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Old 08-16-08, 04:42 PM   #54
Xion X2
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Join Date: May 2006
Location: U.S.
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Default Re: RV700/RV770 Benchmarking Thread

4870 X2 vs. 4870 X2 CrossfireX Review

Introducing the 4870X2 CrossfireX Platform:

Test Setup
CPU: Intel Q9550 Yorkfield @ 3.85GHz
GFX: ATi Radeon 4870X2 | 4870X2 CrossfireX
MBD: Asus Rampage Formula X48 (PCI-E 2.0 x 16 x 16)
RAM: Corsair DDR2 1066MHz
PSU: Corsair HX1000W
DVR: Catalyst 8.8 beta
OS: Vista 64 Ultimate


A snapshot of all 4 GPUs running in the Catalyst. 40% fan adjustment enabled keeps all nice and cool at idle:

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Warning: If you're used to reading reviews filled with nothing but light AA settings made for graphics cards from circa-2006, then you may want to stop right here. High-end platforms deserve X2reme testing, and that's exactly what you're going to see here. At least in the cases that performance is still playable with it.
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Today's review is a follow-up to the 4870 Crossfire Scaling review found HERE. After some heavy benchmarking (Oblivion, in particular,) I decided to trade my two 4870s in for a pair of X2s. What could possess someone to dump so much money into something that can't go 200mph on the streets or isn't dressed in a tight mini-skirt and high heels? Well, there are a few reasons. And yes, I'm crazy enough to actually try and justify it.

First of all I will say that I consider Crossfire 4870s to be one HECK of a setup. My experience with that platform was just short of excellent as Crossfire scaled consistently great across 99% of the games I tried and offered a very stable platform. Every game that I played on them flew.. except for two (thus the slightly less than "excellent" rating.) And it was for those games that I switched to my current platform. For most, a 4870, or two, will suit them just fine. For me, it wasn't quite enough and here's why.

In the midst of my benchmarking, I had began to see the dreaded VRAM limitations on the 4870s that everyone had been concerned about since their release. I had seen benchmark after benchmark of the 4870 running high resolution and AA without taking much of a hit. But what I didn't consider strongly enough is that next-gen games are right around the corner and using larger, higher-resolution textures. I began to see a glimpse of the future when I installed Qarl's Hi-res Texture Pack for Oblivion and picked up Crysis again.

For Oblivion, a game that was zipping along at 60+ fps at highest settings and 8xMSAA, it took a nose dive down to 30fps as soon as I enabled 16xAA w/ Qarl's mod installed. After some extensive testing, I came to the conclusion that VRAM was the issue. I was able to run 24xAA Edge Detect without issue at 1680x, but I couldn't run 16xMSAA on Oblivion w/ Qarl's mod without it slicing my framerate in half and stuttering. Why? Because ATI's Edge Detect AA runs entirely on the shaders and uses very little VRAM, unlike 16xMSAA which eats a boatload of it. And with Crossfire 4870s I had plenty of shader horsepower to spare. What I didn't have, however, was enough VRAM to run high levels of MSAA.

I began to think about this a little, because I knew that eventually I was going to make the jump to 1920x which would make the situation worse. Plus, I didn't like the feeling that I had just spent 600$ on a couple of high-end graphics cards that were already hitting a bottleneck on a game that came out more than two years ago.

So, I decided to do the unthinkable and went Quad. And I have to say that so far I'm very glad that I did. After a few weeks of messing around with it, I have no regrets. It's been very stable and has offered a definitive performance improvement on certain occasions--namely in games like Crysis and Oblivion.

The two questions everyone probably wants to ask, are: "Is it worth it?" and "How much trouble is it?" So, "Is it worth it?" Well, if I'm trying to speak objectively--yes and no. It depends on your gaming preference. If you're a graphics wh0re like me and require high AA levels all the time at highest settings, then it's worth it. If 4xAA is your "bag," as Austin would say, then no--it probably isn't worth it, "babay" (then again, if 4xAA is all you desire then why did you go Crossfire/SLI in the first place?)

So let's begin to take a look at the benefits and drawbacks of the platform in its current state and at the current state of games in general. And where better to begin than the graphics card killer of them all: Crysis.


For Crysis, benching was conducted at three different settings on the two platforms. All High with 4xAA, All Very High with 2xAA and All Very High with 4xAA. Anything higher than 4xAA is unplayable on either platform.

A setting that was once unplayable on Crysis (Very High) is now very playable in CrossfireX--averaging nearly 50fps and dropping no lower than 32fps with 4xAA enabled. Of course the ideal scenario would be to have the 2nd X2 scale at least 80%. I still hold out hope that ATI can optimize the drivers better for Crysis and CrossfireX in general, and I believe they will. The 8.9 betas shown above have brought a 20% improvement over the 8.8s that I had benched with earlier in the weekend and that are shown in the rest of the benches below.

