Sapphire HD 4870 Video Card Review
By Gabriel Torres on July 24, 2008


Introduction

Hardware Secrets Golden Award

AMD/ATI has released two new high-end graphics chips recently, Radeon HD 4870 and Radeon HD 4850, known by the codenames RV770 XT and RV770 PRO, respectively. As you can guess by the numbers, HD 4870 provides a higher performance compared to HD 4850 and currently is the fastest GPU provided by AMD/ATI – until Radeon HD 4870 X2, a video card featuring two HD 4870, is launched. In this review we will benchmark HD 4870 from Sapphire and compare it to its main competitors from NVIDIA. Is this video card a good buy? Check it out.

Sapphire HD 4870 follows AMD/ATI’s reference model both on its physical aspect as in specifications: the graphics chip runs at 750 MHz with its memory being accessed at 900 MHz (real clock) through a 256-bit memory interface. Just for a quick comparison, HD 4850 runs at 625 MHz and has its memory running at 993 MHz.

But what is really new on HD 4870 is the use of the new GDDR5 memory, which transfers four data per clock cycle instead of two like it happens on DDR through GDDR3 technologies. Because of that the memories achieve a performance as if they were working at 3.6 GHz, pumping data transfer rate up to 115.2 GB/s (these numbers for HD 4850 are 1,986 MHz and 63.5 GB/s, respectively).

Both new chips are based on DirectX 10.1 (Shader 4.1) architecture, where all processing units inside the graphics chip is generic, being able to process any kind of vector (pixel shader, vertex shader, etc). What is really impressive about these two new chips is that they both have 800 processing units inside the chip. We will provide a short table comparing the specs from this new video card with the specs from its main competitors. Before that, let’s take an overall look at Sapphire HD 4870.

Sapphire HD 4870
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Figure 1: Sapphire HD 4870.

Sapphire HD 4870
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Figure 2: Sapphire HD 4870.

Sapphire HD 4870
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Figure 3: Sapphire HD 4870.

This video card requires the installation of two 6-pin auxiliary power connectors, see in Figure 4. The product comes with two adapters for you to convert standard peripheral power plugs into a 6-pin power plug if your power supply doesn’t provide them. At least this time AMD decided to stick with the 6-pin connector instead of using the 8-pin one, which isn’t found on the majority of power supplies.

Sapphire HD 4870
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Figure 4: Auxiliary power connectors.

Introduction (Cont’d)

We removed the video card cooler to take a look. As you can see in Figure 5, the cooler base is made of copper, using two thick copper heat-pipes to connect the base to the aluminum fins.

Sapphire HD 4870
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Figure 5: Video card cooler.

In Figure 6, you can see the video card without its cooler. It uses eight 512-Mbit Qimonda IDGV51-05A1F1C-40X GDDR5 chips, making its 512 MB memory (512 Mbits x 8 = 512 MB). These chips have a maximum transfer rate of 4 Gbps (“40X” marking), which is equivalent of a 4 GHz GDDR5 clock or 1 GHz (4 GHz / 4) real clock. Since on this video card the memory was running at 900 MHz, there is a good 11.11% headroom for you to overclock the memories with them still inside their specifications. Of course you can always try pushing them above their specs. In Figure 7 we provide a close-up of the GDDR5 memory chips.

Sapphire Radeon HD 4870
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Figure 6: Sapphire HD 4870 with its cooler removed.

Sapphire Radeon HD 4870
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Figure 7: GDDR5 memory chips.

In Figure 8, you can see all accessories and CDs/DVDs that come with this video card, which includes a 2 GB USB drive (limited time offer). With the accessories that come with this card you can convert the video output to VGA, HDMI, component video and composite video, plus the DVI and S-Video connectors already present on the product.

Sapphire Radeon HD 4870
click to enlarge
Figure 8: Accessories.

