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Sapphire Radeon HD 4870 X2 Video Card 100251SR E-mail
Reviews - Featured Reviews: Video Cards
Written by Olin Coles   
Sunday, 17 August 2008
Table of Contents: Page Index
Sapphire Radeon HD 4870 X2 Video Card 100251SR
Radeon HD 4870 X2 Features
Sapphire 100251SR Specifications
Closer Look: Sapphire 4870
Video Card Testing Methodology
3DMark06 Test Results
COD 4 Fraps Benchmarks
Crysis Benchmark Results
Unreal Tournament 3
World in Conflict Benchmarks
Power Consumption and Heat Output
Radeon 4800-Series Final Thoughts
Radeon 4870 X2 Conclusion

Radeon 4870 X2 Conclusion

Presentation is always the first summary I give in each product review conclusion, but ironically this mundane topic seldom provides the same outcome. Sapphire, who I have pointed out once already is at the top of the sex-sells marketing game for the computer industry, offers us a full spectrum of tastes... er, personalities... for their product characters. Their latest 4870 X2 series is not really so different, but I don't think they'll be showing off full-fledged lingerie models on their product packaging anytime soon. (I double-dare them.)

Judging the product appearance is a little more difficult than I'm used to. Lately, almost everything has been encased in plastic housings with a contoured finish. This doesn't mean that you can't look sharp without the extra plastic body work, but there's a level of protection all of that stuff provides which goes missing on ATI products. Still, Sapphire has done a very good job mixing red hues with carbon fiber decals, making the Radeon HD 4870 X2 look as fast as it actually performs (unlike most Honda's with the same decals). It's still not entirely clear to me why they added the pin-shaped sidebar heatsink, but combined the entire 100251SR SKU looks sleek.

Sapphire_Radeon_HD_4870_X2_Angle.jpg

Construction is solid, but not without some concerns. I absolutely appreciate ATI for protecting components on the back side of the PCB, but at the same time I have to hold both ATI and Sapphire accountable for the cooling unit. If you've read any or my video card reviews, you'll know how much I dislike VGA coolers that exhaust back into the computer case. So it's good news for ATI that they pleased me in this regard on their 4870 X2. Yet even despite their best efforts, the cooling performance is dangerously low. Granted the RV770 can reach 105°C+ before failure (and our sample climbed to "only" 92°C in a cool room), it's too bad that most nearby components will melt by this point.

In terms of performance, the Sapphire Radeon HD 4870 X2 100251SR is the new king of the castle. Throughout our benchmark testing, the Sapphire Radeon HD 4870 X2 performed so far ahead of any other video card that it redefined the high-end of graphics performance. Based on our benchmark tests using Crysis (without AA), The 4870 X2 usally performed around 32% better than the single-GPU Sapphire Radeon HD 4870 and kept only a couple FPS away from the GeForce GTX 280. but when 4x AA was added into the post-processing effects performance favored the competitors new product line. As a graphics processor, the combined RV770's performed incredibly well; but as a hardware component I felt that there was a margin of performance lacking from the cooling solution incorporated on the 4870 X2. With the temperatures under load reaching 92°C, the heat is generated during work as well as rest.

Value is always relative to supply and demand, along with whatever retailers think they can get from the consumer audience at any particular time. As of December 2008, the Sapphire Radeon HD 4870 X2 100251SR is now being sold at NewEgg for $489.99 with an additional $20 mail-in rebate for a short time longer. I've found a few other sources selling around the same price, so it's a good idea to do some price shopping before you buy. Even though the GeForce GTX 280 is priced $100 less, I think the Radeon HD 4870 X2 should see a relative price reduction after the initial glow of a fresh product launch fades away.

In summary, it's my final recommendation that hardcore gamers give the Sapphire Radeon HD 4870 X2 100251SR very serious consideration. If your budget can't afford this top-shelf graphic solution, keep in mind that two Radeon HD 4850's placed into a CrossFireX set often times performed very close to this standalone product. This situation makes a very good argument for multi-card graphics solutions over multi-GPU, and with this taken into consideration you have to look at price and sub-feature offerings. It's no surprise that CrossFire and CrossFireX are available on just about every single motherboard that fits an Intel or AMD processor; the same is hardly true for the SLI. So then it's down to price. Both the Radeon 4850 and 4870 are now offered at very affordable prices, and if shopped for can yield more performance for less cash than the purchase of a single multi-GPU Radeon 4870 X2. Although the drivers I tested with were beta Catalyst 8.8 and couldn't remain completely stable for every test I attempted, they should be user-friendly by the time you're reading this review. The Sapphire Radeon HD 4870 X2 is an outstanding product, and the combined RV770 GPU's raise the bar for graphics performance yet again.

Pros:Benchmark Reviews Golden Tachometer Award

+ Very good AA/AF performance for higher-end games
+ Supports DirectX 10 and Shader Model 4.1
+ Twin 750 MHz RV770 GPUs / 2 GB of 900 MHz GDDR5 vRAM
+ Features ATI AVIVO Technology
+ 1080p HDMI Audio and Video supported for HDCP output
+ Very quiet fan under normal operation
+ Introduces new TeraScale Graphics Engine technology
+ Externally-exhausting cooling solution
+ Supports CrossFire functionality
+ 24x Custom filter anti-aliasing (CFAA)
+ 5 GBps PCI Express 2.0 graphics interface
+ Kit includes CrossFireX bridge component

Cons:

- Expensive top-performance product
- Maximum post-processing Anti Aliasing is limited to 8x
- Consumes more power than any other product tested
- Fragile electronic components are exposed on PCB
- Extremely high heat output - very hot under full load

Ratings:

  • Presentation: 9.50
  • Appearance: 9.00
  • Construction: 9.50
  • Functionality: 9.75
  • Value: 7.75

Final Score: 9.1 out of 10.

Excellence Achievement: Benchmark Reviews Golden Tachometer Award.

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