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Sapphire HD4870 X2 Review

ccokeman    -   August 11, 2008
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Conclusion:

The performance of the HD 4870X2 from Sapphire, at times, was a little disappointing. In some of the benchmarks, the dual card setup was simply faster; after running the Crysis and Knights of the Sea benchmarks it was not looking good. One positive was that as the resolution increased, the performance did not drop off as dramatically as the dual HD 4870 CrossFire setup. After these two benches, things started looking better. While testing the Sapphire HD 4870X2, I found that it performed best at the higher resolutions, when the other cards would slow down - usually at 1680x1050 and higher. In 3DMark06, it was the runaway performance leader, scoring almost 16000 points with a 2.6GHz processor. Putting in a QX9770 CPU and clocking it up to 4.0GHz, as well as pushing the clock speeds on the HD 4870X2, brought a 3DMark06 score of 22520 points - higher than I have ever benched a single card at! This is higher than the 9800 GX2 that I recently reviewed. 3DMark Vantage is not part of our suite of benchmarks yet, but since the benchmark was part of the bundle, I ran it to see where the performance fell. With the CPU and GPU at their stock settings, the performance test was run, and scored 12786 marks. With the same QX9770 clocks, and the Sapphire card at its maximum overclock of 805/950MHz, I scored 15234 in Vantage at the "Performance" preset. The "Extreme" preset yielded 6977 at stock settings. Again, far and away ahead of any card I have run.

Overclocking the HD 4870X2 was a bit challenging due to a couple things. The initial drivers were a bit buggy, and would crash the benchmarks used in this review. After getting a second set of drivers, the issue was resolved. The other issue was the temperatures of the cores, and ultimately the whole heatsink assembly. This assembly is what is used to cool the memory as well as the two GPU cores. The heat generated caused the memory overclock to fail above 950MHz - only a 50MHz increase over the stock speeds. The GPU cores did not fare much better at 805MHz, just a 55MHz increase. With load temperatures well into the 90 degree Celsius range, with no way to manually increase the fan speed, this was all that was possible with the stock cooling.

If the performance at higher resolutions is appealing, then putting two of these cards together in a CrossFireX configuration should be mind blowing. Playing your favorite games in full HD at 2560x1600 ought to be an amazing experience. Along that vein, watching the latest HD and Blu-ray videos with 7.1 surround sound via an HDMI cable would make this an exceptional card to use in a high-end HTPC, albeit a bit extreme on the high-end side. Price-wise, the Sapphire HD 4870X2 should come in around the $550 dollar mark, putting it right above the level of the Nvidia GTX 280 and 9800 GX2. So with performance at the higher resolutions comparable to, or better than, both of those comparison cards on our test system, the HD 4870X2 could be a wise choice.

 

Pros:

  • Performance
  • 55nm process
  • PowerPlay technology
  • Unified Video Decoder
  • 7.1 Surround sound support
  • CrossFireX capable
  • 2GB of GDDR5 memory

 

Cons:

  • Hot Hot Hot
  • No fan control
  • Overclocking headroom
  • Initial driver release

 

 

OCC Gold



  1. Introduction & Closer Look
  2. Closer Look (The Video Card)
  3. Closer Look (Drivers & Programs)
  4. Closer Look (Catalyst Control Center)
  5. Specifications & Features
  6. Testing: Setup & Overclocking
  7. Testing: Crysis
  8. Testing: Knights of the Sea
  9. Testing: Bioshock
  10. Testing: Call of Duty 4
  11. Testing: World in Conflict
  12. Testing: Call of Juarez
  13. Testing: Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts
  14. Testing: 3DMark06 Professional
  15. Conclusion
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