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Appeared on: Monday, November 03, 2008
Gainward HD4870 1GB GS


1. Features, specifications

We have in our hand today Gainward's high-end implementation of ATI 4870 series of graphics cards. Part of Gainward's "Golden Sample" series of overclocked graphics solutions, the Gainward HD4870 1024MB GS has 1024MB of GDDR5 memory onboard instead of the 512MB ATI/AMD offers in its reference design.

The specifications of the card say that it comes with a dual BIOS support that would allow you to run the card in two over-clocking modes/speeds; "Normal" mode and "Turbo" mode:

Out test sample did not support this dual BIOS feature.

The 256 bits/0.8nsec GDDR5 memory (1GB) onboard is very promising and our first thoughts are how this monster would perform against the Nvidia 260GTX product that features 896MB of memory.

Gainward has also equipped the graphics card with a modified cooling system that is expected to increase the overclocking margins of the card.

We also find very interesting the available DisplayPort and an HDMI (1080p) ports placed on the card, along with the DVI (Dual-link DVI, support up to 2560x1600) and the VGA (D-sub 15) connectors.

 

- Retail package

The Gainward HD4870 1024MB GS retail package would cost you around ~€230.

The box includes no retail game but a printed manual, a driver's disc, a molex-to-pci-e adapter and a DVI-to-HDMI adapter.

The card is equipped with a cooling large cooling system that has two 80mm fans. The height of the card is enough to occupy two slots at the back of your PC.

As we previously mentioned, at the back side of the card you will find a DSub 15, a DVI-D, an HDMI, and finally a DisplayPort jack.

The card is also ready for ATI CrossFire X configurations.

The HD4870 series requires two 6pin power jacks to work properly. No worries if your power supply does t have such cables; the included adapter will do the job, provided that your power supply is powerful enough to handle the graphics card.

The latest ATI Catalyst Control Center provides information about our sample in test.

The GPU core runs at 750MHz and the memory is clocked at 950MHz.

 

By default, the fan speed runs at 29% as long as the GPU temperatures about 53 degrees Celsius . Note that under AMD Overdrive you can also manually set the fan's rotating speed.


2. Test PC setup

All test were conducted in the following PC:

The following games and benchmark applications were used for the tests:.

DirectX 9

DirectX10


3. Testbed DirectX9, DirectX10
- Testbed DirectX9

For all the tests we used the default settings of3DMark05 as following:

Again we left all the default settings:

- Testbed DirectX10

We used the three built-in "Performance" and "Extreme" benchmarks in various resolutions.

We used the built-in benchmark with all the details maxed out.

We used the hocbench Crysis benchmark tool for three resolutions, 1280x1024, 1680x1050 and finally 1920x1200. We run the benchmark software with the details set at both "High" and "Very High" in order to find out at which resolution the game is playable.

We used the FRAMEBuffer benchmark tool for three resolutions, 1280x1024, 1680x1050 and finally 1920x1200. All the possible quality levels were set in order to get an idea of what the graphics card offer in various resolutions.

We used the built-in benchmarking utility and maxed out all the visual details including the 16x AA/16x AF, with both DX9/DX10 settings.


4. Benchmarks - FutureMark Hall Of Fame

The Futuremark benchmarks have been highly discussed between gamers and reviewers. For your information we post the results from 3DMark 05, 3DMark 06 and of course the newly released 3DMark Vantage that gives you a rough idea of what can you expect from the tested graphic cards.

The Gainward HD4870 1024MB GS got the highest 3D Mark 05 with 16897 points, leaving behind both the HD4850 and 260GTX graphic cards.

At the 3D Mark 06, the HD4870 still leads the race with 13564 points.

The 3DMark Vantage provides a clearer view about the card's performance at various resolutions. The XFX 260GTX XXX has a clear lead in all the resolutions compared to the Gainward HD4870 1GB GS.


5. Benchmarks - Crysis (DirectX10)

Crysis is probably the de facto benchmark game since no currently sold card can have acceptable frame rates when very high quality settings are selected. All tested graphic cards offer acceptable frame rates at 1280x1024 with high quality settings enabled.

Although the Gainward HD4870 1GB GS performed better than the HD4850, it was slower than the XFX 260GTX XXX series.

The next step is to enable the "Very High Quality" settings. The impact on the performance of all the tested graphics cards is obvious. So these settings are not recommended for gameplay, but the specific test indicate the strengths of each card.

