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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  • Hattiwatti - Thursday, June 11, 2009 - link

    How 'bout if you'd overclock the prosessor to something like 4,0 GHz so it wouldn't be such a bottleneck to the Quad-SLI and Quad-CrossfireX configurations? I have tested it myself (with i7 920 and 2 GTX295's), and it really pays off. The performance increases a lot when CPU's clock is raised from 2,66 GHz to 3,8 GHz. It definitely makes a difference (NOTE: 3,6 GHz is still a bottleneck, and maybe 3,8 GHz is too. Couldn't overclock more and test since memory couldn't go any further) Reply
  • marraco - Thursday, March 05, 2009 - link

    The price/performance charts favours the cheapest cards, but give little useful information.

    What really shows the price/performance information, is an XY chart with price vs performance.

    With it is easy to see what is the better performer at a given price, and the cheapest option at a given performance. Also shows closely related price/perfornmance options if you can't have access to the best performer, because is not available.

    and with XY charts is easy to see the best bang for the buck, because is commonly found at the sharp bending of the lower price evolvent line.
    Reply
  • SiliconDoc - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    Let's hope the reviewers here take your information to heart and put it to use.
    I suspect though the FUD and bias will win out.
    Reply
  • Dazzz - Tuesday, March 03, 2009 - link

    Although your article is really intresting, I would rather see some benchmarks including the people who it might also be interesting beside 30" display owners.

    Right know I'm thinking about purchasing a TrippleHead2Go after they updated the firmware and support 3x1680x1050.

    Unfortunately even widescreengaming forum can't provide FPS benchmarks for the 5040x1050 resolution.

    I'm thinking about going multiGPU but there is no comparison nvida and ati at this resolution.

    This article could have been the platform to support surroundgaming and show if 2/4way gpu's make sense in this context.


    I'm looking for such an comparison for 2 weeks now and couldn't find anything. And I'm still stuck with my decision if a single gtx295 could deliver a playable performance (disregarding the quality settings for the time beeing) or if I have to look for other sollution like 4way or 2way GTX285.

    Any suggestions ?



    Reply
  • VooDooAddict - Tuesday, March 03, 2009 - link

    I very much like the resolution switching for the tables.

    This has confirmed what I'd been leaning towards for my next build (Shuttle X58 SFF). I'll be getting one of the following Dual GPU cards to run my 1920x1200 gaming.

    GTX295
    4870 X2
    4850 X2

    (I was running two 4850s in a X38 Shuttle SFF for a while before the frequent overheating caused me to switch to a single 4870.)
    Reply
  • Antman56 - Sunday, March 01, 2009 - link

    I think that these Quad 4850 framerates need to have a special label. Using 512MB Radeon 4850s in Quadfire is not a good idea for 2560x1600. 1GB 4850s would have shown the 4850s high resolution muscle way better (as it did with the 4870 1GB cards vs 4870 512MB cards). Scaling would not be so poor.

    Otherwise, nice compilation of information. :p
    Reply
  • TonkaTuff - Sunday, March 01, 2009 - link

    Best graph layout Ive seen on any site so far, so much easier to pick your desired resolution and have it in front of you instead of picking through a mess of resolutions,great article by the way still consider single card setups offer best bang for the buck and less headaches. So now multi GPU questions are out of the way, how about something regarding whats around the corner? 8,9 and gtx200 is all realistically the same architecture scaled up and shrunk down. Any whispers on new GPU architectures? Starting to feel that after the rush of technological progress the last few years especially ever since the release of 8000 series cards ( long time ago now!) things really seem to have stagnated the last few months. Cheers for a great read Jared. Reply
  • DerekWilson - Monday, March 02, 2009 - link

    Thank you ;-) Reply
  • Slappi - Sunday, March 01, 2009 - link

    I wouldn't touch their cards with a ten foot pole.

    They are about to collapse under their debt.
    Reply
  • SiliconDoc - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    LOL - It's so much fun when a non-red rooster speculates like the raging red does all over the place.
    Thank you.
    Yes, ATI has bled BILLIONS the last couple of years, with barely over that in sales per year.
    It appears they're spending twice as much as they're selling, and that is probably not a recoverable situation - unless the new lib god Obama and the dem congress has a billion or two or more, "in the package" for them.
    Reply

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