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ASUS EAH4870 TOP Radeon HD 4870
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Date: Oct 06, 2008
Section:Graphics/Sound
Author: Shane Unrein
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Introduction, Specs and Features

Although the ATI Radeon HD 4850 and HD 4870 were launched nearly four months ago, they are both still exciting cards and we look forward to testing each one that enters our labs. For this article, we have another "TOP" card from ASUS in the form of the EAH4870 TOP, which of course is a factory overclocked Radeon HD 4870.

Like most other HD 4870s on store shelves, the EAH4870 TOP sports 512MB of GDDR5 memory and a 256-bit memory bus. Additionally, the card features support for DirectX 10.1, Shader Model 4.1, and CrossFireX multi-GPU technology. What differentiates the EAH4870 TOP from most other 4870s is its factory overclock: the core clock pushes pixels at 815 MHz (ATI's reference spec is 750 MHz) while the memory is set to 925 MHz (ATI reference is 900 MHz).

That is a decent overclock, especially for the core, and we were excited to see how this card would perform compared to a reference Radeon HD 4870, Radeon HD 4850, GeForce GTX 260 and GeForce 9800 GTX. Before we get into the results of our testing, let's take a closer look at the Radeon HD 4800 Series specifications and features and then take a tour of the EAH4870 TOP.

AMD ATI Radeon HD 4800 Series
Specifications and Features

  • 956 million transistors on 55nm fabrication process
  • PCI Express 2.0 x16 bus interface
  • 256-bit GDDR3/GDDR5 memory interface
  • Microsoft DirectX 10.1 support

    • Shader Model 4.1
    • 32-bit floating point texture filtering
    • Indexed cube map arrays
    • Independent blend modes per render target
    • Pixel coverage sample masking
    • Read/write multi-sample surfaces with shaders
    • Gather4 texture fetching
  • Unified Superscalar Shader Architecture

    • 800 stream processing units

      • Dynamic load balancing and resource allocation for vertex, geometry, and pixel shaders
      • Common instruction set and texture unit access supported for all types of shaders
      • Dedicated branch execution units and texture address processors
    • 128-bit floating point precision for all operations
    • Command processor for reduced CPU overhead
    • Shader instruction and constant caches
    • Up to 160 texture fetches per clock cycle
    • Up to 128 textures per pixel
    • Fully associative multi-level texture cache design
    • DXTC and 3Dc+ texture compression
    • High resolution texture support (up to 8192 x 8192)
    • Fully associative texture Z/stencil cache designs
    • Double-sided hierarchical Z/stencil buffer
    • Early Z test, Re-Z, Z Range optimization, and Fast Z Clear
    • Lossless Z & stencil compression (up to 128:1)
    • Lossless color compression (up to 8:1)
    • 8 render targets (MRTs) with anti-aliasing support
    • Physics processing support
  • Dynamic Geometry Acceleration

    • High performance vertex cache
    • Programmable tessellation unit
    • Accelerated geometry shader path for geometry amplification
    • Memory read/write cache for improved stream output performance
  • Anti-aliasing features

    • Multi-sample anti-aliasing (2, 4 or 8 samples per pixel)
    • Up to 24x Custom Filter Anti-Aliasing (CFAA) for improved quality
    • Adaptive super-sampling and multi-sampling
    • Gamma correct
    • Super AA (ATI CrossFireX configurations only)
    • All anti-aliasing features compatible with HDR rendering
  • Texture filtering features

    • 2x/4x/8x/16x high quality adaptive anisotropic filtering modes (up to 128 taps per pixel)
    • 128-bit floating point HDR texture filtering
    • sRGB filtering (gamma/degamma)
    • Percentage Closer Filtering (PCF)
    • Depth & stencil texture (DST) format support
    • Shared exponent HDR (RGBE 9:9:9:5) texture format support
  • OpenGL 2.0 support
  • ATI PowerPlay

    • Advanced power management technology for optimal performance and power savings
    • Performance-on-Demand

      • Constantly monitors GPU activity, dynamically adjusting clocks and voltage based on user scenario
      • Clock and memory speed throttling
      • Voltage switching
      • Dynamic clock gating
    • Central thermal management – on-chip sensor monitors GPU temperature and triggers thermal actions as required
  • ATI Avivo HD Video and Display Platform

    • 2nd generation Unified Video Decoder (UVD 2)

      • Enabling hardware decode acceleration of H.264, VC-1 and MPEG-2
      • Dual stream playback (or Picture-in-picture)
    • Hardware MPEG-1, and DivX video decode acceleration

