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Palit Radeon HD 4870 Sonic Dual Edition
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by Rob Williams on October 7, 2008 in AMD-Based GPU

It’s no secret that the HD 4870 is one of the best overall GPUs on the market right now, but with so much selection from vendors, it’s hard to choose the “best” one. Palit has a definite winner with their Sonic Dual Edition though. It’s pre-overclocked, runs 20°C cooler than the reference design and carries no cost premium.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky

When it comes to first-person shooters, post-apocalyptic adventures are a dime a dozen. But when S.T.A.L.K.E.R. was first released in the spring of 2007, it dared to be different. How? By basing the game off of a real-world tragedy, the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, which occurred way back in 1986 near the city of Prypiat in the Ukraine. Despite the disaster happening so long ago, people are still unable to live in the surrounding area, and will be unable to for at least another 150 years.

In addition to the games real-world ties, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. happened to be one of the grittiest, realistic (aside from the problematic AI) and expansive games we’ve seen on the PC in a while. Having the ability to roam as you like is a huge benefit and really helped make the game feel real. Clear Sky further delivers on what made the original so great, but at the same time, adds support for DX10.

It might be difficult to judge from the screenshot, but Clear Sky (like the original) is one of the most demanding games on the PC today, especially if you wish to play using DX10. To help push all of our GPUs to their breaking-point, we stick to that mode while using the “High” quality setting.

Clearly, the DX10 mode is one that requires an incredible GPU, regardless of what resolution you are running. Even at the modest 1680×1050, the card could only muster 26 FPS, while the X2 version upped it to 49 FPS, which was still not silky-smooth. I look forward to the day when our GPUs can run the game in DX10 with ease. It might take a little while.

Graphics Card
Best Playable
Palit HD 4870 X2 2GB
2560×1600, Enhanced Full Dynamic Lighting, Medium
Palit GTX 280 1GB
2560×1600, Enhanced Full Dynamic Lighting, Medium
Palit 9800 GX2 1GB
2560×1600, Full Dynamic Lighting, High
Palit HD 4870 512MB Sonic
2560×1600, Full Dynamic Lighting, High
Palit HD 4870 512MB
2560×1600, Full Dynamic Lighting, High
ASUS HD 4850 512MB
2560×1600, Full Dynamic Lighting, Medium
ASUS 9800 GTX 512MB
1920×1200, Full Dynamic Lighting, High
Gigabyte 9600 GT 512MB
1920×1200, Full Dynamic Lighting, Medium

Because FRAPS doesn’t record the FPS with DX10 mode disabled (I’m unsure why), we don’t have performance information for our “best playable” settings. That’s fine, as the FPS doesn’t tell half the story anyway. For fluid gameplay, we had to drop the DX10 mode down to Full Dynamic Lighting, but were able to keep the detail settings at High.