ASUS HD 4870 X2 (EAH4870X2) 2GB PCI-E Page: 1
Introduction & Specification
 
ASUS EAH4870X2Generally for a new GPU release we'd go full out on an introduction, spending lots of time talking about the card, its features, some of its predecessors etc etc. But now, a few weeks after the official release of the 4870X2, we are going to assume that you've pretty much gained a degree in the card having read all the ins and outs of its architecture and just want to get straight down to the nitty gritty results.
 
Of course, to sum things up for those of us who may not have been following the launch of AMD's latest and greatest, the 4870X2 is essentially two RV770 (HD 4870) GPU's slapped on a single PCB and coupled with a rather tasty 2GB of GDDR5 memory. Designed to lock horns with NVIDIA's current  flagship card - the GTX280, the 4870X2 may be lacking some of the finesse of a single GPU solution - but will it get the job done?
 
Today we're going to be looking at the ASUS EAH4870X2 and placing it head-to-head with a reference NVIDIA GTX280 in both the performance and price stakes. However, before we get down to the good stuff, let's take a quick look at the specs of the card from ASUS' recent PR release: 
 
Specs
"Graphics cards with high performance and exceptional speeds are never far from the gamer’s mind. That is why ASUS, producer of top quality graphic solutions, has today introduced the graphical solution for the latest generation of AMD dual RV770XT GPUs – the ASUS EAH4870X2/HTDI/2G – equipped with double GPUs and a massive 2G of on-board memory. Additionally, the ASUS EAH4870X2 TOP will be released soon with impressive performance results to provide superb gaming performance; and both the ASUS EAH4870X2 TOP/HTDI/2G and EAH4870X2/HTDI/2G are slated to be upgraded soon – with both cards being equipped with a specially designed fansink for efficient heat dissipation.
 
In line with the Rock Solid promise of high quality from ASUS, the second versions of the EAH4870X2 Series will come with several solutions to provide top quality graphic performances. These upgraded graphics cards will utilize a specially designed fansink to effectively dissipate heat away from both GPUs – enabling much more stable performances in comparison to reference designed single fansinks*. In addition, they will also be equipped with an EMI shield, which reduces EMI Interference by 66% for more stable signals; and DIP Spring Chokes will lower temperatures by 5~10°C in comparison to traditional Toroidal Coil Chokes. Furthermore, the LF PAK MOS guarantees more efficient power and less heat production; and on top of all this, Japan-made polymer capacitors will lower power loss for more stable operations. "
 
 
 
So there we have it! Now let's press on with the review..


ASUS HD 4870 X2 (EAH4870X2) 2GB PCI-E Page: 2
Packaging
 
Based on our previous experiences with ASUS products, it's fair to say that they love going over the top where packaging is concerned. Large boxes with flaps, windows, tonnes of accessories and excessive amounts of padding all help to give the impression that you're really getting your money's worth when unwrapping that new purchase.
 
ASUS EAH4870X2 Box Front ASUS EAH4870X2 Box Back
 
ASUS EAH4870X2 Box Open ASUS EAH4870X2 Inner Box
 
Much like the EAH4850 reviewed a short while back, the EAH4870X2 is presented in an orange and black cardboard box printed with with the model number of the card in large bold lettering along with some logos depicting the main features of the card. Once again, the box also features a flap which can be opened to reveal further specifications along with detailed descriptions of their function.
 
ASUS EAH4870X2 Box Open ASUS EAH4870X2 Package Contents
 
Contained within the outer packaging is a rugged black cardboard box with a gold ASUS logo. Opening the box reveals a further two boxes of the same design, both of which store the copious quantity of accessories listed below:
 
- Driver Disk
- Faux Leather CD Wallett
- DVI to VGA Adaptor
- DVI to HDMI Adaptor
- 6-Pin to 8-Pin PCIe power cable.
- S-Video cable
- Crossfire Bridge
- Various leaflets and gumph.
 