      • Motion compensation and IDCT
    • ATI Avivo Video Post Processor

      • New enhanced DVD upconversion to HD new!
      • New automatic and dynamic contrast adjustment new!
      • Color space conversion
      • Chroma subsampling format conversion
      • Horizontal and vertical scaling
      • Gamma correction
      • Advanced vector adaptive per-pixel de-interlacing
      • De-blocking and noise reduction filtering
      • Detail enhancement
      • Inverse telecine (2:2 and 3:2 pull-down correction)
      • Bad edit correction
      • Full score in HQV (SD) and HQV (HD) video quality benchmarks
    • Two independent display controllers

      • Drive two displays simultaneously with independent resolutions, refresh rates, color controls and video overlays for each display
      • Full 30-bit display processing
      • Programmable piecewise linear gamma correction, color correction, and color space conversion
      • Spatial/temporal dithering provides 30-bit color quality on 24-bit and 18-bit displays
      • High quality pre- and post-scaling engines, with underscan support for all display outputs
      • Content-adaptive de-flicker filtering for interlaced displays
      • Fast, glitch-free mode switching
      • Hardware cursor
    • Two integrated DVI display outputs

      • Primary supports 18-, 24-, and 30-bit digital displays at all resolutions up to 1920x1200 (single-link DVI) or 2560x1600 (dual-link DVI)
      • Secondary supports 18-, 24-, and 30-bit digital displays at all resolutions up to 1920x1200 (single-link DVI only)
      • Each includes a dual-link HDCP encoder with on-chip key storage for high resolution playback of protected content4
    • Two integrated 400MHz 30-bit RAMDACs

      • Each supports analog displays connected by VGA at all resolutions up to 2048x15363
    • DisplayPort output support

      • Supports 24- and 30-bit displays at all resolutions up to 2560x16003
    • HDMI output support

      • Supports all display resolutions up to 1920x1080
      • Integrated HD audio controller with up to 2 channel 48 kHz stereo or multi-channel (7.1) AC3 enabling a plug-and-play cable-less audio solution
    • Integrated AMD Xilleon HDTV encoder

      • Provides high quality analog TV output (component/S-video/composite)
      • Supports SDTV and HDTV resolutions
      • Underscan and overscan compensation
      • MPEG-2, MPEG-4, DivX, WMV9, VC-1, and H.264/AVC encoding and transcoding
      • Seamless integration of pixel shaders with video in real time
      • VGA mode support on all display outputs
    • ATI CrossFireX Multi-GPU Technology

      • Scale up rendering performance and image quality with two GPUs
      • Integrated compositing engine
      • High performance dual channel bridge interconnect

     


  • ASUS packs the EAH4870 TOP in a simple yet nicely designed orange and black box that features a female warrior on the right side. ASUS's warrior choice is interesting to say the least, and she actually shows up again on the cooler. When we opened up the main, external box, we were pleasantly surprised by the black boxes that greeted us. Each black box has a gold ASUS logo stamped on it. Ultimately it is of course irrelevant if the card doesn't perform well (and even if it does), but this is easily one of the best video card packaging presentations we've seen in a long time.


    The bundle included with the EAH4870 TOP, however, is more practical than exciting. ASUS throws in a quick setup installation guide, a CrossFire connector, an ASUS utility CD, a VGA driver CD, a DVI-to-VGA adapter, a DVI-to-HDMI adapter, an HDTV-out cable, a PCI Express power cable, and an ASUS-branded leather mouse pad.

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    Closer Look at the EAH4870 TOP

    Before we get into the appearance of the card, we should point out that ASUS informed us recently that the cooler (which is a reference ATI cooler) on our sample is not the cooler that ASUS plans to use for EAH4870 TOP cards that it will sell in the United States. Instead, ASUS plans to swap it out for a better cooler that will provide lower temperatures and possibly better overclocking, but the factory overclock will remain the same.

    As we just mentioned, our sample came with the reference cooler attached to the board. You can probably tell that there isn't really any change from the reference HD 4870 at all, other than the sticker that covers the cooler (which is a cool cherry blossom + female warrior combination). She definitely makes us want to frag.


    As you might expect, the size of this card immediately apparent. It takes up two slots and is pretty long (about as long as a standard ATX motherboard is wide). It features a red PCB and a red fan in the translucent, red plastic cooler. Overall, the cooler does an adequate job and doesn't get too noisy (except during boot/POST).


