Visiontek HD4870 Review
Reviewed by: ajmatson
Reviewed on: July 17, 2008
Recently we took a look at the PowerColor HD 4870 which did very well at the launch of this new GPU. So after some time I can't help but wonder, are the manufacturers getting all of the bugs worked out for this awesome graphics card? Right now the HD 4870 cards are the pinnacle of ATI's lineup, taking the GTX 200 series head on for the top performer for gamers and enthusiasts alike. You wonder though, how does the performance score when the same chip is manufactured by two different companies. Will the scores vary or stay constant?
Today we are going to take a look at Visiontek's HD 4870 video card. Visiontek used the same reference design as the PowerColor HD 4870 we reviewed and there were some heat issues that concerned us. Has Visiontek addressed these issues? Will its card be better than the rest and possibly take over the GTX 260 or GTX 280? With these questions in mind, let's first take a better look at the graphics card.
Visiontek uses a very intimidating design for its packaging. The faded alien head looks eerie with the glowing blue eyes, which like the hardware inside, means business. The front of the box highlights some of the features of the HD 4870, including the memory specification of GDDR5 memory. There is also a sticker claiming that the Visiontek Card provides the best visual experience for the game Mass Effect, however no game or demo is included. It would have been nice to have included so you can actually see for yourself instead of a marketing ploy. The back of the box shows more in depth features as well as what adapters are available on the card. On the sides you have at your disposal the system requirements as well as a detailed specifications list.
When you open the packaging you are presented with what I like to call a "Little Black Box," which seems appropriate with the alien head on the front. Inside this little black box are all of the goodies you have been waiting for. Inside is the HD 4870 card itself, a component video out dongle and S-Video dongle, a DVI to VGA adapter, a DVI to HDMI adapter, two 4-pin molex to 6-pin PCI Express power adapters, a Crossfire interconnect, driver CD with Catalyst 8.6, and the manual.
Now that everything is out of the box, let's take a better look at the card itself.
Like I stated before, the Visiontek HD 4870 uses the ATI reference design for the card. There is the Dual Slot cooler and the red colored PC Board, which makes the HD 4870 stand up and say I am an ATI based card. Even the sticker on the heatsink shroud is a generic Radeon logo sticker instead of a personalized one from Visiontek like we saw on the PowerColor HD 4870. Like I mentioned before, the HD 4800 series card are plagued with heat issues and they run way too hot under load for my taste. ATI claims that this card is safe at these temperatures and there is no worry about burning out the card, but for other components the added heat could be an issue, especially since I have had two stickers melt off of two of the HD 4800 series cards I own. This makes you wonder why Visiontek choose to go with the reference cooler instead of an aftermarket cooling solution. On the bottom of the board there is a retention bracket designed to keep the load of the heatsink spread even across the card so as not to damage the critical components of the HD 4870 video card. On the side near the heatsink grill there is a sticker even warning about the hot air being expelled from the card.
There front of the card is where the connectors are located for the video card. The Visiontek HD 4870 has two DVI ports which support Dual Link DVI and one S-Video port. HDMI and VGA connections are also supported using the supplied adapters. To feed the power hungry beast, you will need two free 6-pin PCI Express power connections. I would also recommend that you make sure you have a very efficient power supply if you plan to run more than one card in a CrossfireX setup. On the outer spine of the card there are the two Crossfire connectors used to connect the Crossfire interconnects for CrossfireX mode for a powerful multi-GPU system.
The heatsink on the Visiontek HD 4870 uses a Dual Slot design with a copper heatsink and pipes connected to aluminum fins for maximum heat dissipation. The heatsinks are enclosed in a plastic shroud with a large blower style fan to push air across the fins and out through the back of the case via the PCI slots. This allows for effective cooling while not allowing the heat created to stay enclosed in the computer case.
Once the cooler is removed, we can get a real good view of the chips on the Visiontek HD 4870. The GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) is based on the RV770 core and is clocked at 750MHz. The memory is clocked at 900MHz (3600MHz effective, which is 900MHz x 4) and the HD 4870 uses GDDR5 memory instead of the usual GDDR3 or GDDR4. The GDDR5 memory gives you increased bandwidth, while maintaining a 256-bit memory interface instead of the 512-bit one run on the newer NVIDIA GTX cards. The 512MB GDDR5 memory is manufactured by Qimonda. To the rear of the card is the voltage area where you can see the amount of power regulation that the Visiontek HD 4870 requires.
Now that we have had a good look at the Visiontek HD 4870, let's put it back together and take a look at the software needed to run this bad boy.
