I was excited about testing the HD 4890 in Crossfire and the main reason for that was because I thought it would give us a glimpse into what could possibly be the HD 4890 X2. We know the HD 4890 isn't the fastest single GPU card on the market and we also know that in the performance side of things it sits around the GTX 260 216SP; sometimes better, sometimes worse.
With the GTX 295 ultimately being nothing more than a pair of GTX 260s on a single PCI Express slot, we could really find out today that if ATI merged these two cards together, they may possibly have the fastest VGA card on the market.
What you have to remember is that having the fastest VGA card sells graphics cards. People look at your top product to determine if they should buy from your line. While for the most part ATI represents better value for money, people see that two cards from NVIDIA (GTX 285 and GTX 295) perform better than ATIs top card and simply choose to go the green team even when opting for a lower performing model.
Test System Setup and 3DMark Vantage
Test System Setup
Processor(s): Intel i7 920 @ 3.8GHz (190MHz x 20)
Cooling: Noctua NH-U12P (Supplied by Noctua)
Motherboard(s): GIGABYTE EX58-UD5 (Supplied by GIGABYTE)
Memory: 3 X 2GB OCZ Technology PC-12800 DDR-3 8-8-8-24 (OCZ3G1600LV6GK)
Hard Disk(s): Western Digital 300GB Velicorapter (Supplied by Western Digital)
Operating System: Windows XP Professional SP2, Windows Vista SP1 64-Bit
Drivers: ForceWare 182.06, Catalyst 9.2, Catalyst 8.14.10.0647 (HD 4890)
What we've done today is look at a few results. The first thing we wanted to learn is what kind of performance increase adding a second card does. Then there is of course the question of how these two cards in Crossfire perform against not only the GTX 285, but also the top dawg on the market today, the GTX 295.
Honestly, who wants to read any more? - Let's get stuck into our benchmarks and see exactly what's going on here.
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.1
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmarkvantage/
Buy It Here
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.
In our first test we see that moving to Crossfire has given us a big boost in performance here. Compared to the GTX 295, the cards do fall behind, but that is because the GTX 295 is able to make use of PhysX technology.
Benchmarks - PT Boats: Knights of the Sea
PT Boats: Knights of the Sea
Version and / or Patch Used: Benchmark Demo
Developer Homepage: http://en.akella.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.pt-boats.net/
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.
PT Boats performance is quite interesting; the minimum department is a bit all over the place. The averages are way up on the single card results, though, still sitting behind the GTX 295. But this isn't too much of a surprise with the game favoring NVIDIA offerings.
Benchmarks - CINEBENCH R10
Version and / or Patch Used: Release 10
Developer Homepage: http://www.maxon.net/
Product Homepage: http://www.maxon.net
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).
CINEBENCH, as always, doesn't make use of dual GPU technology. For that reason we see no real move when utilizing Crossfire.
Benchmarks - World in Conflict
World in Conflict
Version and / or Patch Used: 18.104.22.168
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.massive.se
Product Homepage: http://www.worldinconflict.com
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.
Crossfire gives us a nice performance increase; we see all resolutions are playable and at the highest resolution we're sitting at about the same speed as a GTX 295.
Optimum Setup- 2560 x 1600 isn't a drama for the HD 4890 Crossfire setup.
Benchmarks - Crysis Warhead
Version and / or Patch Used: unpatched
Timedemo or Level Used: Airfield
Developer Homepage: http://www.crytek.com
Product Homepage: http://crysiswarhead.ea.com/
Buy It Here
Crysis Warhead updates and refines the gameplay of the original game through a sidestory plot involving Psycho, one of previous protagonist Nomad's allies. The game is a parallel story that follows Sergeant Michael "Psycho" Sykes, a character from the original Crysis, as he faces his own trials and challenges on the other side of the island during the time period of the first game.
It also showcases a new, enhanced and optimized version of CryEngine 2 using full DX10 extensions and is the first game developed by Crytek's Budapest studio.
Warhead sees good gains when compared to the single card. The game is actually now playable at resolutions right up to 1920 x 1200. Compared to the NVIDIA offerings it ultimately wipes the floor with the GTX 285, but does sit fairly far behind the GTX 295.
Optimum Setup- Crossfire gives us a good boost in performance. What we can see here is that we're able to play Warhead at 1920 x 1200 with the in game settings at high.
Benchmarks - Far Cry 2
Far Cry 2
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.01
Timedemo or Level Used: Ranch Long
Developer Homepage: http://www.ubi.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.farcry2.com/
Buy It Here
The Dunia Engine was built specifically for Far Cry 2 by the award-winning Ubisoft Montreal development team. It delivers the most realistic destructible environments, amazing special effects such as dynamic fire propagation and storm effects, real-time night-and-day cycle, dynamic music system, non-scripted enemy A.I. and so much more.
Crossfire continues to give us very good gains. The performance increase we get is huge and is the difference between playing at 2560 x 1600 and not. We again see at the highest resolution the GTX 295 and HD 4870 Crossfire setup performing very similar with ATI ultimately pulling out the win.
Optimum Setup- 2560 x 1600 runs like an absolute dream. We've got plenty of FPS to play with in the minimum department, so adding 2x AA will give us a drop in performance but keep us above that important 30 FPS we not only want, but need.