 
 
Appearance
 
Measuring in at 270mm in length and weighing more than a sack of spuds (ok maybe not quite),  the 4870X2 is certainly one beast of a card in every respect. Much to our surprise, AMD have made a bold switch away from the trademark red ATI PCB in favour of a much more neutral, yet extreme looking black PCB. This contrasts extremely well with the white backed ASUS sticker adorned with a picture of our favourite ASUS CGI hussy showing a bit of booty.
 
ASUS EAH4870X2 Card Top ASUS EAH4870X2 Card Bottom
 
Looking underneath the card reveals a similar backplate to that used on ATI/AMD's previous dual-gpu card, the 3870X2. Essentially this plate acts as a heatsink for the GDDR5 memory chips placed on the back of the card, while also preventing the card from warping under its own weight.
 
ASUS EAH4870X2 Card Front ASUS EAH4870X2 Card Back
 
The front of the card is your average affair with two DVI ports separated by an S-Video port in the centre. Both of the DVI ports are able to provide HDMI output using the included DVI-HDMI connector and as mentioned further up the page S-Video connectors are also provided if you want to output to slightly dated equipment.
 
Although power consumption is undoubtedly going to be considerably higher than the single-GPU 4870, AMD have managed to keep PCI-e cable requirements to one 8-pin and one 6-Pin connector. This is the same as both the 3870X2 and NVIDIA's current flagship card, the GTX280.
 
ASUS EAH4870X2 GPU Exposed ASUS EAH4870X2 Exposed Back
 
ASUS EAH4870X2 Cooler ASUS EAH4870X2 Cooler
 
With two 4870 chips on-board, AMD knew that the 4870X2 would get hotter than the blazes of hell. Thankfully the stock cooling on the card consists of two copper bases attached to a large copper finned heatsink for cooling the GPU's, and a fairly weighty steel frame for dissipating the heat generated by the power circuitry and memory IC's.
 
During our testing of the card, ATI's Catalyst Control Panel reported idle temperatures of around 52c, with 100% load temperatures hitting 77c. While these temperatures are perfectly within acceptable operating temperatures for the GPU's the vented blanking plate at the rear of the card did often get too hot to handle.
 
ASUS EAH4870X2 GPU's ASUS EAH4870X2 Memory
 
Sitting pretty in the middle of the two HD4870 GPU's is PLX Technology's PEX 8647 PCI-Express switch. This chip essentially provides an on-board Crossfire bridge between each of the GPU's but with considerably less latency than sending the data via the Northbridge on a traditional Crossfire setup. An earlier version of this chip (PEX 8547) was first used by AMD/ATI on the 3870X2 graphics card but was often slated for only providing PCI-e 1.1 bandwidth. Thankfully the PEX 8647 resolves this issue by providing full PCI-e 2.0 bandwidth at 5.0GT/s.
 
Initial news surrounding the HD4870X2 card suggested that it would be using GDDR5 memory IC's manufactured by Qimonda. However, as we can see from the image above-right, the ASUS EAH4870X2 makes use of Hynix H5GQ1H24MJR chips. Whether or not these chips will perform on-par or maybe even better than the extremely capable Qimonda chips is yet to be seen.


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Test Setup
 
A common mistake made when benchmarking graphics cards is that the rest of the PC system isn't sufficient enough to test the GPU to its limits. This results in a bottleneck situation, where the system can only run at the speed of its slowest component. For this reason, the test configuration chosen below has been specially selected to give each of the graphics cards on test the headroom they require in order to produce the best results.
 
Test Setup
 
A selection of games and benchmark suites has also been chosen to test each of the cards with several game engines. Each of the cards will be run at both low, medium and high resolutions with varying levels of texture filtering to represent the use of the card with both small and large screen sizes.
 
