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Sapphire Radeon HD 4870 X2 in CrossfireX

The new dual GPU wielding graphics card from AMD has arrived. We have a look at Sapphire's version of the HD 4870 X2.
@ShawnBakerTW
Shawn Baker
Published Sun, Aug 10 2008 11:00 PM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:27 PM CDT
Rating: 93%Manufacturer: Sapphire

Introduction

Sapphire Radeon HD 4870 X2 in Crossfire
IntroductionIt's hard to turn around and say that the HD 4870 X2 is one of the most anticipated cards of recent times, due to the plain fact that there have been so many cards released over the last three months. While some had thought that the new HD 4870 would become the fastest single card solution on the market, the price AMD launched the card at gave indication that the chances were going to be pretty slim.Fast forward a few months and we've got a new card that sits at around the same price of the GTX 280. It's packing two HD 4870 cores on a single PCB, the same core speed and memory speed as its single card brethren and hopefully a whole bunch of extra performance.Not only do we have a single HD 4870 X2 here, we have a pair! - Today we'll be seeing how the card goes against some of the other top of the range cards, not only from AMD but also from NVIDIA.
Sapphire Radeon HD 4870 X2 in Crossfire
Before we check out the performance, though, we'll have a closer look at the package and the cards from Sapphire. We'll also be having a closer look at the specs of the card and will see how it compares against the HD 4870.

The Package

The PackageApart from being a fair bit bigger than the HD 4870 package, it follows a similar style. Across the top of the card we have the Sapphire logo; to the right of that we have some ATI logos and the mention of the card sporting two video processing units as well as being PCI Express v2 compatible.
Sapphire Radeon HD 4870 X2 in Crossfire
Across the bottom of the box we have the model. Above that, we have some of the main features. In the middle of the card we have mention of the card coming with 2GB of GDDR5 memory along with some of the software that also comes in the package.
Sapphire Radeon HD 4870 X2 in Crossfire
Turning the box over, we have the Sapphire logo across the top and the model and features across the bottom of the box. The middle of the box gives us some more details on the card and just a few of the hundreds of awards that Sapphire has won over the years.
Sapphire Radeon HD 4870 X2 in Crossfire
Inside, there isn't much in the way of paperwork with only a manual included. On the CD side of things, though, we have Ruby ROB Volume 1.1, Cyberlink DVD Suite, Cyberlink PowerDVD and a full version copy of 3DMark Vantage.
Sapphire Radeon HD 4870 X2 in Crossfire
Sapphire Radeon HD 4870 X2 in Crossfire
As far as cables go, we have two power convertors; one for 8-pin and the other for 6-pin along with an S-Video to RCA adapter and a component out dongle. We also have a Crossfire bridge, DVI to VGA connector and DVI to HDMI connector included in the package.

The Card

The CardOpening up the box and checking out the card, we see it closely resembles the HD 3870 X2 from last generation. There isn't a whole lot to see as the cooler manages to take up the majority of the PCB.
Sapphire Radeon HD 4870 X2 in Crossfire
Sapphire has of course placed a sticker over the cooler to let us know the brand and of course the model of it.
Sapphire Radeon HD 4870 X2 in Crossfire
Sapphire Radeon HD 4870 X2 in Crossfire
As far as power goes, we have two connectors located at the back of the card; one is an 8-pin while the other is the standard 6-pin we're used to seeing. Across the other side of the card we can see a Crossfire bridge that lets us install two of these cards. And yes, we will be making use of it today.
Sapphire Radeon HD 4870 X2 in Crossfire
Moving to the back, we can see there is a heatsink that runs across the top. The whole card has a high quality feel and finish that we're used to seeing from AMD cards.
Sapphire Radeon HD 4870 X2 in Crossfire
Finally moving to the I/O side of things, we have with us two Dual-Link DVI connectors with a TV-Out port sitting between the two. Above the DVI connectors we have a bunch of vents that help let the hot air escape. It doesn't come as any surprise that the card takes up two slots given the single-GPU HD 4870 also takes up two.SpecificationsThe HD 4870 X2 is really two HD 4870s on a single PCB. We have two sets of 800 stream processors, two sets of 40 texture units and 16 ROPs. Each 55nm core sports the same 956 million transistors we saw on the HD 4870 and two 256-bit memory buses.Unlike the HD 3870 X2, the HD 4870 X2 clocks aren't down when compared to its single GPU counterpart. We see the same 750MHz core clock and 900MHz (3600MHz data rate) memory clock on the 2GB of HD 4870 X2.

