ATI Radeon HD 4850 and 4870: RV770 Has Arrived

Our Test Systems and 3DMark06

HOW WE CONFIGURED THE TEST SYSTEMS: We tested all of the graphics cards used in this article on either an Asus nForce 790i SLI Ultra based Striker II Extreme motherboard (NVIDIA GPUs) or an X48 based Asus P5E3 Premium (ATI GPUs) powered by a Core 2 Extreme QX6850 quad-core processor and 2GB of low-latency Corsair RAM. The first thing we did when configuring these test systems was enter their respective BIOSes and set all values to their "optimized" or "high performance" default settings. Then we manually configured the memory timings and disabled any integrated peripherals that wouldn't be put to use. The hard drive was then formatted, and Windows Vista Ultimate was installed. When the installation was complete we fully updated the OS, and installed the latest DX10 redist and various hotfixes, along with the necessary drivers and applications.

HotHardware's Test Systems
Intel and NVIDIA Powered

Hardware Used:
Core 2 Extreme QX6850 (3GHz)

Asus Striker II Extreme
(nForce 790i SLI Ultra chipset)

Asus P5E3 Premium
(X48 Express)

Radeon HD 4870 (x2)
Radeon HD 4850 (x2)
Radeon HD 3870
Radeon HD 3870 X2 (x2)
GeForce 9800 GTX+ (x2)
GeForce 9800 GTX (x3)
GeForce 9800 GX2 (x2)
GeForce GTX 260
GeForce GTX 280 (x3)

2048MB Corsair DDR3-1333 C7
(2 X 1GB)

Integrated Audio
Integrated Network

Western Digital "Raptor" 74GB
(10,000RPM - SATA)

Relevant Software:

Windows Vista Ultimate SP1
DirectX June 2008 Redist

NVIDIA Forceware v177.34 / v177.39
ATI Catalyst v8.5 / v8.6B

Benchmarks Used:
3DMark06 v1.0.2
3DMark Vantage v1.0.1
Unreal Tournament 3 v1.2*
Crysis v1.2*
Half Life 2: Episode 2*
Enemy Territory: Quake Wars*

* - Custom Benchmark

Futuremark 3DMark06
Synthetic DirectX Gaming


3DMark06 is a synthetic benchmark, designed to simulate DX9-class game titles. This version differs from the earlier 3Dmark05 in a number of ways, and includes not only Shader Model 2.0 tests, but Shader Model 3.0 and HDR tests as well. Some of the assets from 3DMark05 have been re-used, but the scenes are now rendered with much more geometric detail and the shader complexity is vastly increased. Max shader length in 3DMark05 was 96 instructions, while 3DMark06 ups that number to 512. 3DMark06 also employs much more lighting and there is extensive use of soft shadows. With 3DMark06, Futuremark has also updated how the final score is tabulated. In this latest version of the benchmark, SM 2.0 and HDR / SM3.0 tests are weighted and the CPU score is factored into the final tally as well.

3DMark06's default benchmark test is essentially CPU bound with all current high-end graphics cards, hence the right grouping seen in the results above. The new Radeon HD 4800 series cards handily outpace the HD 3870 and sandwich the GeForce 9800 GTX.  In this test, the upcoming GTX+ outpaces both Radeon HD 4800 series cards, but as you'll see later, with actual games, the new Radeons fare much better.

If we tunnel down into the individual Shader Model 2.0 and 3.0 results, we see a similar performance trend.  The SM 2.0 test is mostly CPU bound with anything more than a single GPU, as is the SM 3.0 test.  Both of the new Radeon HD 4800 series cards once again fall victim to the GTX+ according to the SM 2.0 test, but in the SM 3.0 test, the Radeon HD 4870 jumped ahead and hung right alongside the more expensive GeForce GTX 260.

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