3DMark05
1024x768 / 0xAA / 0xAF (Default)
1600x1200 / 4xAA / 0xAF
1920x1200 / 4xAA / 0xAF

3DMark 06
1280x1024 / 0xAA / 0xAF (Default)
1600x1200 / 4xAA / 0xAF
1920x1200 / 4xAA / 0xAF

3DMark Vantage
Performance Mode
High Mode
Extreme Mode

Enemy Territory:Quake Wars
1280x1024 / Max+Ultra / 8xAA
1600x1200 / Max+Ultra / 8xAA
1920x1200 / Max+Ultra / 8xAA

Unreal Tournament III
1280x1024 / DX10 / High / 0xAA / 16xAF
1600x1200 / DX10 / High / 0xAA / 16xAF
1920x1200 / DX10 / High / 0xAA / 16xAF

Call of Duty 4
1280x1024 / Max / 4xAA
1600x1200 / Max / 4xAA
1920x1200 / Max / 4xAA

F.E.A.R
1280x1024 / Max / 4xAA
1600x1200 / Max / 4xAA
1920x1200 / Max / 4xAA

Racedriver GRID
1280x1024 / Ultra / 4xAA
1600x1200 / Ultra / 4xAA
1920x1200 / Ultra / 4xAA

Crysis
1280x1024 / DX10 / Very High / 4xAA
1600x1200 / DX10 / Very High / 4xAA
1920x1200 / DX10 / Very High / 4xAA
 
During the benchmarking phase, we will be using the following prices extracted from aria.co.uk on 17/08/08 to produce our CPF (Cost Per Frame) graphs. Please remember that these graphs are static and only represent a snapshot of the market at the time of this review.

ASUS GTX280 - £293.69
ASUS HD 4870X2 - £347.74
 
 
Overclocking
 
Using only the the ATI Overdrive™ facility built into the driver control panel, the maximum overclock we were able to obtain from the ASUS 4870X2  was 777mhz on the core and 975mhz on the memory. The Overdrive facility did actually attempt to overclock the card higher than this using the "Auto-Tune" option, but unfortunately these settings proved to be unstable when attempting to run 3DMark Vantage.
 
 
Interestingly, with this overclock applied our scores on 3DMark Vantage actually dropped! This is normally indicative of unstable settings, but during testing no artifacting was observed and further reducing the overclock settings didn't appear to improve the situation. We can only assume that this was a possible issue with the Catalyst 8.8 drivers or the GPU's were simply getting too hot.
 
 
Power Usage
 
Using what's commonly known as a "Power Angel" to record the power consumption of the entire system by placing the device between the test systems plug and the mains outlet, we were able to record the following results. Idle power was taken after the system had been given around 10 minutes to settle after powering on, whereas load consumption was taken during a 10 minute test session with rthdribl.
 
 
Bearing in mind that the results below are for the ENTIRE SYSTEM and not just the GPU, its clear to see that the GTX280 is able to throttle its power consumption down considerably lower than the 4870X2 when in a desktop environment. This is also true once a heavy load is applied to the GPU's, with the 4870X2 rocketing to 409w - almost 80w higher than the GTX280.


ASUS HD 4870 X2 (EAH4870X2) 2GB PCI-E Page: 4
 
3DMark is a popular synthetic gaming benchmark used by many gamers and overclockers to gauge the performance of their PC's. All 3DMark runs were performed a total of 5 times, with the highest and lowest results being removed and an average calculated from the remaining 3 results.
 
 
 
With 3DMark05 getting a bit long in the tooth it's quite common to see GPU's with raw power taking over those with a greater feature set. Of course, neither card in this test is lacking in features, but the sheer power behind the two GPU's on the 4870X2 allows it to leap ahead of the GTX280 across all resolutions.
 
 
3DMark06 shows much the same result, with the GTX280 being completely annihilated by the 4870X2 particularly as the resolution is increased and anti aliasing applied.
 
 
Back when the GTX280 was first released, it was considered to be quite a monster when it came to benchmarking on FutureMark's DX10 based testing suite - 3DMark Vantage. However, ATI/AMD have certainly got this one covered too, and the sheer power of two HD4870's strapped to one PCB allow the 4870X2 to kick ass and take no hostages.