Test System Setup and 3DMark06

Test System SetupProcessor(s): Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 @ 3GHz (333MHz x 9)Cooling: Corsair Nautilus500 (Supplied by Corsair) with Arctic Cooling MX-2 Thermal Compound (Supplied by Arctic Cooling)Motherboard(s): GIGABYTE X48-DQ6 (Supplied by GIGABYTE)Memory: 2 X 1GB Kingston PC6400 DDR-2 3-3-3-10 (KHX6400D2ULK2/2G) (Supplied by Kingston)Hard Disk(s): Seagate 250GB 7200RPM SATA-2 7200.10 (Supplied by Seagate)Operating System: Windows XP Professional SP2, Windows Vista SP1Drivers: ForceWare 177.41 (GTX Series), ForceWare 175.19 (9 Series), ATI Catalyst 8.7Today we'll see how the HD 4870 X2 goes up against the single HD 4870, a pair of HD 4870s in Crossfire, a stock clocked GTX 280, the older dual GPU 9800 GX2 and an overclocked 9800 GTX.Fortunately, we've got two HD 4870 X2s on hand with us today so we'll check out how two cards perform when placed together as well.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.
Sapphire Radeon HD 4870 X2 in Crossfire
Here we can see the HD 4870 X2 doesn't struggle against the GTX 280. Adding a second card into the mix, while yielding a performance increase, it doesn't give us anything huge.

Benchmarks - 3DMark Vantage

3DMark VantageVersion and / or Patch Used: 1.0.1Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.comProduct 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.
Sapphire Radeon HD 4870 X2 in Crossfire
We see similar to our 3DMark06 results here; the single card has no trouble trouncing the GTX 280. When adding a second card, though, we're not seeing as big a performance increase as one would hope.

Benchmarks - PT Boats: Knights of the Sea

PT Boats: Knights of the SeaVersion and / or Patch Used: Benchmark DemoDeveloper 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.
Sapphire Radeon HD 4870 X2 in Crossfire
Sapphire Radeon HD 4870 X2 in Crossfire
Under PT Boats we can see the NVIDIA cards beat out the AMD offerings across the board. We can see that the 2560 x 1600 issue for the HD 4870 X2 has been fixed, though. Adding a second card into the mix also does very little for performance at the moment.

Benchmarks - CINEBENCH R10

CINEBENCH R10Version and / or Patch Used: Release 10Developer 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).
Sapphire Radeon HD 4870 X2 in Crossfire
Here we see the HD 4870 X2 doesn't really offer much when compared to the other cards. The overall performance isn't anything that stands out. It's also of no surprise that we don't see a performance increase when adding a second card into the mix here.

Benchmarks - World in Conflict

World in ConflictVersion and / or Patch Used: 1.0.0.5Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in TestDeveloper 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.
Sapphire Radeon HD 4870 X2 in Crossfire
Sapphire Radeon HD 4870 X2 in Crossfire
Looking at WIC, the HD 4870 X2 at the highest resolution pretty much scores in line with the GTX 280. At the lower resolution we see it performs a little behind it. Adding a second card into the mix doesn't really do much for performance, with it only adding an extra FPS or two in both the minimum and average department.

Benchmarks - Crysis

CrysisVersion and / or Patch Used: 1.2.1Timedemo or Level Used: Custom time demoDeveloper Homepage: http://www.crytek.com/ Product Homepage: http://www.ea.com/crysis/Buy It Here
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.
Sapphire Radeon HD 4870 X2 in Crossfire
Under Crysis we can see that the GTX 280 continues to outperform the new HD 4870 X2. Adding a second X2 into the mix unfortunately has a slightly negative effect on the performance, which is disappointing.

Benchmarks - Unreal Tournament 3

Unreal Tournament 3Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1Timedemo or Level Used: Developer Homepage: http://www.epicgames.com/ Product Homepage: http://www.unrealtournament3.com/Buy It Here
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.
Sapphire Radeon HD 4870 X2 in Crossfire
UT 3 performance at the highest resolution sees the HD 4870 X2 outperforming the GTX 280 with ease. Unfortunately we continue to see the same problem where adding a second card into the equation does nothing for performance.

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
Sapphire Radeon HD 4870 X2 in Crossfire
We again see the HD 4870 X2 getting a good jump on the GTX 280, though we continue to see that adding a second card yields a very little performance increase.World In Conflict
Sapphire Radeon HD 4870 X2 in Crossfire
Sapphire Radeon HD 4870 X2 in Crossfire
Cranking up the AA and the AF under WIC sees the HD 4870 X2 get a massive jump on the GTX 280. Adding a second card into the mix also adds another 25% in the performance department. The card really needs to be put under a huge amount of pressure to really shine.

Benchmarks - 3DMark06 - XP

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.
Sapphire Radeon HD 4870 X2 in Crossfire
Our Windows XP 3DMark06 results are very similar to our Vista ones; a small increase with the second card added and no trouble outperforming the GTX 280.

Benchmarks - CINEBENCH R10 - XP

CINEBENCH R10Version and / or Patch Used: Release 10Developer 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).
Sapphire Radeon HD 4870 X2 in Crossfire
CINEBENCH puts the whole HD 4870 series well ahead of the NVIDIA offerings with all the HD 4870s scoring quite close together.

