The Games of Christmas '08: GPU Performance Part 1

by Michael "SKYMTL" Hoenig     |     December 8, 2008

The Competition: ATI Cards

ATI has been on a roll this year with a number of extremely popular graphics cards including the HD 4870 and HD 4850. In this review we will be drawing the line at a the $200 price bracket but you should be aware that their lower-end cards like the HD 4830 and HD 4670 have been making just as much of a splash in their respective markets. Let’s take a look at the ATI cards we will be using in this article.

Palit HD 4870 X2 2GB

When the ATI HD 4870 X2 was released onto the market, it beat the best Nvidia had and retailed for a pretty penny. Since then, Nvidia still has yet to offer any competition to this dual GPU wonder so it should still be king of the castle. For this article we are using Palit’s card which is widely available at etailers nation wide so if you are looking for it, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding it.

Sapphire HD 4870 1GB

The 1GB version of the HD 4870 is the newest addition to ATI’s higher-end lineup and was introduced to combat the newer GTX 260 with 216 shaders. It wasn’t released in huge quantities right after its release but that was then and currently this card is widely available at major retailers everywhere. 1GB of GDDR5 is supposed to add enough performance for the HD 4870 to bring it in-line with the new GTX 260 216 but we will see…

Sapphire is a well-known company to people everywhere and in this case they supplied their custom-built HD 4870 1GB that is stock-clocked but sports a different cooler and PCB layout than the reference design. This is supposed to lower power consumption as well as temperatures. Don’t worry, we will test all of this when the review of this Sapphire card is released.

Palit HD 4870 512MB

Back when we reviewed the HD 4870 512MB, its performance stunned us like it did everyone else; including Nvidia. This is the card that sparked ATI’s resurgence into the enthusiast mindset and it is here to stay for the time being. Its performance is right up there with the GTX 260 even though Nvidia has decided to cancel that card in favor of the faster 216SP version. This is another stock-clocked Palit card based off of the reference design.

Sapphire HD 4850 512MB

Both the HD 4870 and HD 4850 were released at about the same time and they proved to be a great one-two punch for the boys in red. Sapphire’s card has been in our GPU stable since its release and has proven to be competitive against everything Nvidia had to throw up against it. The 9800 GTX proved to be easy prey for the HD 4850 and even the latecomer 9800 GTX+ couldn’t quite beat it in every benchmark. While these cards are available in both 512MB and rarer 1GB versions, we will be looking at the reference 512MB card in this article.

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