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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  • JonnyDough - Tuesday, March 03, 2009 - link

    Could you please take the time to ask NV why the heck nTune crashes systems so easily? I can't even boot into Windows right now because I set up my profile to start my 8800GTS 640's fan on 100%. I can't hear it and I prefer my card to run cool, especially with NV's known heat issues. It might not be their fault though...FoxConn hasn't updated my bios in about 3 years, even though NewEgg sold me my motherboard about a year and a half ago. Reply
  • JonnyDough - Tuesday, March 03, 2009 - link

    I should point out that was coming from the standpoint of you mentioning NV driver issues. I've had more trouble running older games and stuff. They sacrifice stability and game compatibility for high frame rates in newer games. It's pathetic. I don't want to buy a card to play all the latest games. I buy it to play my slightly older games at what is now good frame rates with all the goodies. Most people DO NOT STAY ON THE BLEEDING EDGE NVIDIA. GET A CLUE! Reply
  • SiliconDoc - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    Your first mistake was thinking you know better than the top gpu maker and their manufacturing partners, and had your hissy fit to crank your fan out on lame years old games - because you're a worry wart and think nvidia would send out overheating cards - even on your far less than cutting edge slow and cool games.
    Then we have the obious - the very high temp red cards, that COOK HUMAN SKIN when you touch the HS and run at 70C plus often - and you found it in your whine to claim NV has "known heat issues".
    LOL
    It is just amazing.
    Reply
  • Razorbladehaze - Monday, March 02, 2009 - link

    Hey thanks for the extra input on the image quality and addressing this post. Furthermore I hear you in regards to adoption of the tech being most important part GPGPU computing. I just hope that both ATI and nVidia can come together on this one for the consumer.

    I enjoy reading your articles and think Anand puts out some quality stuff. I also appreciate you addressing some of the comments posted. Keep up the excellent work.
    Reply

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