IntroductionThe guys down at IBuyPower Australia can't get rid of me these days. I'm surprised they haven't started asking me to pay rent. The other day the ASUS P5E64 WS Evolution board arrived, and this thing just absolutely won me over as far as looks and features went.However, the feature that we really care about today is the fact it has four PCI Express x16 slots. While ASUS use a x16/x16/x4/x4 configuration, it's really one of the best on the market. So, with four HD 4850s in hand and hopefully a driver that was going to work, it was time to take four of these single slot bad boys to town.Before we get stuck into the results, let's have a quick look at the photos and just how cool four graphics cards in your system looks. From there we will get stuck into our benchmark results and see what's going on with CrossfireX in the new 4800 series cards from AMD.
Some System Pictures
Some System Pictures
Test System Setup and 3DMark06
Test System SetupProcessor(s): Intel Core 2 Quad QX9650 @ 4GHz (400MHz x 10)Cooling: Swiftech Apogee GTX Block (CPU) 3x 120mm Radiator, MCP655-B PumpMotherboard(s): ASUS P5E64 WS EvolutionMemory: 2 X 2GB OCZ DDR-3 @ 1666MHz 7-7-7-20 Hard Disk(s): Western Digital Raptor 150GB 10,00RPM SATAOperating System: Windows Vista SP1Drivers: June Hot Fix Catalyst Driver (HD 4800 Series) We up the ante from two cards to four cards today. While still early days, for the HD 4850 we find out if there is any form of a performance increase when moving from two cards to three, or even four.3DMark06Version and / or Patch Used: Build 110Developer Homepage:http://www.futuremark.comProduct Homepage:http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark06/Buy It Here
3DMark06 is the worldwide standard in advanced 3D game performance benchmarking. A fundamental tool for every company in the PC industry as well as PC users and gamers, 3DMark06 uses advanced real-time 3D game workloads to measure PC performance using a suite of DirectX 9 3D graphics tests, CPU tests, and 3D feature tests.3DMark06 tests include all new HDR/SM3.0 graphics tests, SM2.0 graphics tests, AI and physics driven single and multiple cores or processor CPU tests and a collection of comprehensive feature tests to reliably measure next generation gaming performance today.
We can see that just like Tri SLI, we do get some gains across the board; but nothing major.
3DMark Vantage is the new industry standard PC gaming performance benchmark from Futuremark, newly designed for Windows Vista and DirectX10. It includes two new graphics tests, two new CPU tests, several new feature tests, and support for the latest hardware. 3DMark Vantage is based on a completely new rendering engine, developed specifically to take full advantage of DirectX10, the new graphics API from Microsoft.
The more intensive Vantage does show us some better gains as we climb through the ranks.
PT Boats: Knights of the Sea is a naval action simulator that places gamers in charge of a mosquito fleet of the Allied Forces, Russia or Germany during the height of World War II.Using the latest Direct X 10 technology PT Boards - Knights of the Sea manages to apply a lot of stress to the components of today which in turn gives us quite an intensive benchmark.
Here we can see that we do have some issues with CrossfireX; two to four cards give us a bit of a gain at 1920 and 1280. However, the CrossfireX setups run into big problems at 2560.
CINEBENCH is a real-world test suite that assesses your computer's performace capabilities. MAXON CINEBENCH is based on MAXON's award-winning animation software, CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. MAXON software has been used in blockbuster movies such as Spider-Man, Star Wars, The Chronicles of Narnia and many more.MAXON CINEBENCH runs several tests on your computer to measure the performance of the main processor and the graphics card under real world circumstances. The benchmark application makes use of up to 16 CPUs or CPU cores and is available for Windows (32-bit and 64-Bit) and Macintosh (PPC and Intel-based).
It is of no surprise that CINEBENCH doesn't see any improvements. As we add more cores, the score begins to drop.
World in Conflict is a real-time strategy video game by Massive Entertainment and to be published by Sierra Entertainment for Windows (DX9 and DX10) and the Xbox 360.The game is set in 1989 where economic troubles cripple the Soviet Union and threaten to dissolve it. However, the title pursues a "what if" scenario where, in this case, the Soviet Union does not collapse and instead pursues a course of war to remain in power. It is an intensive new game is sure to put plenty of stress on even the latest graphics cards and we use the built-in benchmarking for our testing.
WIC sees performance also going backwards as we move cards. The four card setup once again runs into trouble at 2560 x 1600 which is unfortunate.
From the makers of Far Cry, Crysis offers FPS fans the best-looking, most highly-evolving gameplay, requiring the player to use adaptive tactics and total customization of weapons and armor to survive in dynamic, hostile environments including Zero-G.Real time editing, bump mapping, dynamic lights, network system, integrated physics system, shaders, shadows and a dynamic music system are just some of the state of-the-art features the CryENGINE 2 offers. The CryENGINE 2 comes complete with all of its internal tools and also includes the CryENGINE 2 Sandbox world editing system.
We can see Crysis has some serious issues with CrossfireX. When we went to 2560 we ended up with an average of under 1FPS.
Following the formulae that made Unreal Tournament so great the third installment to the series has hit us recently with better than ever graphics. The games uses the latest Unreal Engine which like most modern day games when maxed out puts the pressure on our lineup of graphics cards.
Unreal Tournament 3 which always manages to make good use of extra cards, really sees some good gains as we move up in the resolution table. At 2560 x 1600 we move from 95.43 with two cards to 156.63 with four. Sure, in a value for money sense it's not fantastic, but at least we can see that there is potential.
Benchmarks - High Quality AA and AF
High Quality AA and AFOur high quality tests let us separate the men from the boys and the ladies from the girls. If the cards weren't struggling before they will start to now.3DMark06
In 3DMark06 we can see that as we place more strain on the cards, we do see gains. Once again though, given how much extra you pay, the gains are pretty small.World In Conflict
With AA and AF turned on we run into the same negative result issues we have seen previously. Hopefully this is something the ATI driver team look into as time goes on.
Final ThoughtsIt seems that the Hot Fix driver should simply be called the "Increase your 3DMark score" driver. Apart from the two synthetic benchmarks, the only game to really see an increase in performance was Unreal Tournament 3. Outside of that, most games had a negative affect when adding more cards.Hopefully this is something that AMD attack over the coming months. With more and more boards offering two or three PCI Express x16 slots, placing a third card into your system at these prices could be more than doable. Two cards really is the sweet spot for HD 4850s at the moment; we see some good gains over a single card and the cost is still relatively low compared to the competition. Now all we have to do is wait for the HD 4870 so we can see what that can do for us. AMD have a winner on their hands with the HD 4850; just don't expect to see the same value for money as you start climbing the ranks with three or four cards. It could still be a while before we see these kinds of setups represent any form of value for money, much like NVIDIA with their Tri SLI GTX 280 setup.
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Shawn takes care of all of our video card reviews. From 2009, Shawn is also taking care of our memory reviews, and from May 2011, Shawn also takes care of our CPU, chipset and motherboard reviews. As of December 2011, Shawn is based out of Taipei, Taiwan.
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