Final Words

So this may come as a surprise to some, but the AMD Radeon HD 4870 1GB Quad CrossFire leads in our benchmarks when focusing on the resolution that matters for this hardware (2560x1600).

While driver issues and a lack of other "stuff" like PhysX and CUDA to do matter with GPUs in situations where hardware doesn't scale, the AMD solution leads the GeForce GTX 295 in more benchmarks (Age of Conan, Left 4 Dead, and Far Cry 2), and ties the NVIDIA solution in one title (Fallout 3). Not shown in our numbers is Race Driver GRID, as we have a continuing issue in FRAPS that gets in the way of recording performance numbers with 4-way NVIDIA solutions. We were able to watch frame rate, however, and it was clear that the NVIDIA hardware didn't reach the performance levels of AMD hardware in GRID.

Certainly this isn't a sweeping victory for AMD, and the outcome, because it is close, rests incredibly heavy on the benchmarks we chose and were able to run. Different titles may have produced different results. Thus there is no clear winner in terms of absolute performance. This will depend greatly on title preference. It is worth noting, however, that when Quad GTX 295 leads Quad 4870 1GB, the NVIDIA card comes in at the very top in terms of performance more often than does AMD. But the dark horse in the 4-way focused article is the 3-way high NVIDIA GPUs.

The 3-way GTX 280/285 leads the 4-way GTX 295 in half our tests: it's a wash and it's either slightly cheaper or slightly more expensive depending on the specific flavor. The 4-way Radeon HD 4870 1GB only leads 3-way GTX 280/285 in 2 out of the 6 tests, though it ties in one of them (Fallout 3 again). If GRID were added back in, it's likely the playing field would be completely even on that count.

If you want an added twist, moving from 2-way to 4-way, AMD tends to scale better at 2560x1600 than NVIDIA. Whether that's because of lower baseline performance of the 2-way option and less system limitation at the high end, it's still impressive that the playing field is this even.

So what's the bottom line? Wow ... It's very hard to say that the differentiator is only performance itself. But as we had less trouble with 3-way than 4-way, so our very slight preference for this one is the 3-way GeForce GTX 285. Overclocked hardware will get you even further into the stratosphere. Enjoy the ride.

If you don't happen to have a motherboard that supports 3x double-slot x16 physical PCIe cards, 4-way will have to be the option. In that case, Quad HD 4870 1GB scores points for keeping up with the Joneses, scaling, and bang for the buck. In terms of performance per dollar, which some people may not care about at these top end price points, AMD leads. At the same time, we must consider that heavy investors like things to play with and PhysX and CUDA do add a potential benefit over AMD that some enthusiasts may like.

So who's got the true halo? Who can provide the best highest-possible-end option? In spite of our leanings and recommendations and considerations, It's a wash. This one goes down in the history books as a battle for the high end that will come down to brand preference.

Power Consumption


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  • lk7200 - Wednesday, March 11, 2009 - link

    Die painfully okay? Prefearbly by getting crushed to death in a
    garbage compactor, by getting your face cut to ribbons with a
    pocketknife, your head cracked open with a baseball bat, your stomach
    sliced open and your entrails spilled out, and your eyeballs ripped
    out of their sockets. Fucking bitch

    I really hope that you get curb-stomped. It'd be hilarious to see you
    begging for help, and then someone stomps on the back of your head,
    leaving you to die in horrible, agonizing pain. *beep*

    Shut the *beep* up f aggot, before you get your face bashed in and cut
    to ribbons, and your throat slit.">

    I wish you a truly painful, bloody, gory, and agonizing death, *beep*
  • vailr - Sunday, March 01, 2009 - link

    Any testing of 8x GPU's?
    4x Radeon 4870 x2 cards?
    4x nVidia 295 (dual GPU) cards?
    Combined with an Intel Skulltrail board using a pair of quad core CPU's.
  • LinkedKube - Wednesday, March 04, 2009 - link

    I'm running tri sli gtx 295's. My energy bill has gone up 110 usd a month since december. With that to think about, wth would someone test 4 gtx295's. Totally inefficient. This article imo was about price/performance through competitors giving us a new way to look at fps with the 100 usd fps chart. Reply
  • Jorgisven - Sunday, March 01, 2009 - link

    That technology does not yet exist. The skulltrail board supports Quad SLI, meaning, 4 total gpu's (the x2 boards count for 2 each). Nothing supports 8x graphics cards. That would create ridiculous overhead, as you can probably tell from the scaling from going from 2-4 gpus. Reply
  • Hrel - Sunday, March 01, 2009 - link

    This was a GREAT series of articles and I'm so glad you guys decided to make them. I'm pretty sure I've never heard anyone on a hardware review site actually admit it's a wash between AMD/ATI and Nvidia and it all comes down to brand preference; so props for coming out and saying the truth.
    One thing I've said many times before in these comments, that I'm still not seeing. "I would really love to see 3D Mark scores for all these cards included with each GPU article." You show the subjective tests of the hardware, the games, please show the objective test for the hardware, 3D Mark.
    So yeah, amazing articles, thank you for writing them. And my only, very minor, complaints are that you didn't include hardware down to the 9600GT level(at least)or lower and you didn't include 3D Mark scores.
    Yes, I know it's supposed to be a multi-GPU review, but you included enough other single GPU's, I would have really liked to see how the other cards stacked up, kind of a "whole market" GPU comparison.
    P.S. Sorry, third complaint, I remembered after mentioning the lower end hardware. Had you included those cards, it would have been nice to see tests at 1440x900 and maybe 1366x768 too; seeing as how that's becoming a standard. And yes, I understand the amount of work that goes into testing that many configurations; and the time required to test at so many resolutions. And... I really truly appreciate all the work put into articles like this; I swear, I recruit more people to come visit this site then a tv ad could.

