If you’ve been holding off on an upgrade for a while, there’s no reason to continue if a gaming addiction is pulling at your sleeve. The selection for mid-range cards right now is ideal, and anything you pick up will deliver good performance for the money. The best card for the buck right now might be the HD 4870, and we take Palit’s version for a spin to find out why.
If you’ve read any of my processor reviews, you are probably aware that I don’t much care for an unstable overclock. As far as I’m concerned, a high overclock is only good if it’s stable, because realistically, no one purchases a new GPU for the sake of only finding the maximum overclock. That is why I focus on finding the max stable overclock, rather than an overclock that can barely pass a benchmark run.
To find a max stable overclock, I first find an overclock that I believe could be stable. Once I do that, I’ll run a single loop of 3DMark 2006 to test for stability and to look for artifacts. If that run passes successfully, I’ll jump into a game quickly to see if the same results are exhibited in real-world gameplay. If that proves successful, I then run a loop of 3DMark 2006 for 4 – 8 hours at 2560×1600 2xAA to stress the card to its limit.
If after that point, the card is deemed stable (as in, no crashes occurred and there are still no artifacts), then I will proceed with benchmarking seven of our titles again: Call of Duty 4, Call of Juarez, Crysis, Half-Life 2: Episode Two, NFS Pro Street, STALKER and also Unreal Tournament III. Please note that NFS Pro Street is run at 1920×1200, due to that being the max the game allows.
Before tackling overclocking, I should note that all cards so far in AMD’s HD 4000-series run hot, and by hot, I mean you could use it to boil water for your morning coffee. Alright, so it’s not that hot, but I’ve already recruited this card to my Folding machine this winter, if that gives you any idea.
Because the cards run so hot, I’m of the mindset that overclocking is simply not important. There are speed demons out there who will disagree, but both the HD 4850 and 4870 GPUs are screamers, and all that overclocking does is increase your performance at most 2%, and that to me, is really, really not worth the extra stress on the card or the extra heat. But, for those who refuse to leave any piece of silicon at stock, here are the results:
Overclocking was accomplished with AMD’s Overdrive utility in their control center, and oddly enough, this card could reach the max value allowed without issue, of 790MHz Core and 950MHz Memory. As you can see, the increases are good, but not amazing. If you do insist of overclocking, it might not be a half-bad idea to consider water-cooling… or a second HD 4870 for what will make any HD 4870 overclock look entirely lackluster.