This video card comes with three games inside a DVD called “Ruby ROM 1.1”: Call of Juarez, Dungeon Runners and Stranglehold. Programs that come with this video card include CyberLink DVD Suite (PowerProducer 4, PowerDirector 5 Express, Power2GO 5.5, Mediashow 3 and trial versions of PowerBackup 2.5, PowerDVD Copy and LabelPrint 2), Cyberlink Power DVD 7,3DMark06 Full, EarthSim and GameShadow.

Now let’s compare the Radeon HD 4870 specifications to its main competitors.

More Details

To make the comparison between Sapphire HD 4870 and the other video cards we included in this review easier, we compiled the table below comparing the main specs from these cards. If you want to compare the specs of Radeon HD 4870 to any other video card not included in the table below, just take a look at our NVIDIA Chips Comparison Table and on our AMD ATI Chips Comparison Table.

GPU

Core Clock

Shader Clock

Processors

Memory Clock

Memory Interface

Memory Transfer Rate

Memory

Price

GeForce GTX 280

602 MHz

1,296 MHz

240

1,107 MHz

512-bit

141.7 GB/s

1 GB GDDR3

USD 430-475

XFX GeForce GTX 260 640M XXX

640 MHz

1,363 MHz

192

1,150 MHz

448-bit

128.8 GB/s

896 MB GDDR3

USD 330

GeForce GTX 260

576 MHz

1,242 MHz

192

1,000 MHz

448-bit

112 GB/s

896 MB GDDR3

USD 290-320

GeForce 9800 GX2

600 MHz

1,500 MHz

128

1,000 MHz

256-bit

64 GB/s

1 GB GDDR3

USD 370-500

GeForce 9800 GTX

675 MHz

1,688 MHz

128

1,100 MHz

256-bit

70.4 GB/s

512 MB GDDR3

USD 185 – 325

Radeon HD 4870

750 MHz

750 MHz

800

900 MHz

256-bit

115.2 GB/s

512 MB GDDR5

USD 285

Radeon HD 4850

625 MHz

625 MHz

800

993 MHz

256-bit

63.5 GB/s

512 MB GDDR3

USD 175

Sapphire Atomic HD 3870 X2

857 MHz

857 MHz

320

927 MHz

256-bit

59.3 GB/s

1 GB GDDR3

Radeon HD 3870

776 MHz

776 MHz

320

1,125 MHz

256-bit

72 GB/s

512 MB GDDR4

USD 125 - 180

As you can see the main difference between the new Radeon HD 4870 and its competitors is the amazing number of processing units, 800 against 192 on GeForce GTX 260, for example.

It is important to note that this table reflects the current prices for the listed video cards, which are lower than the prices we published in other reviews, since prices tend to drop every day. NVIDIA is now pushing their partners to sell GeForce GTX 280 for USD 500 (from the original USD 650 MRSP), GeForce GTX 260 for USD 300 (from the original USD 400 MRSP) and GeForce 9800 GTX for USD 199.

With these new prices the main competitor to Sapphire HD 4870 is GeForce GTX 260.

The only high-end video card not included in our comparison is GeForce 9800 GTX+, which is basically an overclocked GeForce 9800 GTX. Click here to read the full story.

Some important observations regarding this table:

Before going to our tests let’s recap the main features from Sapphire HD 4870.

Main Specifications

Sapphire Radeon HD 4870 main features are:

* Researched at Shopping.com on the day we published this review.

How We Tested

During our benchmarking sessions, we used the configuration listed below. Between our benchmarking sessions the only variable was the video card being tested.

Hardware Configuration

Software Configuration

  • Windows Vista Ultimate 32-bit
  • Service Pack 1

Driver Versions

  • nForce driver version: 15.17
  • AMD/ATI video driver version: Catalyst 8.5
  • AMD/ATI video driver version: Catalyst 8.6 + hotfix (8.501.1.0, 6/21/2008) (Radeon HD 4850, HD 4870)
  • NVIDIA video driver version: 175.16
  • NVIDIA video driver version: 177.34 (GeForce GTX 260, GTX 280)
Software Used

Resolutions and Image Quality Settings

Since we were comparing very high-end video cards, we ran all our tests under three 16:10 widescreen high resolutions: 1680x1050, 1920x1200, and 2560x1600. We always tried to run the programs and games in two scenarios for each resolution, one with low image quality settings and then maxing out the image quality settings. The exact configuration we used will be described together with the results of each individual test.

