Final Words

The two new additions to the test suite, Age of Conan and Race Driver GRID certainly beef up the portfolio of advantages AMD has in the current generation. Not only that, but we got quite an interesting surprise with GRID. Yes, even with R700 the menu screens were slow, jerky and painful at 2560x1600, but gameplay with R700 was much improved. We will still see the upper limit at twice the performance of a single RV770, but the fact that R700 looks to offer at least the potential for much better scaling at the high end (where the card will be marketed) than two card solutions is an advantage, even if it only comes from the additional RAM. We will need to look at CrossFire again when the 1GB 4870 is available to get a more apples to apples comparison here.

We don't have any solid evidence in this article of the GPU to GPU communication hardware making a real difference in scaling, but we will be interested to see if that changes by the time R700 hits store shelves. We can say that, for those who want to game at the extremely high end, 4870 X2 with it's 2GB of on board RAM will be a more consistent solution than 2x 512MB 4870 cards in CrossFire, as evidenced by our Race Driver GRID test.

But as we've said many times before, the success of CrossFire is in the consistency of it's performance. We absolutely need to see AMD put everything they have into making all games past, present, and future scale well with CrossFire. There needs to not be even the inkling of a question that CrossFire might not improve the performance of a game. Until then it is very risky for AMD to put all of its hope for the high end business into a multi-GPU solution.

Maybe they've done it. Maybe their driver team, by the time 4870 X2 launches will have improved driver support to where it needs to be. Maybe the changes to the R700 hardware will be enough to fill in the gaps and bring performance up closer to the theoretical limit for many more games. The information we have here shows the incredible potential R700 has, but it will be absolutely necessary to wait until launch day to see if the execution behind the hardware has been enough to realize this potential across the board.

This isn't a case where the quality of the hardware, but rather the quality of the driver and programming style of modern game developers will be key in delivering value. For the launch of this card we will be looking at as large a cross section of games as we can, as the importance of broad testing has never been more clear than with AMD's first part after their declared strategy of using single card multi-GPU solutions to compete in the high end space. We will need to see more examples of improved single card multi-GPU performance over CrossFire, as well as improvements in CrossFire performance in general if AMD is to be taken seriously going forward in the high end space.

The 4870 X2 will be AMD's proving ground. This preview shows what might be, what could be ... but we must wait for final hardware and final drivers before we can honestly evaluate the card for what it is. Let us hope AMD knows how important having pervasive compatibility really is for this launch.

Power Heat and Noise
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  • Griswold - Monday, July 14, 2008 - link

    So, AMD needs to bring their drivers to the point where all games of the past benefit from multi-GPU? Are you sure we need to play 5-10 years old games (assuming they even run on todays systems) at 5000fps just to prove a point? :P Reply
  • Grantman - Monday, July 14, 2008 - link

    Very interesting to see the 8800gt sli outperforming the gtx 280 in two of the game tests. They can be had so cheap so I'm alwayes interested in info on them. Also pleased to see Oblivion as a test. The 4870x2 will has potential but as you said it really depends on the driver department. If ATI could come out with some solid reliable and fast drivers the 4870x2 should take off. Reply
  • JonnyDough - Monday, July 14, 2008 - link

    THANK YOU FOR INCLUDING OBLIVION! I think that this graphic heavy title does NOT get enough attention sometimes! Sure it's not as new, but it still doesn't run at high FPS with everything on high at a high resolution! Keep including it! Reply
  • B3an - Monday, July 14, 2008 - link

    Will there be a 2GB version of this card???

    Because i've no idea how Derek gets these frame rates at 2560x1600 with only 512MB usable VRAM. I guess once again they are using a special magical version that magically fits all those textures PLUS AA into 512MB @ 2560x1600 res.

    From looking at dodgy charts like this before i got a 9800GX2 and that was a joke for this res, always running into the memory limit, where your'd then go into the realm of the slide show. It wasn't just me btw, every other owner of the GX2 with a 30" monitor i spoke to had this problem. As for GRID that wasn't even anywhere near playable with 2xAA, let alone 4 times @ 2560x1600 - again the memory limit. Yet anand and some other sites have these magical versions....

    Reply
  • Alexstarfire - Tuesday, July 15, 2008 - link

    It's a 2x1GB card, what are you babbling on about? Reply
  • ViRGE - Monday, July 14, 2008 - link

    "Today's article is merely a preview as R700s won't be officially launched for at least another month, but AMD wanted to unveil a bit of what it's cooking."

    This is starting to drift back in to paper launch territory, which makes me uneasy. It strikes me that allowing early previews is just as much about sinking the GTX 280 as it is showcasing a new product, which leads to the same kind of problems that we've seen in the past with paper launchers. While I love AT's CPU previews, those are both several months in advance and are for a product with a longer shelf life; I'm not sure GPU previews are necessarily as fair.

    I really don't want to see this becoming a habit, with companies previewing products early enough that it's always untenable to buy something because there's something better just around the corner (except that we don't know how far).
    Reply
  • hooflung - Monday, July 14, 2008 - link

    Meh, Nvidia's been doing it to AMD for the past 18 months. Time for some payback. Reply
  • toonces - Monday, July 14, 2008 - link

    Like the 9800GTX+ preview done 3 weeks ago coinciding with AMD's 4850 launch?

    I don't really have a problem with previews like this as long as AnandTech and the manufacturer can guarantee the GPU/CPU/PSU/WhateverU will be released in reasonable quantity in a reasonable amount of time.

    As long as AMD/NV can avoid another 7900GTX 512MB or X800XT PE paper launch debacle they should be given the benefit of the doubt, for now, IMHO.
    Reply
  • ira176 - Monday, July 14, 2008 - link

    Wonder when AMD will design dual core gpu with on chip memory controller. That should help significantly shorten the card. Reply
  • n7 - Monday, July 14, 2008 - link

    The huge gain in GRID would be due to the extra vRAM, as it chokes with only 512 MB.

    I am having a hard time believing AT is the only review site to get a 2x512 MB version instead of 2x1 GB.
    Reply

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