    On an article design note: I really like the comparison for value, based off performance per dollar, or per 100 dollars in this case; very good idea. I also REALLY like that I could switch between resolutions just by clicking a link; I like bar graphs WAY more than Line graphs, ever since First Grade. Later guys, great work!
  • LinkedKube - Monday, March 02, 2009 - link

    I agree with the fps per 100 dollar section, very cool. Something new to look at and think about. Reply
  • 7Enigma - Sunday, March 01, 2009 - link

    I have to agree with you on the 3dMark scores (and any of the other major ones Aquamark or something?) I think anyone crazy enough to purchase 4 cards or 2 dual's are probably doing it more for the competition of benchmarking than actual gaming. Or at the minimum of equal importance and so if the quad AMD/Nvidia decision is a wash based on game performance maybe the synthetic benchmarks would sway the decision.

  • SiliconDoc - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    Well you shouldn't. Software, especially benchware, favors this or that method or type of hardware, and given the differences pointed out between the gpu styles of Nvidia and Ati, no test is going to eliminate bias in it's guaging - as should be absolutely obvious to you after seeing massive variance in game scores here for the same two opposing gpu's, and realizing, if you had a scientific mind, that 3dmark also uses a GAME it "created" that will favor one architecture or another, definitively.
    So, you may "have to agree" - but you may also "change your mind" about that.
  • Razorbladehaze - Sunday, March 01, 2009 - link

    Actually there is no "subjective" tests in this article. Subjective is non-empirical (non data based) testing. Or another aspect of subjective testing is when one would say that subjective is when the outcome reported is not supported by the data because of mitigating other factors (i.e. best card is not ----, because graphical glitches, despite having best FPS) . So FPS in benchmarking as all tests here demonstrate is in fact all objective testing.

    Furthermore 3d mark scores are really redundant and not practical. I for one am really glad that Anand have left them out, they are a waste of testing time in most cases. I used to really like the 3d mark scores for benchmarking my own stuff, and used to look forward to them in articles. Over time though i have really noticed that although they do provide a comparison between cards, they do not translate to much in terms of real world performance. The comparison between cards is still easily made using a common benchmark from a game, and it allows more differentiation and demonstrates more "across the board" performance when testing multiple games and, as mentioned in the first line of this paragraph, provides practical results.
  • Hrel - Thursday, March 05, 2009 - link

    Yeah... no. You're wrong. Tests based on games are subjective because the results you get from that testing is subjective to that game. Each game is programmed differently and utilizes the GPU hardware differently. You can three cards, have one card be the fastest by a large margin in one test and be the slowest in another test.

    (Subjective: Characteristic of or belonging to reality as PERCEIVED rather than as independent of mind.) The results show up as PERCEIVED by the game, rather from independent results.
    (Subjective: Peculiar to a particular individual.) That individual is the game. -These were taken from Merriam/Websters dictionary online.-

    (Objective: Expressing or dealing with facts or conditions as perceived without distortion by personal feelings, prejudices, or interpretations.) Testing using only games causes distortion. That distortion is from "feelings", "prejudices" and "interpretations". Feeling of the programmers who wrote the game, some like to program for Nvidia hardware some prefer AMD. Also, some game studios are paid or given preferential treatment to favor one companies hardware over another's. What I just said has to do with prejudice too. Interpretations, Nvidia and AMD hardware is designed differently, a blatant example of this is that AMD uses 800 SP's where Nvidia uses 128 SP's and they both have similar performance; the code of the game, generally DirectX 9, interprets each set of hardware differently ergo we have a non-objective interpretation of the GPU's performance capability.

    Games are meant to be played and perform the way each individual game studio wants them too; there are so many variables across companies, and employees and the games themselves you can't possibly use a small subset of video games to determine the performance differences between a set of GPU's. At least not reliably.
    (Objective: Limited to choices of fixed alternatives and reducing subjective factors to a minimum.) Every scientific experiment strives to remove variables from the testing process; video games simply don't do that.

    3D Mark and the newer 3DMark Vantage are as objective as software testing hardware can be. One test, programmed one way, programmed to only run one way no matter what GPU it is on. Also, 3D Mark is designed to stress the GPU hardware as much as possible, no matter what card it is, which means it will take full advantage of every card you test using it.

    No, 3D mark doesn't equate to real world results in any way. But that doesn't matter, it's the most scientific, least variable test anyone can perform on multiple GPU's to determine the performance differences between them. And isn't that all anandtech is trying to do with this whole series of articles? Yes, yes it is. Of course it is always good to look at the games, to see that subjective measurement and to determine which card works best with the games YOU play. But it is imperative to look at 3D mark as well to get a complete idea of the DIFFERENCE IN PERFORMANCE between the cards. To see whole big picture.

    To make it simple for you, if one card outperforms another card by 15% or more in 3D Mark, it's a good bet that card will outperform the other card in the majority of the games on the market; regardless or programming inconsistencies.

    On another note, most people will never take a resolution beyond 1920x1080, so I'd really like to see more testing at resolutions lower than that; and the inclusion of lower end cards to see if they can play the latest games... even if I do have to lower the resolution a little.

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