    We were happy to see that the bracket is vented, which will allow hot air to leave your system. In the second picture above, you can see the two CrossFireX connectors. These connectors are required for those of you wanting to rock some multi-GPU goodness.


    Like other flagship cards from both NVIDIA and ATI, the EAH4870 TOP boasts two DVI connectors. In addition, there are two 6-pin PCI Express power connectors.


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    Test System and 3DMark Vantage Performance

    HotHardware's Test System
    Intel Core 2 Duo Powered


    Hardware Used:
    Intel Core 2 Duo E6750 @ 2.67GHz

    Abit Fatal1ty FP-IN9 SLI
    (nForce 650i SLI chipset)

    ASUS EAH4870 TOP 512MB
    Radeon HD 4870 512MB
    Radeon HD 4850 512MB
    GeForce GTX 260 896MB
    GeForce 9800 GTX 512MB

    2048MB Corsair DDR2-800 C4
    (2 X 1GB)

    Integrated Audio

    Integrated Network

    Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 9
    (7,200RPM - SATA)


    Relevant Software:

    Windows Vista Ultimate (32-bit)

    NVIDIA Forceware v177.79
    ATI Catalyst v8.8
    NVIDIA nForce v8.43

    Benchmarks Used:
    3DMark Vantage
    Crysis v1.21
    Enemy Territory: Quake Wars v1.5
    Company of Heroes
    Half-Life 2: Episode 2



    Let's start our examination of the EAH4870 TOP's performance by looking at the test results from Futuremark's latest 3D test suite, 3DMark Vantage. This benchmark does a good job of setting the tone of the relative performance of all the cards we are comparing in this article.
     

    Futuremark 3DMark Vantage
    Synthetic DirectX Gaming

    3DMark Vantage
    The latest version of Futuremark's synthetic 3D gaming benchmark, 3DMark Vantage, is specifically bound to Windows Vista-based systems because it uses some advanced visual technologies that are only available with DirectX 10, which isn't available on previous versions of Windows. 3DMark Vantage isn't simply a port of 3DMark06 to DirectX 10, though. With this latest version of the benchmark, Futuremark has incorporated two new graphics tests, two new CPU tests, several new feature tests, in addition to support for the latest PC hardware. We tested the graphics cards here with 3DMark Vantage's "Performance" preset option, which uses a resolution of 1280x1024.

    Right out of the gates, the EAH4870 TOP shows that it's quite the contender. It beats all of the other cards we tested without breaking a sweat. We are glad to see the EAH4870 TOP leave the Radeon HD 4850 in the dust since the EAH4870 TOP costs at least $100 more.

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    Company of Heroes Performance

    Company of Heroes
    DirectX 10 Gaming Performance

    Company of Heroes
    Relic Entertainment's World War II era real-time strategy game Company of Heroes was originally released as a DirectX 9 title for Windows, but recent upates to the game have incorporated support for new DirectX 10 features that improve image quality and enhance the game's finer graphical details. The game features a built-in performance test, which which we used to attain the results below. Our Company of Heroes tests were run at resolutions of 1280x1024 and 1600x1200 with anti-aliasing disabled or 4x anti-aliasing enabled, and all of the game's image-quality related options were set to high.

    While the EAH4870 TOP may have strutted its stuff in 3DMark Vantage, it stumbles a bit in this DX10 test. The GeForce GTX 260 just can't be touched here by the rest of the pack, including the EAH4870 TOP.

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    Enemy Territory: Quake Wars Performance

    Enemy Territory: Quake Wars
    OpenGL Gaming Performance

    Enemy Territory: Quake Wars
    Enemy Territory: Quake Wars is based on id's radically enhanced Doom 3 engine and viewed by many as Battlefield 2 meets the Strogg, and then some. In fact, we'd venture to say that id took EA's team-based warfare genre up a notch or two. ET: Quake Wars also marks the introduction of John Carmack's "Megatexture" technology that employs extremely large environment and terrain textures that cover vast areas of maps without the need to repeat and tile many small textures. The beauty of megatexture technology is that each unit only takes up a maximum of 8MB of frame buffer memory. Add to that HDR-like bloom lighting and leading edge shadowing effects and Enemy Territory: Quake Wars looks great, plays well and works high-end graphics cards vigorously. The game was tested with all of its in-game options set to their maximum values with soft particles enabled in addition to 8x anti-aliasing and 16x anisotropic filtering.

    We tried to make this test more challenging to our test group by increasing the AA and AF levels, but that still didn't result in much differentiation in performance. All of the scores are pretty close together, with the GeForce GTX 260 beating out the EAH4870 TOP by around 5 FPS.