Once you insert the driver CD into your drive you are presented with a menu screen. There are a few options you can choose. You can install the drivers, view the electronic versions of the documentation, and check for updates to the software. The update link brings you to the ATI site for the latest Catalyst versions. The Documentation and Extras opens a folder where you can view and install extras like Microsoft DirectX 9 if needed.
When you click the install drivers option, you are presented with the Catalyst Control Center installation menu. This will install all of the necessary drivers and software needed to properly run the Visiontek HD 4870. We will take a better look at the Catalyst Control Center software in the next section.
In addition to installing the software from the CD, ATI has provided an unsupported hotfix for the HD 4800 series cards which can be found in the ATI support forums. This hotfix claims to improve overall performance and stability for the HD 4850 and HD 4870 graphics cards. This hotfix also has the Catalyst Control Center in the install if you do not already have it installed prior to the update.
Now that everything is installed, let's take a better look at the Catalyst Control Center.
The Catalyst Control Center is where all of the settings for the PowerColor HD 4870 are available. There's a lot that you can change and set, however I am only going to go over the main parts of it.
Information Center: The Information Center is where you can view everything about the hardware and software associated with the video card, such as driver versions and hardware specifications.
Digital Panel: The Digital Panel is where you can set and view monitor information, HDTV settings, ATI's AVIVO color settings, and LCD Overdrive to apply LCD settings that override the monitor's settings.
3D: The 3D tab is where you can modify your visual settings for performance or quality, including Anti-Aliasing, Anisotropic Filtering, color schemes and more.
VIVO Video & ATI Overdrive: AVIVO settings allow you to alter the color settings for better viewing. ATI Overdrive is where you can push the HD 4870 to the limits with overclocking settings. There are controls for the advanced user, or you can use Auto-Tune for automatic overclocking.
|Memory Clock||900 MHz / 1800MHz effective|
Yes (Using DVI-to-HDMI adaptor)
|Connectors||2 x dual-link DVI-I 1 x S-Video Out
|Bus Technology||PCI Express 2.0|
|Form Factor||Dual Slot Design
|Power Connectors||2 x 6-pin|
- Powered by ATI Radeon HD 4870.
- 256-bit Memory interface.
- DirectX 10.1 and Shader Model 4.1 support.
- PCI Express 2.0 support.
- On-Chip HDCP.
- ATI CrossFireX multi-GPU support for highly scalable performance.
- Up to 24x Custom Filter Anti-Aliasing.
- 55nm Process Technology.
- Built-in HDMI and 7.1 surround audio.
- ATI Avivo HD Video and Display technology.
- Unified Video Decoder 2 (UVD) for Blu-ray and HD DVD.
Well now we get to what we have all been waiting for. I am going to put the Visiontek HD 4870 through a series of benchmarks to see where it stands in the vast world of all these graphics cards available to us consumers. I will also pit it against some of the newest video cards on the market as well as some seasoned models to see how it compares to the competition. For the testing, I will be running all hardware at their stock speeds, timings, and voltages so that there are no variables that may interfere with the scores and throw off the testing.
- Processor: Intel Q9450 Core 2 Quad 333x8
- Motherboard: Gigabyte X48-DQ6
- Memory: Mushkin XP2 Redline 8000 2 x 2GB 5-5-5-12
- Video Card(s): Visiontek HD 4870 w/ Catalyst 8.6
- Power Supply: Mushkin 800 watt Modular power supply
- Hard Drive: Seagate 750GB SATA
- Optical Drive: LG 20x DVD+/-RW
- OS: Windows Vista Ultimate Edition
Comparison Video Cards:
- PowerColor HD 4870
- PowerColor HD 4850
- Asus EN9800 GTX
- XFX 9600GT
- Sapphire HD3870
- Asus 8800 GT
- XFX GTX 280
- EVGA GTX 260 FTW
- Visiontek HD4870 780/1080MHz
For the Visiontek HD 4870 I was only able to get a limited overclock on the GPU of 30MHz before it became unstable. This seems to be a pattern with the HD 4870 cards as I achieved the same GPU overclock on the PowerColor HD 4870 I reviewed earlier. On the memory I was able to push out 180MHz for a total speed of 1080MHz, or 4320MHz effective (1080MHz x 4). While this is not a high overclock, this was near the limit of what the Overdrive will allow the GPU to max out at. So the final overclock speeds which the benchmarks will be run at are 780MHz on the GPU and 1080MHz on the memory.
- Knights of the Sea
- Call of Duty 4
- World in Conflict
- Call of Juarez
- Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts
- 3DMark 06 Professional
Crysis is a new addition to the gaming benchmark suite used at OverclockersClub.com. This game is one of the most anticipated and system intensive games to be released to the gaming community. The Crysis single player demo includes both CPU and GPU benchmarks to test the performance of your processor and video card.