Error Margin

We adopted a 3% error margin; thus, differences below 3% cannot be considered relevant. In other words, products with a performance difference below 3% should be considered as having similar performance.

3DMark06 Professional

3DMark06 measures Shader 3.0 (i.e., DirectX 9.0c) performance. We run this software under three 16:10 widescreen resolutions, 1680x1050, 1920x1200, and 2560x1600, first with no image quality enhancements enabled – results we call “low” on the charts and tables below –, then setting 4x anti-aliasing and 16x anisotropic filtering. See the results below.

Sapphire HD 4870

3DMark06 Professional 1.1.0 - 1680x1050 - LowScoreDifference
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X21626014.39%
GeForce 9800 GX2156239.91%
GeForce GTX 280149044.85%
XFX GeForce GTX 260 640M XXX (OC)148784.66%
Sapphire Radeon HD 487014215 
GeForce GTX 260137013.75%
GeForce 9800 GTX1275911.41%
Sapphire Radeon HD 48501184220.04%
Radeon HD 38701069432.93%

Sapphire HD 4870

3DMark06 Professional 1.1.0 - 1920x1200 - LowScoreDifference
GeForce 9800 GX21554719.44%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X21548918.99%
GeForce GTX 280142159.20%
XFX GeForce GTX 260 640M XXX (OC)137305.48%
Sapphire Radeon HD 487013017 
GeForce GTX 260126682.75%
GeForce 9800 GTX1163111.92%
Sapphire Radeon HD 48501069121.76%
Radeon HD 3870945437.69%

Sapphire HD 4870

3DMark06 Professional 1.1.0 - 2560x1600 - LowScoreDifference
GeForce 9800 GX21301528.11%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X21231521.22%
GeForce GTX 2801176615.82%
XFX GeForce GTX 260 640M XXX (OC)109778.05%
Sapphire Radeon HD 487010159 
GeForce GTX 26098942.68%
GeForce 9800 GTX874316.20%
Sapphire Radeon HD 4850807725.78%
Radeon HD 3870682348.89%

Sapphire HD 4870

3DMark06 Professional 1.1.0 - 1680x1050 - HighScoreDifference
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X21626046.98%
GeForce 9800 GX21390025.64%
GeForce GTX 280121579.89%
XFX GeForce GTX 260 640M XXX (OC)117035.79%
Sapphire Radeon HD 487011063 
GeForce GTX 260106174.20%
GeForce 9800 GTX898123.18%
Sapphire Radeon HD 4850888124.57%
Radeon HD 3870691559.99%

Sapphire HD 4870

3DMark06 Professional 1.1.0 - 1920x1200 - HighScoreDifference
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X21548954.67%
GeForce 9800 GX21221321.96%
GeForce GTX 280109919.76%
XFX GeForce GTX 260 640M XXX (OC)105124.97%
Sapphire Radeon HD 487010014 
GeForce GTX 26094505.97%
Sapphire Radeon HD 4850797225.61%
GeForce 9800 GTX781128.20%
Radeon HD 3870611463.79%

Sapphire HD 4870

3DMark06 Professional 1.1.0 - 2560x1600 - HighScoreDifference
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X21231563.11%
GeForce 9800 GX2982930.19%
GeForce GTX 280870415.28%
XFX GeForce GTX 260 640M XXX (OC)81658.15%
Sapphire Radeon HD 48707550 
GeForce GTX 26072853.64%
Sapphire Radeon HD 4850589628.05%
GeForce 9800 GTX577430.76%
Radeon HD 3870431974.81%

3DMark Vantage Professional

3DMark Vantage is the latest addition to the 3DMark series, measuring Shader 4.0 (i.e., DirectX 10) performance and supporting PhysX, a programming interface developed by Ageia (now part of NVIDIA) to transfer physics calculations from the system CPU to the video card GPU in order to increase performance. Mechanical physics is the basis for calculations about the interaction of objects. For example, if you shoot, what exactly will happen to the object when the bullet hits it? Will it break? Will it move? Will the bullet bounce back? Notice that we didn’t upgrade the PhysX to the latest version, which would make the physics calculations for CPU Test 2 to be made by the GPU instead of the CPU on NVIDIA video cards (since we aren't considering CPU or 3DMark scores this change wouldn't produce any increase in our results anyway).