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Call of Duty 4
 
Call of Duty 4 is a stunning DirectX 9.0c based game that really looks awesome and has a very full feature set. With lots of advanced lighting, smoke and water effects, the game has excellent explosions along with fast gameplay. Using the in-built Call Of Duty features, a 10-minute long game play demo was recorded and replayed on each of the GPU's using the /timedemo command a total of 5 times. The highest and lowest FPS results were then removed, with an average being calculated from the remaining 3 results.
 
 
 
Quite often in GPU reviews we find ourselves discussing the performance figures of two cards only a few FPS apart. However, with the 4870X2 managing to pump out almost 80FPS more than the GTX280 at 1280x1024 and 60FPS at 1900x1200, there's not really much to be said other than wow!
 
This of course also translates well when placed on the CPF (Cost Per Frame) scale. Despite the higher price of the 4870X2 at present, the performance of the card easily ofsets this, bringing the card in at almost £1 cheaper than the GTX280 when running at 1900x1200.
 
 
Crysis
 
Crysis is without doubt one of the most visually stunning and hardware-challenging games to date. By using CrysisBench - a tool developed independently of Crysis - we performed a total of 5 timedemo benchmarks using a GPU-intensive pre-recorded demo. To ensure the most accurate results, the highest and lowest benchmark scores were then removed and an average calculated from the remaining three.
 
 
 
With Very High graphics detail and 4xAA selected, we wanted to make sure that both the GTX280 and the 4870X2 were given a thorough thrashing. As we can see from the results above, both cards buckled under the pressure, neither being able to keep up any playable FPS score. However, with the 4870X2 sitting around 15FPS ahead of the GTX280 across all resolutions, it was certainly the most playable of the two.
 
The CPF scale is almost painful to look at when it comes to Crysis results with prices running into the double figures per frame. However, despite the 4870X2 costing an eyewatering £11.26 per frame at 1900x1200, it was still a full £6 cheaper than the GTX280 which came in at a stomach turning £17.45 a frame!


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F.E.A.R
 
F.E.A.R. is a game based on the Lithtech Jupiter EX engine. It has volumetric lighting, soft shadows, parallax mapping and particle effects. All results were recorded using F.R.A.P.S, with a total of 5 identical runs through the same area of the game. The highest and lowest results were then removed, with an average being calculated from the remaining 3 results.
 
 
 
Yet another hands-down win for the HD 4870X2 in F.E.A.R with the red team managing to sit over 50FPS higher than the green team across all resolutions.
 
However, as the FPS creep into the hundreds; coming close to the actual pound value of the cards, interesting things happen to the CPF scale. The cost of both cards falls towards the £1 per frame mark, and the price difference between both cards equates to around £0.10. However, despite the heavy price slashings on the NVIDIA front recently, the cost of the GTX280 and its lower performance still places it just a tad higher than the 4870X2 on the CPF scale.
 
 
Racedriver GRID
 
Race Driver: Grid is a visually taxing game that presents a challenge to any graphics system. Results were recorded using FRAPS to log the average FPS over a 2 minute race. To ensure consistency, the same track, car and general path of travel was used in each of the 5 benchmark runs for each graphics card, with an average FPS being calculated from the median three results.
 
 
 
GRID being a game that NVIDIA were keen to show off at the launch of the GTX200 series starts of well for the GTX280 at 1280x1024, but rapidly goes down hill as the resolution is increased. Interestingly the 4870X2 is hardly phased at all by the resolution changes, managing to maintain an average of 117FPS at 1900x1200. This results in a relatively flat line for the 4870X2 on the CPF scale, while the cost og the GTX280 per frame skyrockets.


ASUS HD 4870 X2 (EAH4870X2) 2GB PCI-E Page: 7
Unreal Tournament III
 
Unreal Tournament 3 the latest game in the long running Unreal series from Epic Games and Midway. The game uses the latest UE3, which combines fast gameplay along with high quality textures and lighting effects. All benchmarks were performed using UTbench with a fly-by of the DM-BioHazard map. As usual, all benchmarks were performed 5 times, with the highest and lowest results being removed and an average calculated from the remaining three.
 