Benchmarks - S.T.A.L.K.E.R. - Clear Sky
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. - Clear Sky
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.5.07
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom Timedemo
Developer Homepage: http://www.gsc-game.com/
Product Homepage: http://cs.stalker-game.com/en/
Buy It Here
S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky, is the stand-alone prequel for S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl, a first-person shooter computer game by Ukrainian developer GSC Game World. The game consists of a roughly 50/50 mix of new areas and old, remodeled areas from the previous game. The X-ray graphics engine has been updated to version 1.5 and includes DirectX 10 support (later patch 1.5.06 included DirectX 10.1). Additionally, the AI received an overhaul to accommodate the new faction wars feature.
This is not the best game for graphics cards with a lot of setups struggling. The game is even worse for NVIDIA cards. We can see that the Crossfire setup absolutely kills the NVIDIA offerings. Like PT Boats for NVIDIA, this one was going to be a pretty obvious win for the red team.
Optimum Setup- It takes some power, but playing at 1920 x 1200 with this Crossfire setup isn't going to be a problem with settings at high.
Benchmarks - Left 4 Dead
Left 4 Dead
Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom Timedemo
Developer Homepage: http://www.valvesoftware.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.l4d.com/
Buy It Here
Left 4 Dead uses the latest version of Valve's Source engine, with improvements such as multi-core processor support and physics-based animation to more realistically portray hair and clothing, and to improve physics interaction with enemies when shot or shoved in different body parts. Animation was also improved to allow characters to lean realistically when moving in curved paths.
Rendering and artificial intelligence were scaled up to allow for greater number of enemies who can navigate the world in better ways, such as climbing, jumping or breaking obstacles. Lighting has been enhanced with new self-shadowing normal mapping and advanced shadow rendering that is important to convey information about the environment and player actions.
Big numbers for the HD 4890 CF setup here. We can see it absolutely kills everything with way more FPS than needed, but we love FPS, so it's all good.
Optimum Setup- 2560 x 1600 is a breeze on a single card. It's going to be no drama in this CF configuration.
Benchmarks - High Quality AA and AF
High Quality AA and AF
Our 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.
Far Cry 2
While we see very good gains when we Crossfire the HD 4890s, compared to the GTX 295 it does fall behind in this benchmark.
World In Conflict
Under WIC we see that with these intensive settings the HD 4890 in Crossfire is able to outperform everything.
Left 4 Dead
We see the HD 4890 CF setup again really shine under L4D, leaving everything for dead.
Power Consumption Tests
Using our new PROVA Power Analyzer WM-01 or "Power Thingy" as it has become quickly known as to our readers, we are now able to find out what kind of power is being used by our test system and the associated graphics cards installed. Keep in mind; it tests the complete system (minus LCD monitor, which is plugged directly into AC wall socket).
There are a few important notes to remember though; while our maximum power is taken in 3DMark06 at the same exact point, we have seen in particular tests the power being drawn as much as 10% more. We test at the exact same stage every time; therefore tests should be very consistent and accurate.
The other thing to remember is that our test system is bare minimum - only a 7,200RPM SATA-II single hard drive is used without CD ROM or many cooling fans.
So while the system might draw 400 watts in our test system, placing it into your own PC with a number of other items, the draw is going to be higher.
It doesn't come as a surprise that the HD 4890 CF setup sucks some major power. A good quality PSU that sits around the 800 Watt mark is going to be plenty, though. Why 800 Watt when we've only got a draw of 500 Watt here? - Well, we run our test system with the bare minimum and it's always better to be safe for people who run more than just what we have here.
What we'll quickly do before we get stuck into wrapping everything up is break down the benchmark results we have here today. The first test we have is Vantage and being a synthetic benchmark it's not the most important. Thanks to PhsyX, we see NVIDIAS GTX 295 pull out the win here.
Under PT Boats we find that the GTX 295 again gets the win. There's no doubt, though, that the win comes down to this benchmark favoring the green team. CINEBENCH gives the ATI offering a win, but with no multi-GPU support it's not the most important benchmark.
Getting into real world games we see at the highest resolution that the HD 4890 CF chalks a win against the GTX 295. Warhead unfortunately doesn't favor so well and while CF gives us a big boost from the single card setup, it's not enough to beat out the GTX 295. The setup does beat the GTX 285 at higher resolutions, however.
Like WIC, we can see under FC2 that the GTX 295 falls second to the HD 4890 CF setup which gets another win. Under the ATI favored Clear Sky we see another win and finally Left 4 Dead gives the HD 4890 CF setup its final non AA win.
With AA on we see the ATI card fall to both NV cards under FC2. Fortunately, it claws its way back in WIC and Left 4 Dead with it again being the top configuration.
What we're ultimately seeing here is the HD 4890 Crossfire setup performing very well and for the most part beating the GTX 295. The HD 4890 is a good card and offers good value. If ATI do have a HD 4890 X2 up their sleeve, we could see the performance crown again shift from the green team to the red.
CF offers some serious performance and compared to its single card setup this is a serious performance boost. Before Intel based chipset motherboards could do SLI, this would be the must have setup. Today, though, while it does offer some good performance, it's not going to be as popular. With that said, though, if a HD 4890 X2 sees the light of day and it carries with it some good clocks, HD 4890 X2 and CrossfireX HD 4890 X2 setups could be the way to go!