:

Left 4 Dead is a new release from Valve that leaves you as part of a group of survivors in a world where an infection has rapidly turned the populace into a zombie horde. You goal is to make it to a rescue point, all the while fighting what seems like overwhelming odds. Along the way there are safe houses where you can replenish your weapons and health. The movie 'I Am Legend' comes to mind to set the stage for this game. But unlike the movie, there are four characters and not just a lone gun and his faithful companion. The horde is not at all like the typical slow walking, foot shuffling zombie. These zombies are quick and work with the pack mentality. Your job: survival! Below are several screenshots to show some in-game action.











The EAH4870 was able to offer great performance in L4D. At the low resolution it outperformed everything except the 4890. In the higher two resolutions it was still able to stay on top of Sapphire's offering. Once again, the overclock was able to outperform everything except the 4890. Not the best scores, but also not the worst. I'll take it.


3DMark 06:

3DMark06 is one of the benchmarks that always comes up when a bragging contest is begun. 3DMark06 presents a severe test for many of today's hardware components. Let's see how this setup fares. The settings we will use are listed below.














The "Dark Knight" offered decent performance at this benchmark. It didn't perform the best, but it also wasn't the worst. In every resolution it performed about the same as Sapphire's 4870. When overclocked, the "Knight" performed closer to the 4890 and outperformed the GTX 260.


3DMark Vantage:

Featuring all-new game tests, this benchmark is for use with Vista-based systems. "There are two all-new CPU tests that have been designed around a new 'Physics and Artificial Intelligence-related computation.' CPU test two offers support for physics related hardware." There are four preset levels that correspond to specific resolutions. 'Entry' is 1024x768 progressing to 'Extreme' at 1920x1200. Of course, each preset can be modified to arrange any number of user designed testing. For our testing, I will use the four presets at all default settings.












Once again the "Dark Knight" is outperformed by almost every card except the ENGTS 250. The EAH4870 did, however, beat the Sapphire 4870 at the lowest settings. That being said, the ENGTS 250 does beat the EAH4870 at the lowest settings, but this was of course an abnormally high score. The overclock only improved the "Dark Knight's" score by a few hundred, which didn't help it defeat any opponents.


What is a knight? Traditionally, a knight is an esteemed and entitled member of the warrior class in a society. In other words, they are the best soldiers. They've been trained to take on challenging foes and crush them to bits. ASUS's "Dark Knight" was able to put up a very strong fight in most of the benchmarks it went through. However, it was not able to outperform every card thrown at it. This, of course, is 100% understandable because the 4870 is nothing new. In fact, the EAH4870 performed extremely well for its class. In most benchmarks, it was able to compete with the GTX 260 and Sapphire's 4870, which was equipped with 2GB of GDDR5 memory as opposed to only 1GB. In some cases, with an overclock, the "Dark Knight was able to outperform ATI's new 4890.

The EAH4870 was equipped with a custom cooling design from ASUS. However, it isn't custom to the EAH4870, only to ASUS's "Dark Knight" series. So in a way, you can say that the EAH4870 was chosen to wear the armor it was given. As with all coolers in the "DK" series, the EAH4870's cooler utilizes four heat pipes. This should provide a better cooling solution than the reference coolers. I didn't like that the cooler had absolutely no contact with the memory modules, but once again this proved to be a non-issue. On top of everything else the fan was, believe it or not, QUIET! What? A 4870 with a quite fan? That is correct, the only time I was able to hear the fan was if I turned the speed up to 100%. Even then it only made a silent hum.

While this "Dark Knight" won't be slaying any dragons in real life, it will definitely help you slay some in-game beasts. I wouldn't purchase this card if you're looking for an upgrade to the newest and best. If you're on a relatively tight budget or if you're 100% against the green team, then go ahead and give this card a try. If you're someone looking to give Crossfire a try, I'd suggest a pair of EAH4870s, simply because they're quiet. Instead of having two loud cards, you can have two not so loud cards. Then again, that's just me. Maybe loud noises are soothing to you.