 
 
For the first time in all of the benchmarks, the GTX280 is allowed to gain some dignity and actually manages to beat the 4870X2 by 20FPS at 1280x1024. However, once again the 4870X2 seems almost unaffected by resolution changes, which quickly places it ahead of the GTX280 once more when the resolution is upped to 1600x1200.
 
A few months ago we would have probably been shot for saying this, but in UT3 at least, the GTX280 actually represents better value for money than its ATI counterpart. Now isn't that a turn-up for the books!
 
 
ET:Quake Wars
 
ET:Quake Wars is a follow-up game to Wolfenstein:Enemy Territory developed by Splash Technology. Using a modified version of id Software's Doom 3 engine along with Mega rendering technology, the game promises high resolution textures, fast gameplay and plenty of explosions. Using the built-in recordNetDemo and timeNetDemo commands, we recorded a 5 minute online gaming session and played it back a total of 5 times at each resolution, calculating the average FPS from the median three results.
 
 
 
Bearing in mind we are looking at the results of a fairly demanding game with all options maxed out and 8xAA applied, both cards produce commendable results with only 7fps seperating them at 1280x1024. Unfortunately the GTX280 just cant keep up with the 4870X2 as the resolution is increased, resulting in the GTX280 falling 30FPS behind the 4870X2 at 1900x1200.
 
This gives a criss-cross style result ont he CPF scale, with the 4870X2 starting off as the most expensive of the two cards at lower resolutions, but soon redeeming itself once we get to 1900x1200.


ASUS HD 4870 X2 (EAH4870X2) 2GB PCI-E Page: 8
Conclusion
 
ASUS EAH4870X2 2GBBased on the results over the previous pages it's really hard not to fall in love with the 4870X2. Yes it totally lacks in innovation, yes it sucks up power and yes it removes the need for any heating in your home. But for the hardcore gamer or extreme bencher who craves FPS above everything else, the 4870X2 reigns supreme.
 
High resolutions, high quality textures, 8xAA - you name it, the 4870X2 eats it for lunch. Throughout our testing the only game that could present it with a remote challenge was Crysis (surprise, surprise), and even then with 4xAA and V.High textures applied, the 4870X2 still managed to produce a fairly reasonable 30FPS at 1900x1200 while the GTX280 was left running at a slideshow speed of just under 17FPS.
 
Credit has to be given to ASUS too for the bundle and packaging provided with the card. Even depite it not being from their high-end "TOP" lineup, the card still comes with a whole bunch of cables, adapters, connectors and a CD wallet. Sure this may not sound amazing, but it's better than a kick in the knackers or a £10 price hike to have a game you don't even like included in the box.
 
At present the 4870X2 may be a tad on the pricey side at just under £350, but considering we're looking at a card with two GPU's and a huge Copper cooler to help tame the temperatures, it's certainly a lot easier to swallow than the insane launch price of the GTX280. However, going on the current pricing, the 4870X2 is actually around £50 more expensive than NVIDIA's best. Interestingly, as our CPF graphs over the previous few pages have shown, the 4870X2 is able to offset its higher price with its exceptional performance scores, actually making it the better buy of the two where high resolutions and AF are a must.
 
 
The Good
- Unrivalled FPS results.
- Performance seems unaffected by resolution changes in most games.
 
The Mediocre
- Performance offsets the high price.
- Mildly noisy, but nowhere near as bad as we were expecting.
- You need a highly overclocked CPU to get the most out of it.
 
The Bad
- After a few hours of use, you can fry and egg on the blanking plates.
- Power consumption is sky high.
 
 
Overclock3D Gamers Choice Award
 
Thanks to ASUS for providing the EAH4870X2 for review. Discuss this review in our forums.