- Anti-Aliasing: x2
- Advanced settings to medium
The Visiontek card took the PowerColor HD 4870 head on and did well against the GTX 200 series cards at high resolutions.
PT Boats: Knights of the Sea is a new DX10 title that features its own proprietary graphics engine currently in development. The game is a combination of Real Time Strategy and Simulation. You have the ability to control the entire crew or just a single member. Play as the German, Russian or Allied navies, and prove your mettle on the open seas.
- Anti-Aliasing: x0
- Image Quality: High
- DirectX Version: 10
- All resolutions: 60Hz
The Visiontek card was slightly faster than the PowerColor HD 4870.
BioShock is one of the newest games on the market. 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.
- All settings to maximum
- V-Sync: Off
The Visiontek HD 4870 was falling behind until the end where it took over.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is the successor to the Call of Duty crown. This iteration of the game is fought in many of the world's hot spots with modern armaments and firepower. You can play as either a US Marine or British SAS trooper. Since this game does not feature an in-game test, I will run through a section of the game and measure average FPS using Fraps 2.9.3.
- Anti-Aliasing: x4
- Anisotropic Filtering: Max
- Texture Quality: Extra
- All settings max
The Visiontek HD 4870 dominated every card except for the GTX 200 series.
World in Conflict is a newly released DX10, Real Time Strategy game that simulates the all-out war the world hopes never comes. The difference in this RTS game is that it is not the typical "generate wealth and build" type of game. Instead, you advance by conquering your foe.
- Anti-Aliasing: x0
- Anisotropic Filtering: x16
- Graphic Detail: Very High
The Visiontek was slightly faster than the PowerColor HD 4870 at max resolution, but still a little behind the GTX 260 in World in Conflict.
Call of Juarez is a DX10, first-person shooter set in the Wild West of the late 1800's. The game is inspired, in part, by the movies of the Wild West genre of the seventies and eighties. The game can be played in both single player and multiplayer modes. The game focuses on realistic graphics and gameplay designed to take advantage of the latest video cards on the market.
- Details: High
- Shadowmap Size: 2048x2048
- Shadow Quality: Normal
- Anti-Aliasing: MSAA x4
The Visiontek pulled top spot through all of the cards tested at the two highest resolutions.
Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts is the latest chapter in the Company of Heroes series. The scene is WWII. The mission is Operation Market Garden, the first allied attempt to break into the Third Reich. Play as the British or Germans. This Real Time Strategy game is brought to us by Relic Entertainment.
- Anti-Aliasing: x8
- All other settings to maximum
The Visiontek HD 4870 held on stong the entire time of testing with Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts.
3DMark06 is one of those benchmarks that always comes up when a bragging contest breaks out. 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.
- SM2.0 Graphics Tests: GT1- Return to Proxycon, GT2- Firefly Forest
- CPU Tests: Cpu1- Red Valley, CPU2- Red Valley
- HDR/SM3.0 Graphics Tests: HDR1- Canyon Flight, HDR2- Deep Freeze
The Visiontek HD 4870 just about matched the GTX 260 and was not far behind the GTX 280.
I again find myself very impressed with the ATI based HD 4870 video cards. The performance is outstanding, and when you factor in the price, you can not go wrong with the Visiontek HD 4870. For years there has been a war between the two graphics chip superpowers, ATI and nVIDIA, with the balance of power constantly shifting. This time ATI has taken the war by force with the HD 4800 series cards. Sure, nVIDIA has the GTX 280 which in some benchmarks is slightly better, but when you factor in the price tags, the HD 4870 comes out on top. Combine two of these beasts in a Crossfire combination and you will have a winning system. Not only is this a killer card for gaming, but with HDCP built into the card on-chip as well as built-in HDMI and 7.1 surround sound support, your movies and other media will play crisp and smoothly.
I am still weary about the heat issues however. Whether it can be fixed with a software update or by using third party cooling solutions, something needs to be done by the card manufacturers to address this issue. I am surprised no one is worried about this except us, the consumers, especially since case temperatures go up because of the added heat radiating from the graphics card. I am also surprised that the HD 4870 is not very overclockable since the HD 4850 card has the same core. Either way, this is a win-win card and I recommend it to anyone building a new system or wanting to upgrade their current one. You will not be disappointed.
- Rivals the speed of the GTX 260
- GDDR5 memory
- CrossfireX support for multi-GPU setups
- On-Chip HDCP
- 55nm manufacturing process
- Built-in HDMI and 7.1 surround sound support
- Price to performance ratio very impressive
- Still has the heating issue
- Not very high overclocking potential