Palit Radeon HD 4870 Sonic Graphics Card

Palit helps mix up the VGA market with its reknowned Sonic lineup. The latest comes in the form of an overclocked 4870.
| Aug 27, 2008 at 11:00 pm CDT
Rating: 91%Manufacturer: Palit

Introduction

Palit Radeon HD 4870 Sonic Graphics Card
IntroductionThe HD 4870 has been quite the performer from the word go, but it's in our blood that we have the need for even more power. This is where overclocking comes into play; today Palit has placed the HD 4870 under their Sonic naming scheme, which means we get a nice little out of the box overclock. Palit hasn't just bumped the clock speeds up, though, they've also decided to change it by removing the boring reference cooler that we've been seeing for so long and adding their own design.Before we check out the cooler and the clocks the new HD 4870 Sonic from Palit offers, we'll quickly take the time to have a look at the package to see if there's anything inside the box to get excited about.

The Package

The PackageThe new HD 4870 Sonic uses the same box that we saw the other day on the HD 4850 Sonic; it's slightly bigger than the older boxes, though offers all the standard information. Down the side we have the Palit, ATI and Windows logo while the middle of the box is taken up with a picture of our old friend, FroBot.
Palit Radeon HD 4870 Sonic Graphics Card
Towards the bottom right corner of the box we have a sticker that states the model, clock speeds, some of the main specifications like 512MB of GDDR5 memory, Dual DVI along with some of the main features like PCI Express 2.0 and the fact that it's overclocked out of the box.
Palit Radeon HD 4870 Sonic Graphics Card
Turning the box over, we have some more details on the specification of the card in a number of languages. Across the bottom we have the Palit logo along with a contact email address and the company website.
Palit Radeon HD 4870 Sonic Graphics Card
Inside the box there isn't a whole lot going on; apart from the installation guide we also have a driver CD.
Palit Radeon HD 4870 Sonic Graphics Card
Cable wise, we only have a power convertor, DVI to VGA connector and a DVI to HDMI connector included.

The Card

The CardPulling the card out of the box, it's refreshing to see that Palit have opted to use a new style of cooler. While the reference cooler does a good job of keeping the card at a bearable temperature, it's always nice to see something a bit different.
Palit Radeon HD 4870 Sonic Graphics Card
The Palit uses a dual-fan design that helps cool the giant heatsink which has three heat pipes coming out of the top. The card actually uses two different sized fans; the left one that sits closer to the core is slightly larger than the one that sits towards the back of the card.
Palit Radeon HD 4870 Sonic Graphics Card
Palit Radeon HD 4870 Sonic Graphics Card
Looking around the card, apart from the cooler there isn't really anything out of the ordinary; we have two 6-pin PCI Express connectors at the back of the card while across the top we have our two Crossfire connectors.
Palit Radeon HD 4870 Sonic Graphics Card
The I/O panel manages to hold some surprises; apart from the standard two Dual-Link DVI connectors, we also have a display port connector.
Palit Radeon HD 4870 Sonic Graphics Card
Towards the bottom right of the I/O bracket we have a switch that lets you overclock the card. There are two modes; normal and turbo. You can switch between default and overclock specifications when your computer is off. SpecificationsWhile you might think normal is default, it's not. Normal refers to the standard Sonic clocks which give us the default core speed of 750MHz, but an overclocked memory clock of 950MHz or 3800MHz Data Rate, which is up from the 900MHz or 3600MHz Data Rate of the reference clocks. If you want to up the ante, though, and quite honestly who doesn't? Switching to turbo will boost the core to 775MHz and the memory clock to 1000MHz or 4000MHz Data Rate. These clocks are mighty impressive and should give quite a boost in some of our tests. Let's find out.

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: ATI Catalyst 8.7Today we'll have a look at how the HD 4870 Sonic in turbo mode goes against the stock clocked HD 4870 along with how the overclock puts us up against the more expensive GTX 280 from NVIDIA.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.
Palit Radeon HD 4870 Sonic Graphics Card
Our first test shows the Palit HD 4870 Sonic with some decent improvements at all resolutions. We can see for the most part the GTX 280 actually trails behind the overclocked card, except for the highest resolution.