We ran this program at three 16:10 widescreen resolutions, 1680x1050, 1920x1200, and 2560x1600. First we used the “Performance” profile, and then we used the “Extreme” profile (basically enabling anti-aliasing at 4x, anisotropic filtering at 16x, and putting all detail settings at their maximum or “extreme” value. The combination of 2560x1600 resolution with extreme settings didn’t produce reliable results according to the program, so we aren’t going to add them here. The results being compared are the “GPU Scores” achieved by each video card.

Sapphire HD 4870

3DMark Vantage Professional 1.0.1 - 1680x1050 - PerformanceScoreDifference
GeForce GTX 280769524.25%
GeForce 9800 GX2699012.87%
XFX GeForce GTX 260 640M XXX (OC)68089.93%
Sapphire Radeon HD 48706193 
GeForce GTX 26058985.00%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X256519.59%
Sapphire Radeon HD 4850479729.10%
GeForce 9800 GTX380562.76%
Radeon HD 38702977108.03%

Sapphire HD 4870

3DMark Vantage Professional 1.0.1 - 1920x1200 - PerformanceScoreDifference
GeForce GTX 280610625.12%
GeForce 9800 GX2537910.23%
XFX GeForce GTX 260 640M XXX (OC)53158.91%
Sapphire Radeon HD 48704880 
GeForce GTX 26045826.50%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2433612.55%
Sapphire Radeon HD 4850372531.01%
GeForce 9800 GTX289168.80%
Radeon HD 38702269115.07%

Sapphire HD 4870

3DMark Vantage Professional 1.0.1 - 2560x1600 - PerformanceScoreDifference
GeForce GTX 280354930.10%
XFX GeForce GTX 260 640M XXX (OC)306812.46%
GeForce 9800 GX229106.67%
Sapphire Radeon HD 48702728 
GeForce GTX 26026403.33%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2238214.53%
Sapphire Radeon HD 4850205033.07%
GeForce 9800 GTX155775.21%
Radeon HD 38701244119.29%

Sapphire HD 4870

3DMark Vantage Professional 1.0.1 - 1680x1050 - ExtremeScoreDifference
GeForce GTX 280600537.73%
XFX GeForce GTX 260 640M XXX (OC)531922.00%
GeForce 9800 GX2485811.42%
GeForce GTX 26045313.92%
Sapphire Radeon HD 48704360 
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2356722.23%
Sapphire Radeon HD 4850344526.56%
GeForce 9800 GTX270361.30%
Radeon HD 38701855135.04%

Sapphire HD 4870

3DMark Vantage Professional 1.0.1 - 1920x1200 - ExtremeScoreDifference
GeForce GTX 280473235.59%
XFX GeForce GTX 260 640M XXX (OC)418820.00%
GeForce GTX 26035762.46%
GeForce 9800 GX235080.52%
Sapphire Radeon HD 48703490 
Sapphire Radeon HD 4850275326.77%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2266930.76%
GeForce 9800 GTX203871.25%
Radeon HD 38701439142.53%

Call of Duty 4

Call of Duty 4 is a DirectX 9 game implementing high-dynamic range (HDR) and its own physics engine, which is used to calculate how objects interact. For example, if you shoot, what exactly will happen to the object when the bullet hits it? Will it break? Will it move? Will the bullet bounce back? It gives a more realistic experience to the user.