Benchmarks - World in Conflict - XP

World in ConflictVersion and / or Patch Used: 1.0.0.5Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in TestDeveloper 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.
Sapphire Radeon HD 4870 X2 in Crossfire
Sapphire Radeon HD 4870 X2 in Crossfire
For the most part here we see the HD 4870 X2 beating out the GTX 280. At the highest resolution the minimum does drop a bit lower, but the average is higher, albeit not as important. Adding a second card into the mix only sees gains at the highest resolution, though.

Benchmarks - Unreal Tournament 3 - XP

Unreal Tournament 3Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1Timedemo or Level Used: Developer Homepage: http://www.epicgames.com/ Product Homepage: http://www.unrealtournament3.com/Buy It Here
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.
Sapphire Radeon HD 4870 X2 in Crossfire
We continue to see the single HD 4870 X2 beating out the GTX with no issues. Adding a second card into the equation, though, continues to yield a limited performance increase at the moment.

Temperature and Sound Tests

Temperature Tests
With the TES 1326 Infrared Thermometer literally in hand we found ourselves getting real-world temperatures from the products we test at load (3D clock speeds).There are two places we pull temperature from - the back of the card directly behind the core and if the card is dual slot and has an exhaust point we also pull a temperate from there, as seen in the picture.
Sapphire Radeon HD 4870 X2 in Crossfire
One of our HD 4870 X2 cores got quite toasty, but the rest sat around a pretty standard temperature.Sound Tests
Pulling out the TES 1350A Sound Level Meter we find ourselves quickly yelling into the top of it to see how loud we can be.After five minutes of that we get a bit more serious and place the device two CM away from the fan on the card to find the maximum noise level of the card when idle (2D mode) and in load (3D mode).
Sapphire Radeon HD 4870 X2 in Crossfire
The long cooler does manage to crank out some decent dBs with it coming in at a similar noise level to the 9800 GTX.

Power Consumption Tests

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.
Sapphire Radeon HD 4870 X2 in Crossfire
Big powahhhh needed for a Crossfire X setup, as we can see above. We wouldn't recommend anything under a decent quality 1 KW power supply. Our 1500 Watt Thermaltake power supply absolutely ran like a dream with the cards.

Final Thoughts

Final ThoughtsThe HD 4870 X2 performance isn't really much of a surprise; it's two HD 4870s clocked at exactly the same speed on a single PCB. For the most part we see the card performing almost in line with a pair of standard 4870s.The thing is, though, that the P45 chipset from Intel at the moment is one of the hottest pieces of kit, thanks to the massive overclocks it's achieving. The only problem with the chipset is that it doesn't come with two PCI-E x16 slots; most configurations are x8 / x8 which actually hits the performance of two cards quite considerably. If you find yourself a bit of an AMD fanboy (or fangirl) in the graphics card department, a single HD 4870 is still going to score behind a single GTX 280 consistently, meaning that you're not buying the fastest graphics card available. And while a pair of HD 4870s would be great, the performance hit from not having a x16 / x16 configuration is just too much to justify the associated cost vs. performance increase.Thanks to the release of the HD 4870 X2, this is something you don't need to worry about anymore. It really is great news for people who want a super fast graphics card solution from AMD in their P45 rig.Unfortunately Crossfire X still has issues, but hopefully the AMD driver team is still working hard on new drivers. It's not something that we would rush out and do at the moment, or even recommend to most people. The HD 4870 X2 is an excellent card and it really gives you the chance to buy a P45 board confidently. With the HD 4870 X2 I can now build a new system that will overclock extremely well, thanks to the ability of using the very fast P45 platform. It's also an added bonus for a lot of people in that it's cheaper than its X48 brother.There wasn't really anything else AMD could do with the HD 4870 X2; no doubt over the coming weeks we will see companies overclock the card and hopefully we will see companies like ASUS go for a new cooling arrangement just to mix it up a bit more. But on a whole, AMD have done a lot right with this card, including the fact that they didn't downclock the core or the memory from the already very impressive HD 4870.Like we said before, Crossfire X still has some issues, but the ability for big performance is there with a minimum FPS count of 25 in World in Conflict at 2560 x 1600 with 4x AA and 16x AF. I think my own personal mission over the coming days or weeks will be to crack that 30 FPS minimum mark with a pair of HD 4870 X2s in hand. With a bit of overclocking on both the CPU and the graphics cards, it should be doable.Without forgetting the company behind the sample, Sapphire have done a decent job with the package by including a number of applications, including a full version copy of 3DMark Vantage. The HD 4870 X2 is going to quickly become a popular card among people at launch and hopefully can allow AMD to become a fearsome force in the graphics card arena once again over the next 12 months. Now we just have to see how NVIDIA are going to retaliate; it's doubtful that they're just going to sit back and watch AMD enjoy the sales of their new card.
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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.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.

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