Gainward HD4870 1GB GS was "just" two FPS faster than the HD4870 and again, the XFX 260GTX XXX is at the first place with 21FPS.

Pushing resolutions even higher at 1680x1050 and 1920x1200 obviously makes the game unplayable.

The XFX 260GTX XXX and the Gainward HD4870 1GB GS had almost the same performance.


6. Benchmarks - Crysis Warhead (DirectX9, DirectX10)

A new version of the famous Crysis game was recently released. While there shouldn't be any major improvements over the original Crysis engine, "Crysis Warhead" could stress our Gainward HD4870 1GB graphics card under both DirectX9 and DirectX10 rendering modes. In all cases we didn't enable anti-aliasing since it would give a major blow in the performance.

DX9
1280x1024
1680x1050
1920x1200
Low
Average
Low
Average
Low
Average
Performance
48,66
134,81
46,29
128,01
44,00
118,23
Mainstream
34,82
77,47
34,37
70,64
35,64
61,24
Gamer
21,85
45,87
20,67
38,52
9,57
32,83
Enthusiast
18,73
33,60
15,93
27,52
13,68
22,76

The Gainward HD4870 1GB performed well even at the Gamer level, provided that you will not choose a resolution higher than the 1680x1050 p. The "Enthusiast" quality settings After that point, while the game could be still playable, you'd better lower the resolution.

Enabling DirectX10 has an impact on the performance. Again the Mainstream level is very easy to handle even at 1920x1200, offering more than 53FPS. The Gamer level is playable as soon as you keep the resolution at 1680x1050. After that point, the rendering performance drops significantly.

DX10
1280x1024
1680x1050
1920x1200
Low
Average
Low
Average
Low
Average
Performance
53,93
99,09
52,09
94,52
51,89
92,70
Mainstream
37,34
60,30
25,10
57,23
36,85
53,57
Gamer
19,76
42,22
22,47
35,99
10,74
30,30
Enthusiast
18,39
30,40
17,54
24,50
13,82
20,51


7. Benchmarks - Crysis Warhead Comparison

Here we summarize the performance of three main competitors in the market of graphics cards today when they render the Crysis WarHead v1.00 game. Comparing the HD4870 vs HD4850 and 260GTX should give you the best choice for this game.

Starting from the DirectX 9 and 1280x1024 we see that at all graphics cards gave alost the same performance at the "performance" and "mainstream" quality settings. The differences differences start to appear after the "Gamer" level.

Again, the "Enthusiast " level is very demanding and all three tested cards did not have an major differences in their performance.

At the 1680x1050, the performance differences between the three tested graphics cards are obvious. The Gainard HD4870 and the 260GTX gave the same results in the "Performance" and "Enthousiast" levels, while the 260GTX was faster at the "Mainstream" and "Gamer" settings .

At 1920x1200, the XFX 260GTX XXX is faster in all visual quality modes.

The DirectX10 rendering mode seems to be tougher for all the graphics cards. At the 1280x1024, both ATI graphics cards were slower than the 260GTX in the "Gamer" and "Mainstream" settings. Pushing the quality settings more resulted to an equal performance from both the the HD4870 and the 260GTX XXX.

Similar behavior at 1680x1050, with the the ATI-based cards to be slower than the Nvidia 260GTX until the "Gamer" level.

Finally at 1920x1200, the XFX 260GTX XXX was faster until "Mainstream" level, with both the HD4870 to catch up in the "Gamer" level and higher.


8. Benchmarks - Company Of Heroes v1.71 (DirectX 10)

Company Of Heroes is a popular action/strategy game with many funs around the world. The game was the first to take advantage of the DirectX10 while its game physics are impressive.

We maxed out all visual details and with the build-in benchmark we measured the performance of each card.

At 1280x1024, the Gainward HD4870 1GB GS had an average performance giving 56.70FPS. Obviously this has to do with the way the HD4870 handles the "physics" requirements of the game, compared to Nvidia's solutions.

The HD4870 got a better ranking at 1680x1050, with 54.50FPS.

At the highest 1920x1200, the Gainward HD4870 1GB GS comes very close to the 8800GTS 512 series, but still lacks the power of the the XFX 260GTX XXX.