But Crysis isn't the only game out there. There ARE others.. despite how much people talk about it. After this monster, I decided to move onto something a little easier and a game I knew already scaled like crazy on my 4870 Crossfire setup: GRID.


Yes, you're reading that right. 184fps at highest settings with 24xTSAA (transparency supersampling AA) enabled. And I guess my comment about "200 mph down the streets" might need a little revisioning since 12xTSAA on CrossfireX breaks the 200fps barrier by flying down the track at 214.

There's no doubt that GRID runs on sheer graphics power.

Next - Stalker.

STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl

Ever since installing this game over the weekend I have been kicking myself. "What the hell were you thinking never playing through this game?" --I've been telling myself. Well, I'm going to. It's at the top of my list. It's still one of the best looking games out there, and it runs very well on the ATi platform.

Two things could probably make this game look even better, though. 1) - Mods and 2) - for ATi to allow driver AA. No matter what setting I tried, I couldn't get the driver AA to override what was in-game. The best I could do was set the in-game AA option as high as it would go. At 1920x, though, any jaggies are minimal.

And last but not least--the game that caused me to lose sleep over my lack of VRAM (yes, I'm sad): Oblivion.


This game is amazing. It's been out for over two years, and it still competes with games like Crysis for top dog in graphics with a single mod installed. With Qarl's texture mod, this game is simply breathtaking. So many of the original low-res 360 textures have been replaced with textures 4x in size, and both the X2 and CrossfireX just maul over every one of them.

As good as the game looks with the improved textures, nothing can slow it down until you bump that nasty little bugger (a.k.a. - "performance killer",) a.k.a. "AA" up a notch. Or two, or three.

This game plays perfect on a single X2 all the way to 12xAA at highest settings w/ Qarl's mod installed. But that's the ceiling. If you go any higher, it bogs a single X2 down considerably as you can see in the graph. Minimums drop to 39fps once 24xAA is enabled, and when you're under 40fps on Oblivion the game can get very choppy and laggy.

On Quad-Crossfire, however, it pretty much laughs at anything you can throw at it. Even 24xAA isn't enough to drop it below 60fps.


Now, to answer the latter part of the two questions introduced above. "How much trouble is it?" I would say "very little." I've experienced a few BSODs along the way, and each time I thought it was a driver issue it turned out to be something else (like an unstable overclock or overheating NB.) For everyday use, I have found it to be SURPRISINGLY stable thus far--much moreso than I expected it to be. With 4 GPUs you might expect Chaos Revisited inside your box, but these babies purr and rip through every game with a vengeance. Except for Crysis. But even so, Crysis still plays very well in Quadfire and is very solid on a single X2 on High settings. Very High is a little too much for a single X2, I feel, as it hovers around 30fps far too much and seems slow in comparison to the quad setup.

That said, CrossfireX isn't perfect. Motherboard support seems to be lacking. At times I've had to play "Guess the HDMI port" on the back of my rig just to get video after a driver install, but I'm starting to learn my way. This is really the only issue I've had aside from trying to keep the temps down. These babies run hot.. especially when you crank the AA up a lot or run Crysis on Very High. The only way I can keep temps manageable is by placing 2 120mm fans next to the cards and using a fan hack to run at 40-45%. Otherwise, Crysis gets the cards as hot as 95C!

Last but not least: Microstuttering. Well, again, I say "bollocks" to most of those charges. Even with 4 GPUs I have not seen this highly-publicized thing that people keep talking about. I honestly expected a little more lag with 4 GPUs than you get with 1 or 2 of them, but there is no excess lag whatsoever. Everything works great. In fact, I get less lag in games like Crysis and Oblivion when in Quad-Crossfire because my framerates are higher.

I have seen what I consider a hint of what microstutter is, and it's only reared its head in Crysis on a single X2 on Very High settings w/ 4xAA. It seems like these settings bog the card down so much that it hiccups occasionally once performance drops around 30-35fps. I haven't seen this happen with any other game in my library. The truth is that even a single X2 is so strong in most games that you will likely never see this issue pop up.

So that's it, people. I may be adding a few more games every now and then. My advice is to take whatever I've said in stride and enjoy what you have if you're able. We all have different preferences. And if you're looking the CrossfireX route, then make sure you have a PSU that's up to the task so you won't burn your house down. This monster uses some power and puts out some heat.

I have to run.. I just saw a transformer blow about a block away from me, so I should probably shut down before they get suspicious.

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i7-2700k @ 5.0 GHz
Nvidia GeForce 570 2.5GB Tri-SLI
Asus P67 WS Revolution (Tri-SLI)
OCZ Vertex SSD x 4 (Raid 5)
G.Skill 8GB DDR3 @ 1600MHz
PC Power & Cooling 950W PSU

Last edited by Xion X2; 09-07-08 at 10:51 PM.
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