Product: ATi Radeon HD4870
Company: AMD
Authour: Alex 'AlexV' Voicu
Editor: Eric 'Ichneumon' Amidon
Date: July 28th, 2008
Wrapping Things Up

If you're on this page you're either interested in our thoughts about the RV770 in general, and the 4870 in particular, or, more likely, made an error when clicking on the links to the pieces containing graphs. Although that is probably unfortunate, stick around, there might be one or two interesting things mentioned here.

Before anything, let's look at where the 4870 stands in comparison with the 4850:

4870 vs 4850: Percentile increase- AVG FPS
4870 vs 4850: Percentile increase- AVG FPS
4870 vs 4850: Percentile increase- MIN FPS
4870 vs 4850: Percentile increase- MIN FPS
4870CF vs 4850CF: Percentile increase- AVG FPS
4870CF vs 4850CF: Percentile increase- AVG FPS
4870CF vs 4850CF: Percentile increase- MIN FPS
4870CF vs 4850CF: Percentile increase- MIN FPS

There's nothing truly spectacular going on: the 4870 is about 20% faster on average without AA, with the lead increasing to around 30% with 8X AA, the rule applying both to average and minimum framerates. This indicates that the 4850 wasn't truly bandwidth starved under most circumstances, since if that were the case, the 4870 would enjoy a lead higher than its 20% core-clock increase would warrant, given its huge bandwidth advantage. Only higher AA modes allow it to gain some speed-and herein lie the confounding factor.

Based on work we're currently doing, we're finding that quite a few games aren't that comfortable with only 512MB of VRAM, when one starts being naughty resolution wise and adding AA- we exemplified this with GRiD, but the same rule applies to games like Crysis, NWN2, Jericho, to name some. This is the first confounding factor: being VRAM limited causes the cards to level artificially. Had these been 1 GB cards, we think the 4870 would've distanced itself somewhat more with 8X AA, in the aforementioned VRAM limited titles.

The second, less important but still worth mentioning aspect is related to the newness of the memory controller, in general, and the addition of GDDR5 to the 4870, in particular. New memory controller + new memory type should leave some space open for optimization, so slight performance bumps via new drivers are theoretically possible. Be aware that this is a guess based on how the 4870 behaves compared to the 4850 with regard to initial memory management for a scene/memory management when dealing with VRAM overflow situations.

What is fairly safe to say is that the 4870 makes the 3870X2 redundant, whilst being considerably cheaper than it. It also is more lax in its power requirements, which might matter for some.

Of the Crossfire setups there's little worth mentioning really, asides from the fact that we start running into possible CPU limitations with the 4870CF setup, so if you're considering such a setup make sure that you're gaming at a fairly high resolution and that you like AA- otherwise a single GPU should do quite nicely.

Rounding off the RV770 generation as a whole, it's quite hard to not be impressed by it- given our obvious and undeniable fanboy status (we wonder how many will take this statement at face value), we're utterly thrilled. A fast, cheap, advanced and widely available new line of GPUs-what more could one want? Three things, actually:

  • 1 GB SKUs, especially for the 4870

  • A form of fan control, so that the epidemic of "AYEE, IT BURNS" electronic screams is cured

  • Either a flexible way of manipulating Crossfire profiles, or a way to update them on the fly without having to update the whole driver package- exe renaming is not a healthy practice (yes, these are rehashes of what we wanted for the 4850...we lack imagination, sadly)

Now, there are rumblings that suggest that all of those aspects will be taken care of rather soon- we'll be waiting for that with bathed breath, as they're the only things we somewhat disliked. Of course, given the fact that we were too busy playing, we had little time to perform adequate disliking.

There are a lot of things left to uncover, most of which are very intriguing: the new memory controller and its peculiarities, what's up with Edge-Detect...and, of course, the big black monster that caused a few underwear-monsoons this Monday, when it was previewed. So, in the usual, mercantile spirit, we'll urge you to stay tuned- and promise that the lateness issues have been taken care of.

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