We ran this program at three 16:10 widescreen resolutions, 1680x1050, 1920x1200, and 2560x1600, maxing out all image quality controls (i.e., everything was put on the maximum values on the Graphics and Texture menus). We used the game internal benchmarking feature, running a demo provided by NVIDIA called “wetwork.” We are putting this demo for downloading here if you want to run your own benchmarks. The game was updated to version 1.6.

Sapphire HD 4870

Call of Duty 4 - 1680x1050 - MaximumScoreDifference
GeForce 9800 GX2106.213.70%
GeForce GTX 280105.312.74%
XFX GeForce GTX 260 640M XXX (OC)98.75.67%
Sapphire Radeon HD 487093.4 
GeForce GTX 26091.02.64%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X275.723.38%
Sapphire Radeon HD 485072.429.01%
GeForce 9800 GTX69.135.17%
Radeon HD 387043.0117.21%

Sapphire HD 4870

Call of Duty 4 - 1920x1200 - MaximumScoreDifference
GeForce 9800 GX294.523.69%
GeForce GTX 28091.720.03%
XFX GeForce GTX 260 640M XXX (OC)84.810.99%
GeForce GTX 26077.10.92%
Sapphire Radeon HD 487076.4 
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X261.324.63%
Sapphire Radeon HD 485059.129.27%
GeForce 9800 GTX57.732.41%
Radeon HD 387035.4115.82%

Sapphire HD 4870

Call of Duty 4 - 2560x1600 - MaximumScoreDifference
GeForce 9800 GX264.834.72%
GeForce GTX 28064.834.72%
XFX GeForce GTX 260 640M XXX (OC)58.120.79%
GeForce GTX 26053.511.23%
Sapphire Radeon HD 487048.1 
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X240.618.47%
GeForce 9800 GTX38.325.59%
Sapphire Radeon HD 485036.731.06%
Radeon HD 387022.4114.73%

Crysis

Crysis is a very heavy DirectX 10 game. We updated this game to version 1.2.1 and used the HOC Crysis Benchmarking Utility to help us collecting data. Since we don’t think the default demo based on the island map stresses the video card the way we want, we used the HOC core demo available with the abovementioned utility. We ran this demo under three 16:10 widescreen resolutions, 1680x1050, 1920x1200, and 2560x1600, first with image quality set to “low” and then with image quality set to “high.” Since all video cards achieved a number of frames per second below 10 at 2560x1600 with image details set to “high,” we are not including this test as the results aren’t reliable. We ran each test twice and discarded the first result, as usually the first run achieves a lower score compared to the subsequent runs since the game loses time loading files. The results are below, in frames per second (FPS).

Sapphire HD 4870

Crysis 1.2.1 - 1680x1050 - LowScoreDifference
GeForce GTX 28012523.76%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X212523.76%
XFX GeForce GTX 260 640M XXX (OC)1097.92%
Sapphire Radeon HD 4870101 
GeForce GTX 260992.02%
GeForce 9800 GTX8420.24%
Sapphire Radeon HD 48508420.24%
GeForce 9800 GX27534.67%
Radeon HD 38707142.25%

Sapphire HD 4870

Crysis 1.2.1 - 1920x1200 - LowScoreDifference
GeForce GTX 28011536.90%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X210828.57%
XFX GeForce GTX 260 640M XXX (OC)9614.29%
Sapphire Radeon HD 487084 
GeForce GTX 260831.20%
GeForce 9800 GTX6921.74%
Sapphire Radeon HD 48506725.37%
GeForce 9800 GX26333.33%
Radeon HD 38705844.83%

Sapphire HD 4870

Crysis 1.2.1 - 2560x1600 - LowScoreDifference
GeForce GTX 2809579.25%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X27133.96%
XFX GeForce GTX 260 640M XXX (OC)6216.98%
Sapphire Radeon HD 487053 
GeForce GTX 260521.92%
GeForce 9800 GTX4420.45%
Sapphire Radeon HD 48504323.26%
GeForce 9800 GX24226.19%
Radeon HD 38703551.43%

