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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  • gigahertz20 - Monday, July 14, 2008 - link

    AMD needs to get on the ball with their drivers, they still don't even have the 4850 and 4870 listed on their site under video card drivers.

    http://ati.amd.com/support/driver.html">http://ati.amd.com/support/driver.html

    Seems like all their effort was put into just releasing the hardware to sell and make money, and not putting as much time into perfecting the drivers as they should be.
    Reply
  • docmilo - Wednesday, July 16, 2008 - link

    This hotfix is a new set of drivers for the 4800 series. I installed them last night on my 4850 and when I run the Overdrive I reach 700mhz on the gpu stable.
    Reply
  • docmilo - Wednesday, July 16, 2008 - link

    Well the link didn't work. Here's the address:

    http://support.ati.com/ics/support/default.asp?dep...">http://support.ati.com/ics/support/defa...mp;task=...
    Reply
  • Lerianis - Monday, July 14, 2008 - link

    They probably haven't released a new driver for these cards yet and expect you to use the driver they include on the disk with the card. Wait until next month, they will most likely finally have a driver on their website for these cards. Reply
  • alzg22 - Monday, July 14, 2008 - link

    They do have drivers, Catalyst 8.6 introduced support for the 4800 series. It's just not listed under the driver finder, probably. Reply
  • bob4432 - Monday, July 14, 2008 - link

    i think they are referring to a driver that changes the fan speed so you don't cook the 4850/4870s.... Reply
  • KikassAssassin - Monday, July 14, 2008 - link

    You can do that now by creating an Overdrive profile in the control center, and editing the profile's file (Documents/username/AppData/Local/ATI/ACE/profilename.xml) in Notepad. There's a line in there for fan speed that you can edit. I set mine to 40% (up from the default 20%) and idle temps on my 4870 dropped from about 75C to 45C, and load temps dropped from about 95C to about 65C. 40% fan speed was right about at the upper limit I could set it to before the fan noise became annoying (the thing seriously sounds like a freaking jet engine at max speed).

    It'd be nice if they'd add an option to change the fan speed in the control center, though.
    Reply
  • sc3252 - Monday, July 14, 2008 - link

    This card is hot for a $500 video card. I cant wait to pick one up. Two questions I have. Does it actually share the memory or is it separate? Did they fix the stutter associated with Crossfire? Reply
  • DerekWilson - Monday, July 14, 2008 - link

    oh yeah, and we're going to wait until the card actually comes out to look at things like micro-stutter etc... Reply
  • DerekWilson - Monday, July 14, 2008 - link

    memory is not shared. shared framebuffer won't come out for a while yet apparently ...

    each GPU has a separate 512MB framebuffer.
    Reply

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