9. Benchmarks - Far Cry 2 (DirectX 9/10)

Far Cry 2 is one of the hottest game titles available in the market. The game supports both DirectX 9 and DirectX10 and its graphics engine is much lighter than the one Crysis uses. As a result, all graphic cards are expected to perform well even at 1920x1200 with 16xAA/16xAF enabled.

The more demanding the quality settings are, the less performance we get. The Gainward HD4870 started very well with 86.82 FPS, having a slight lead over the XFX 260 GTX XXX. However, the card did not manage to stay ahead Nvidia's solution at the Ultra High mode, where the FPS dropped at 50.35.

We noticed the same behavior at 1680x1050, with the HD4870 to be slower as we increased the quality settings. Again, the Nvidia XFX 260GTX XXX faster at "Ultra High" settings by 10 FPS.

At the highest resolution of 1920x1200, we see smaller differences in the performance of the two cards.

Finally, at the DirectX 10 Shaders test, the XFX 260GTX XXX was faster, especially with 16xAA/16xAF enabled.


10. Benchmarks - Half Life 2 Episode 2 (DirectX 9)

Half Life 2 is a first person shooter game that everybody has played and loved. The game at Episode 2 has several image quality improvements, especially with 4xAA and 16AF enabled.

The Gainward HD4870 1GB GS had an overall good performance but it was still slower than the XFX 260GTX XXX.


11. Overclocking

We performed a typical trial-error testing procedure in order to see the overclocking margins of the Gainward HD4870 1GB GS.

Possibly the easiest way to overclock an AMD graphics card is to use the ATI Overdrive function. The " Auto-Tune" function gives us some quick numbers:

What we got from ATI's Auto Tune function is rather limited since the GPU marginally reached the 780MHz, while Memory went up to just 1040MHz.

We also tried Gainward's Expert Utility for overclocking but still, the results where the same:

For higher overclocking, you have to use the latest RivaTuner software ( v2.11). Using the software's sliders we pushed the frequencies high enough, as you can see in the table below.

Don't forget to test the stability of the graphics cards each time you change a frequency, by running nine (9) rounds of Crysis.

Graphic Card
Core
Memory
Normal
OC
Normal
OC
Gainward HD4870 1GB GS
750
822
950
1092

The overclocking performance was average. We got a stable system at 822/1092MHz. These frequencies are probably translated to small improvements in the performance with games/applications.


12. Conclusion

The HD48xx series have been a user-favorite, medium-high end product and Gainward's improvements in the reference design such as the additional 512MB of GDDR5 memory was very promising when we starting playing around with the sample.

We tried to compare the ATI HD4870 series with the Nvidia 260GTX and see which product is faster. Our findings showed that the Gainward HD4870 1024MB was slower than the XFX 260GTX XXX series in the majority of the tests. The differences vary among the benchmarks and especially among the tested game titles. In fact, the HD4870 was five FPS slower at least, with the difference to be even bigger in some cases (10FPS). Of course, this difference will not affect the basic playability of your game, at least with average quality settings enabled. But if you have to push the game's visuals at the limits, the Nvidia's solution could give you the extra power you need.

Compared to the Gainward HD4850 1GB we tested some time ago, the new HD4870 1GB seems to be already stressed enough to accept further overclocking. In terms of performance, the HD4870 is kind of faster.

Pricewise and as it currently stands, the Gainward HD4870 1024MB GS costs around €230 Euro, which is almost €60 less than the XFX 260GTX XXX. If you can afford this extra spending, you should go with Nvidia's solution.

On the other hand, our sample's little brother (HD4850) is more affordable and it is sold at around €160 (1GB version). We cannot say that this extra spending (€70) will give you a much better performance.

As a last word, we may say the Gainward HD4870 1024MB graphics solution will not let you down, unless you are seeking for the absolute benchmark numbers. In that case, you may choose a higher-priced product. On the other hand, Gainward's solution comes equipped with plenty of outputs such as an HDMI and DisplayPort, which could be used for conveniently connecting your PC to your HD display or even TV set.

Product (generic editions)
Average retail price
Nvidia 8800GT 512MB
~115 Euro
Nvidia 9800GT 512MB
~120 Euro
Nvidia 9800GT 1GB
~150 Euro
ATI HD4850 512MB
~142 Euro
ATI HD4850 1GB
~160 Euro
ATI HD4870 512MB
~200 Euro
ATI HD4870 1GB
~230 Euro


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