If you rolled the clock back about a year and considered the love-fest showered upon ATI’s HD 4850, you might guess that ATI’s next move would be to pair two HD 4850’s on one card and hit the sweet spot smack-dab in the middle of the target where price and high-performance intersect.
It turns out your guess would be wrong. ATI ended their stellar Summer of 2008 with the launch of the dual-gpu HD 4870 X2, which has turned out to be the flagship of their dual-gpu line. Meanwhile, the launch of the HD 4850 X2 was delayed for months amidst misleading rumors and other misinformation. When it finally hit the shelves over the winter with an entirely different architecture, performance was lackluster and issues such as overheating led ATI’s board partners to shrug off the HD 4850 X2. It now no longer appears as an active product on ATI’s site and has all but vanished from retailers’ shelves.
But the Radeon HD 4870 X2 is a very different story. Dual RV770 GPU’s boast a combined 1.9 billion processors – 956 million transistors each – and 2GB of GDDR5 memory. With a core clock humming at 750MHz and a 3.6 GHz DDR memory clock, ATI clearly sent the signal that they meant business.
In fact, at launch time ATI’s marketing machine hailed the 4870 X2 as the “fastest video card on the planet,” a claim that sent many bench-test reviewers scurrying to their labs before begrudgingly admitting that ATI had a point. Over at PC Perspective their post-launch review commented that the new entry “is able to run away from NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 280 1GB card handily. Our various game tests proved this – Crysis, Call of Duty 4 and GRID showed big gains for AMD’s new card…” Guru3D went even further: “It’s fierce, it’s bad ass… it’s one mean rendering piece of equipment to have in your PC… the X2 just is a surprisingly fine product.”
In fact, the only design criticism of the HD 4870 X2 is that it’s a dual gpu machine, requiring more space and more power. Fair enough, but while the dual-gpu card logically provides almost exactly the performance that would be expected by running two independent HD 4870’s, the HD 4870 X2 actually makes this possible for the everyday user not willing to suffer the massive architecture hassles. No, it’s not the card you’ll use to upgrade your 2002-era Dell sitting in the back of the closet, but it will definitely peel your eyelids over the back of your head while playing Crysis or Company of Heroes if you have the hardware and the motherboard to support it.
One other common criticism involves ATI’s Crossfire X, which is uneven across games, but this is not a situation unique to the Radeon HD 4870 X2. And ATI has clearly been scrambling to improve the drivers and possibly change the single Crossfire connector design in the future.
Note that the Radeon HD 4870 X2 originally hit the shelves at about $550, but prices have fallen — particularly following Nvidia’s launch of their own dual-core GTX 295. Prices for the Radeon HD 4870 X2 now range from around $350 to the low $400’s based on the the board partner actually selling the card – Sapphire, XFS, VisionTek, etc. – and how they have modified it.
Bells, whistles, and other details:
* 1.912 billion processors (956 million transistors per GPU on 55nm fabrication process)
* 512-bit GDDR3 memory interface (ATI Radeon HD 4850 X2)
* Microsoft DirectX 10.1 support.
* Two independent display controllers.
* HDMI output support (Resolutions up to 1920×1080)
* 1600 stream processing units
* OpenGL 3.1 support ATI Avivo HD Video and Display Platform