Final Words and Conclusion
The Radeon HD 4870 is a very interesting product for a couple of reasons. Firstly it is very competitive with Nvidiaâ€™s GeForce GTX 260. There are a number of games such as Assassins Creed and Oblivion where the Radeon performs better but there are also some where the GeForce has the edge, such as Lost Planet Colonies and as a result there is no clear performance leader which means we must look at other aspects of the products when weighing in a final conclusion.
Price is always a big factor in major component purchases and in this case it really does put a heavy swing in favour of the 4870. From a check at the time of writing it is possible to buy the Radeon for $20 or Â£20 less than a GTX 260 which is enough to add some extra memory to a system, something that is always beneficial. It should also be taken into account how much of an impact the recent price cut on the GTX 280 has on the 4870. Currently it is possible to buy a Leadtek GTX 280 for less than the cost of two 4870s (Â£305 for Leadtek product on Overclockers UK), the GTX offers similar performance but will draw less power and runs quieter than the 4870 in CrossFire. Additionally there is less heat generated by the GeForce which results in a cooler running system.
Next we have the ability to use DirectX10.1 on the 4870, not something which is really beneficial at the moment however it could be of use in the future. The same can also be said of Nvidiaâ€™s PhysX technology. Had we to choose between DirectX10.1 and PhysX we would probably go for the latter.
One area where ATI do have a clear advantage over Nvidia is in high definition playback. Now that Cyberlink have removed playback with Aero enabled from PowerDVD (in the short term) the GeForce and Radeon cards both have the same desktop experience, however the ATI card has better acceleration of content and a better HDMI solution with no need for an additional internal cable and the ability to output 7.1 channel sound.
Unfortunately the great pricing, competitive performance and good media functionality is somewhat let down by drivers which still feel like they need a little work, and not for the first time at the launch of a Radeon either we might add. During our testing we saw a couple of significant CrossFire bugs which heavily impacted performance of the system (see Grid and World in Conflict) and in addition there still seems to be issues related to minimum frames per second scaling on Radeon multi-GPU setups.
We would suggest that all of the above is taken into account when deciding whether the 4870 or GTX 260 is the best card for you however we find it hard right now to recommend a 4870 Crossfire configuration at all.
Should the 4870 be the card of choice then we have two great options on show today. They are both priced at the same level and perform identically but the Sapphire card has a better software bundle where as Visiontek has the best warranty (lifetime) compared to Sapphires two years.