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    Half-Life 2: Episode 2 Performance

    Half-Life 2: Episode 2
    DirectX Gaming Performance

    Half-Life 2: Episode 2
    Thanks to the dedication of hardcore PC gamers and a huge mod community, the original Half-Life became one of the most successful first person shooters of all time. And thanks to an updated game engine, gorgeous visual, and intelligent weapon and level design, Half-Life 2 became just as popular. Episode 2 offers a number of visual enhancements, including better looking transparent texture anti-aliasing. These tests were run at resolutions of 1280x1024 and 1600x1200 with 4x anti-aliasing and 8x anisotropic filtering enabled concurrently. Color correction and HDR rendering were also enabled in the game engine as well. We used a custom recorded timedemo file to benchmark all cards in this test.

    In our Half-Life 2 test, the EAH4870 TOP performs almost identically to the GeForce GTX 260. This is closer to what we expected to see during our testing. Additionally, it's nice to see the EAH4870 TOP outperform the HD 4850 by 20 FPS at 1600x1200 with 4x AA, 8x AF and HDR enabled.

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    Crysis Performance

    Crysis
    DirectX 9 and 10 Gaming Performance

    Crysis
    If you're at all into enthusiast computing, the highly anticipated single player, FPS smash-hit Crysis should require no introduction. Crytek's game engine visuals are easily the most impressive real-time 3D renderings we've seen on the computer screen to date. The engine employs some of the latest techniques in 3D rendering, like Parallax Occlusion Mapping, Subsurface Scattering, Motion Blur and Depth-of-Field effects, as well as some of the most impressive use of Shader technology we've seen yet. In short, for those of you that want to skip the technical jib-jab, Crysis is HOT. We ran the full game patched to v1.21 with all of the game's visual options set to 'High' to put a significant load on the graphics cards being tested.

    While the EAH4870 TOP falls behind the GeForce GTX 260 in the DirectX 9 test, it turns the table in the DirectX 10 test. The battle between the Radeon HD 4870 and the GeForce GTX 260 is definitely an interesting one.

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    Overclocking the EAH4870 TOP

    Overclocking the ASUS EAH4870 TOP
    Going beyond the stock settings...

    We used ATI's Overdrive utility in the Catalyst Control Center to overclock the already overclocked EAH4870 TOP. We usually recommend that users just stick with the factory overclocks, but that didn't stop us from seeing what we could squeeze out of this card.


    After the usual trial and error process, we hit a ceiling at 850 MHz for the core and 960 MHz for the memory. Recall that the factory overclocks are 815 MHz and 925 MHz, respectively, while the ATI reference clocks are 750 MHz and 900 MHz, respectively. The 100 MHz boost over the reference core speed is pretty impressive. Unfortunately, not all of the games we tested benefitted from the overclock, but you can see some of the test results at the new speeds above.

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    Performance Summary and Final Thoughts

    Performance Summary: The ASUS EAH4870 TOP performed as we expected it to for the most part. It, of course, offers a nice bit of extra performance over a Radeon HD 4870 with reference clocks while performing significantly better than a Radeon HD 4850, especially when the resolution and eye candy are cranked up. Furthermore, the EAH4870 TOP trades victories back and forth with our reference GeForce GTX 260.




    ASUS's "TOP" line of video cards never fail to excite. As performance enthusiasts, we certainly appreciate the significant factory overclocks (as long as stability isn't sacrificed, of course). ASUS consistently delivers excellent products, and the EAH4870 TOP is no exception. As we noted several pages back, however, ASUS plans to ship this card with a different cooler in the United States, and it sounds like the planned cooler should only make for a better card. We look forward to seeing what ASUS comes up with and will update our readers as soon as we have more details.

    The lack of availability of the EAH4780 TOP from online stores confirms that ASUS is delaying its release to market as it finalizes the custom cooler. For now, if you really want an EAH4870 TOP, you'll have to keep an eye on your favorite e-tailer's stock or ASUS's web site for updates. If the EAH4870 TOP hits the streets at a price that isn't too much more than other HD 4870s, then we would wholeheartedly recommend that you consider it if you are on the hunt for a high-end video card that costs around $300.
     

    • Great performance
    • Factory overclock
    • HDMI 1.3 output (built-in multi-channel 7.1 surround audio over DVI-HDMI adapter)
    • DirectX 10.1 support
    • CrossFireX support
    • Dual-slot card
    • Questionable availability


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