Sapphire HD 4870

Crysis 1.2.1 - 1680x1050 - HighScoreDifference
GeForce GTX 2804213.51%
XFX GeForce GTX 260 640M XXX (OC)382.70%
Sapphire Radeon HD 487037 
GeForce GTX 2603215.63%
Sapphire Radeon HD 48502927.59%
GeForce 9800 GTX2927.59%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X22642.31%
GeForce 9800 GX22548.00%
Radeon HD 38701994.74%

Sapphire HD 4870

Crysis 1.2.1 - 1920x1200 - HighScoreDifference
GeForce GTX 2803413.33%
XFX GeForce GTX 260 640M XXX (OC)300.00%
Sapphire Radeon HD 487030 
GeForce GTX 2602615.38%
Sapphire Radeon HD 48502330.43%
GeForce 9800 GTX2236.36%
GeForce 9800 GX22142.86%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X22050.00%
Radeon HD 38701687.50%

Unreal Tournament 3

Unreal Tournament 3 is the latest installment from this famous first person shooter franchise, supporting DirectX 10 graphics when installed on Windows Vista with a DX10 compatible card. We upgraded Unreal Tournament 3 to version 1.2 and benchmarked it with the help of HOC UT3 benchmarking utility using the “Containment” demo, maxing out image quality settings (image quality at “high” and anisotropic filtering at x16). It is important to note that we haven’t applied the PhysX mod to this game, which would transfer PhysX processing from the CPU to the GPU on NVIDIA cards. The results are below, in frames per second (FPS).

Sapphire HD 4870

Unreal Tournament 3 - 1680x1050 - MaximumScoreDifference
GeForce 9800 GTX1127.69%
GeForce 9800 GX21083.85%
XFX GeForce GTX 260 640M XXX (OC)1083.85%
GeForce GTX 2601061.92%
Sapphire Radeon HD 4870104 
GeForce GTX 2801040.00%
Sapphire Radeon HD 4850968.33%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X28423.81%
Radeon HD 38708325.30%

Sapphire HD 4870

Unreal Tournament 3 - 1920x1200 - MaximumScoreDifference
GeForce 9800 GTX10810.20%
GeForce 9800 GX21068.16%
XFX GeForce GTX 260 640M XXX (OC)1068.16%
GeForce GTX 2601035.10%
Sapphire Radeon HD 487098 
GeForce GTX 280917.69%
Sapphire Radeon HD 48508910.11%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X27825.64%
Radeon HD 38707530.67%

Sapphire HD 4870

Unreal Tournament 3 - 2560x1600 - MaximumScoreDifference
GeForce 9800 GTX9217.95%
GeForce 9800 GX29217.95%
XFX GeForce GTX 260 640M XXX (OC)858.97%
Sapphire Radeon HD 487078 
GeForce GTX 260762.63%
GeForce GTX 2806225.81%
Sapphire Radeon HD 48506030.00%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X25152.94%
Radeon HD 38704765.96%

Half-Life 2: Episode Two

Half-Life 2 is a popular franchise and we benchmark the video cards using Episode Two with the aid of HOC Half-Life 2 Episode Two benchmarking utility using the “HOC Demo 1” provided by this program. We ran the game in three 16:10 widescreen resolutions, 1680x1050, 1920x1200, and 2560x1600, under two scenarios. First with quality set to maximum, bilinear filtering and anti-aliasing set to x0. This configuration we are calling “low” on the charts and tables below. Then we maxed out image quality settings, enabling x16 anisotropic filtering and 16xQCS anti-aliasing. This configuration we are calling “high” on our charts and tables. We updated the game up to the June 9th 2008 patch.