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.
Palit Radeon HD 4870 Sonic Graphics Card
Under Vantage we again see a nice little performance gain, but this time we see that the GTX 280 is way out ahead of the competition.

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.
Palit Radeon HD 4870 Sonic Graphics Card
Palit Radeon HD 4870 Sonic Graphics Card
Under PT Boats we can see that the Palit offers a nice little bump in performance compared to the stock model, while 2560 x 1600 performance under PT Boats is also perfect.

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).
Palit Radeon HD 4870 Sonic Graphics Card
CINEBENCH performance is very similar between the two HD 4870s with the overclock offering very little extra performance under this test.

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.
Palit Radeon HD 4870 Sonic Graphics Card
Palit Radeon HD 4870 Sonic Graphics Card
Across the board we see a slight boost in performance with the HD 4870 Sonic. At the lower resolution it's right on the tail of the more expensive GTX 280; only at 2560 x 1600 does it really lag behind.

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.
Palit Radeon HD 4870 Sonic Graphics Card
Crysis also sees a slight performance increase with the card coming out only 10% lower than the much more expensive GTX 280.

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.
Palit Radeon HD 4870 Sonic Graphics Card
At the lower resolution we can see that the overclock does very little; at 2560 x 1600, though, when the card is placed under a lot more stress we see the advantage of the overclock.

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
Palit Radeon HD 4870 Sonic Graphics Card
With the AA and AF on we can see that the GTX 280 manages to only just sneak out ahead of the overclocked HD 4870 Sonic which manages to offer quite a nice boost in performance over the stock clocked model.World In Conflict
Palit Radeon HD 4870 Sonic Graphics Card
Palit Radeon HD 4870 Sonic Graphics Card
Here we can see the overclock gives us a little boost in the average, but for the most part we don't see too much of a difference.

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.
Palit Radeon HD 4870 Sonic Graphics Card
Under XP we again see a decent boost in performance with the overclocked Palit card in hand.

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).
Palit Radeon HD 4870 Sonic Graphics Card
Under XP we see the HD 4870 perform a fair chunk better than the other cards here, but we can see the overclock offered does very little in giving us added performance with both cards scoring almost exactly the same.

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.
Palit Radeon HD 4870 Sonic Graphics Card
Palit Radeon HD 4870 Sonic Graphics Card
We can see across the board the overclock gives us a slight boost in performance with the overclocked Palit HD 4870 set to turbo.

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.
Palit Radeon HD 4870 Sonic Graphics Card
Under XP, UT3 doesn't seem to benefit as much with the overclock; both cards perform quite close to each other.

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.
Palit Radeon HD 4870 Sonic Graphics Card
The dual fan cooler that Palit has opted for has helped bring temps down a good 5c.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).
Palit Radeon HD 4870 Sonic Graphics Card
The temperature drop does come at an extra few dB, but nothing we would be worrying about.

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.
Palit Radeon HD 4870 Sonic Graphics Card
The Palit HD 4870 Sonic also manages to suck a little more juice, but again it's not something we would be worrying about.

Final Thoughts

Final ThoughtsI really like this card, but before I get too much into it I have to say the whole Turbo switch thing does seem a bit pointless. Honestly, why wouldn't you want to run your card at full tilt all the time? - And considering you have to shut down to switch between the clocks, it makes it a bit of a pain. I'm also not sure about your setup, but if this was in my main PC, getting to the back of the card to switch from normal to turbo would be even more of a pain. In turbo mode the card didn't hiccup once, it ran like an absolute dream which again kind of puzzles me as to why one would opt for "normal" mode.The thing is, though, the card ultimately performs great. It runs cooler than the stock HD 4870, manages to look a bit better, performs slightly better, costs only slightly more and generally speaking is just pretty kick ass.If you find yourself wanting something a bit different while also running a little bit faster, the Palit HD 4870 Sonic is a great option. As far as HD 4870s go, there isn't a whole lot more you could ask for. Throw in the fact that Palit have also added Display Port and the card is pretty feature packed.
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