Sapphire HD 4870

Half-Life 2: Episode Two - 1680x1050 - LowScoreDifference
Sapphire Radeon HD 4870170.0 
Sapphire Radeon HD 4850164.93.09%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2160.45.99%
XFX GeForce GTX 260 640M XXX (OC)1587.59%
GeForce GTX 260157.08.28%
GeForce GTX 280156.38.77%
GeForce 9800 GTX153.810.53%
Radeon HD 3870145.716.68%
GeForce 9800 GX2136.824.27%

Sapphire HD 4870

Half-Life 2: Episode Two - 1920x1200 - LowScoreDifference
Sapphire Radeon HD 4870165.0 
XFX GeForce GTX 260 640M XXX (OC)157.05.10%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2156.75.30%
GeForce GTX 280156.35.57%
GeForce GTX 260153.07.84%
Sapphire Radeon HD 4850149.810.15%
GeForce 9800 GTX146.912.32%
GeForce 9800 GX2135.222.04%
Radeon HD 3870120.137.39%

Sapphire HD 4870

Half-Life 2: Episode Two - 2560x1600 - LowScoreDifference
GeForce GTX 280145.124.02%
XFX GeForce GTX 260 640M XXX (OC)137.017.09%
GeForce 9800 GX2130.611.62%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2129.710.85%
GeForce GTX 260124.05.98%
Sapphire Radeon HD 4870117.0 
GeForce 9800 GTX107.98.43%
Sapphire Radeon HD 485093.924.60%
Radeon HD 387072.860.71%

Sapphire HD 4870

Half-Life 2: Episode Two - 1680x1050 - HighScoreDifference
Sapphire Radeon HD 4870144.0 
GeForce 9800 GTX137.94.42%
XFX GeForce GTX 260 640M XXX (OC)134.07.46%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2126.114.20%
GeForce 9800 GX2125.414.83%
GeForce GTX 260121.019.01%
Sapphire Radeon HD 4850116.223.92%
GeForce GTX 28089.361.25%
Radeon HD 387068.3110.83%

Sapphire HD 4870

Half-Life 2: Episode Two - 1920x1200 - HighScoreDifference
Sapphire Radeon HD 4870124.0 
GeForce 9800 GTX116.36.62%
XFX GeForce GTX 260 640M XXX (OC)113.09.73%
GeForce 9800 GX2111.111.61%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2106.516.43%
GeForce GTX 260101.022.77%
Sapphire Radeon HD 485097.227.57%
GeForce GTX 28070.376.39%
Radeon HD 387056.8118.31%

Sapphire HD 4870

Half-Life 2: Episode Two - 2560x1600 - HighScoreDifference
Sapphire Radeon HD 487075.0 
GeForce 9800 GTX71.35.19%
XFX GeForce GTX 260 640M XXX (OC)69.08.70%
GeForce GTX 26061.022.95%
Sapphire Radeon HD 485058.428.42%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X250.648.22%
GeForce 9800 GX237.5100.00%
GeForce GTX 28035.5111.27%
Radeon HD 387034.9114.90%

Quake 4

We upgraded Quake 4 to version 1.4.2 and ran its multiplayer demo id_perftest with SMP option enabled (which allows Quake 4 to recognize and use more than one CPU), under the same three 16:10 widescreen resolutions, 1680x1050, 1920x1200, and 2560x1600, first with image quality settings configured at “low” and then with image quality settings configured at “ultra.” You can check the results below, given in frames per second.

Sapphire HD 4870

Quake 4 - 1680x1050 - LowScoreDifference
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2285.302.46%
Sapphire Radeon HD 4870278.46 
GeForce GTX 280268.803.59%
Sapphire Radeon HD 4850241.3815.36%
XFX GeForce GTX 260 640M XXX (OC)240.9215.58%
GeForce GTX 260234.4518.77%
Radeon HD 3870227.7522.27%
GeForce 9800 GTX225.5223.47%
GeForce 9800 GX2220.4826.30%

Sapphire HD 4870

Quake 4 - 1920x1200 - LowScoreDifference
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2266.237.29%
Sapphire Radeon HD 4870248.13 
XFX GeForce GTX 260 640M XXX (OC)237.574.45%
GeForce GTX 280235.925.18%
GeForce GTX 260220.9612.30%
Sapphire Radeon HD 4850207.5819.53%
Radeon HD 3870188.4031.70%
GeForce 9800 GX2174.0642.55%
GeForce 9800 GTX158.8756.18%

Sapphire HD 4870

Quake 4 - 2560x1600 - LowScoreDifference
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2197.8224.42%
XFX GeForce GTX 260 640M XXX (OC)170.997.55%
GeForce GTX 280168.816.18%
Sapphire Radeon HD 4870158.99 
GeForce GTX 260149.286.50%
Sapphire Radeon HD 4850128.0024.21%
Radeon HD 3870116.0137.05%
GeForce 9800 GTX114.3439.05%
GeForce 9800 GX2100.0758.88%

Sapphire HD 4870

Quake 4 - 1680x1050 – HighScoreDifference
GeForce GTX 280246.391.68%
XFX GeForce GTX 260 640M XXX (OC)243.410.45%
Sapphire Radeon HD 4870242.32 
Sapphire Radeon HD 4850241.910.17%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2237.981.82%
GeForce GTX 260222.329.00%
GeForce 9800 GX2218.8010.75%
GeForce 9800 GTX194.6524.49%
Radeon HD 3870167.2644.88%

Sapphire HD 4870

Quake 4 - 1920x1200 - HighScoreDifference
GeForce GTX 280224.444.52%
XFX GeForce GTX 260 640M XXX (OC)222.283.51%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2218.621.81%
Sapphire Radeon HD 4870214.74 
Sapphire Radeon HD 4850207.573.45%
GeForce GTX 260200.287.22%
GeForce 9800 GX2158.3535.61%
GeForce 9800 GTX158.1835.76%
Radeon HD 3870144.8048.30%

Sapphire HD 4870

Quake 4 - 2560x1600 - HighScoreDifference
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2177.3626.34%
GeForce GTX 280168.4319.98%
XFX GeForce GTX 260 640M XXX (OC)150.457.17%
GeForce GTX 260149.806.71%
Sapphire Radeon HD 4870140.38 
Sapphire Radeon HD 4850127.889.77%
GeForce 9800 GTX102.0437.57%
GeForce 9800 GX294.6848.27%
Radeon HD 387094.4048.71%

Conclusions

With so much data presented in the previous pages, we think we should summarize our review answering two questions: how is Sapphire HD 4870 compared to Radeon HD 4850 and how is Sapphire HD 4870 compared to its main competitor, GeForce GTX 260, especially now that NVIDIA is promoting a price cut on this model in order to make it a competitor to HD 4870.

In most scenarios Sapphire HD 4870 was between 20% and 30% faster than Sapphire HD 4850, but on some games like Quake 4 and Half-Life 2: Episode Two both cards achieved a similar performance, depending on the video configuration used.

Sapphire HD 4870 and GeForce GTX 260 achieved a similar performance in most scenarios. The only time that GeForce GTX 260 was faster than Sapphire HD 4870 was on Call of Duty 4 at 2560x1600 maxing out image quality settings (11% faster). In all other configurations on this game both cards achieved the same performance level.

Sapphire HD 4870 was faster than GeForce GTX 260 in some games. On Crysis it was around 15% faster when we set image quality settings to “high,” but both cards achieved the same performance when image quality was set at “low.” On Half-Life: Episode 2 HD 4870 was 6-8% faster when image quality was set at “low” and 19-23% faster when we maxed out image quality settings. And on Quake 4 HD 4870 was between 6.50% and 19% faster, depending on the video configuration.

You can see the performance difference between Sapphire HD 4870 and other high-end video cards by browsing the tables published in the previous pages.

If you have around USD 300 to spend on a video card Radeon HD 4870 is certainly today your best option. As mentioned, it reaches the same performance as GeForce GTX 260 or better, and if you search carefully you can find it being sold cheaper than GeForce GTX 260.

Of course if you don’t have that much money and still want a high-end video card our recommendation is Radeon HD 4850, which can be currently found below the USD 200 mark in the USA and thus providing a terrific cost/benefit ratio for the average user.

A final trick: at this time Radeon HD 4870 will only run stable if you install Catalyst 8.6 drivers and a hotfix made available by AMD.

Originally at http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/article/Sapphire-HD-4870-Video-Card-Review/589


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