Sapphire HD 4870 Video Card


overviewToday we will be covering the ATI top card in the form of the 4870. The 4870 is based on the long awaited RV770 from AMD. The RV770 core was manufacturer from the 55 nanometer technology. This whole technology is what gave us DirectX 10.i, Shader 4.1 and PCIe 2.0 support. The most impressive feature that we see in the new 4870 GPU is the GDDR5 which is clocked at 900MHz in this new AMD card. There are plenty of features we can sit here and talk about but how about we get into the testing phase and see how well it performs?



The world was turned upside down with the relesae of the ATI 4870. The price versus performance could not be matched by anything Nvidia had to offer. Well at the time of its launch. Now that Nvidia has found the error in their pricing ways the ratio is starting to get less and less. But right now at this date and time the ATI variation still holds a slight lead over the GT260 and GTX280.

Today we will be covering the ATI top card in the form of the 4870. The 4870 is based on the long awaited RV770 from AMD. The RV770 core was manufacturer from the 55 nanometer technology. This whole technology is what gave us DirectX 10.i, Shader 4.1 and PCIe 2.0 support. The most impressive feature that we see in the new 4870 GPU is the GDDR5 which is clocked at 900MHz in this new AMD card. There are plenty of features we can sit here and talk about but how about we get into the testing phase and see how well it performs?

A word from Sapphire

The ATI Radeon HD 4870 GPU brings the power of graphics supercomputing to gamers, setting a new standard for visual computing. Redefine the way you play and take HD gaming to the extreme with best-in-class performance. The new TeraScale graphics engine delivers an immersive, cinematic gaming experience. Add this GPU to your PC and watch Blu-ray movies and play HD content with incredible visual fidelity.* Do it all with break-through efficiency that doesn’t compromise performance.


ChipsetHD4870HD 4850 TOXICHD 4850HD 4850
PerformanceGraphics Accelerationprocess (Die size)0,055 µ0,055 µ0,055 µ0,055 µ
transistor count965 Mio965 Mio965 Mio965 Mio
memory options512MB512MB1 GB512MB
Core frequency750675625625
Memory frequency (eff.)900(3.6Gbps)1100993993
Unified shader pipelines800800800800
Memory Bus (bit)256256256256
data busPCI Express x16PCI Express x16PCI Express x16PCI Express x16
peak memory bandwidth (GB/sec)115.2035.2031.7831.78
Image quality3D quality
standard coolingActiveActiveActiveActive
standard slot solutionDualDualSingleSingle
external power needyes, 6pin+6pinyes, 6pinyes, 6pinyes, 6pin
Pixel Shader version4.
DirectXDX10.1 SM4.1DX10.1 SM4.1DX10.1 SM4.1DX10.1 SM4.1
Memory OptimizationHyper Z HDHyper Z HDHyper Z HDHyper Z HD
Full Screen Anti-AliasingSmoothvision HD + Adaptive AASmoothvision HD + Adaptive AASmoothvision HD + Adaptive AASmoothvision HD + Adaptive AA
16-bit integer or floating point16-bit integer or floating point16-bit integer or floating point16-bit integer or floating point
TruFormTruform 2.0Truform 2.0Truform 2.0Truform 2.0
Adaptive De-InterlaceVideo Shader HDVideo Shader HDVideo Shader HDVideo Shader HD
Video accelerationMPEG-2, MPEG-4, DivX, WMV9, VC-1, and H.264MPEG-2, MPEG-4, DivX, WMV9, VC-1, and H.264MPEG-2, MPEG-4, DivX, WMV9, VC-1, and H.264MPEG-2, MPEG-4, DivX, WMV9, VC-1, and H.264
 display supportHDTV compatibility
HDMI compliance /
HDCP ready
HDMI 1.3 /
HDMI 1.3 /
HDMI 1.3 /
HDMI 1.3 /
HDMI modes (over DVI)480p, 720p, 1080i, 1080p480p, 720p, 1080i, 1080p480p, 720p, 1080i, 1080p480p, 720p, 1080i, 1080p
Dual-Link capabilities2222
native display support10-bit10-bit10-bit10-bit
3D Graphics Resolution2560×16002560×16002560×16002560×1600
TV Out resolution1024×768


GDDR5 memory and 256-bit memory interface
DirectX® 10.1
24x custom filter anti-aliasing (CFAA) and high performance anisotropic filtering
ATI CrossFireX™ multi-GPU support for highly scalable performance
Use up to four discrete cards with an AMD 790FX based motherboard
PCI Express® 2.0 support
Dynamic geometry acceleration
Game physics processing capability
ATI Avivo™HD video and display technologyUnified Video Decoder 2 (UVD) for Blu-ray™ and HD VideoBuilt-in HDMI with 7.1 surround sound supportOn-chip HDCP
ATI PowerPlay™ technology

More features

Redefine HD Gaming

The ATI Radeon HD 4870 Series GPUs deliver a cinematic gaming experience with unprecedented performance. The powerful new TeraScale graphics will propel you deep into your gameplay with seamless frame rates and high resolutions. Enhanced anti-aliasing (AA) and anisotropic filtering create striking graphics with unparalleled realism so you can max out the settings of the most demanding next-generation games or revitalize your favorite titles. Play today while preparing for tomorrow with tessellation, support for DirectX® 10.1 and scalable ATI CrossFireX™ technology.

  • TeraScale Graphics Engine
    The powerful new TeraScale graphics engine features deliver high resolutions and fast frame rates.
  • Enhanced Anti-Aliasing & Anisotropic Filtering
    High performance anisotropic filtering and 24x custom filter anti-aliasing (CFAA) smooth jagged edges and create true-to-life graphics, for everything from grass to facial features.
  • DirectX 10.1
    Play today while preparing for tomorrow with state-of-the-art DirectX 10.1 graphics capabilities.
  • ATI CrossFireX™ Technology
    ATI CrossFireX™ technology with up to quad GPU support offers superior scalability so your system is ready to level up when you are.
  • PCI Express 2.0
    Support for PCI Express 2.0 will prepare you for bandwidth-hungry games and 3D applications.
  • Power to Spare
    This GPU has the brute processing power needed for physics, artificial intelligence, stream computing and ray tracing calculations.

Go Beyond HD Video

Add an ATI Radeon HD 4870 Series GPU to your PC and watch the latest Blu-ray and HD movies play with incredible fidelity –upscale to nearly twice the display resolution of HD content.* Take full advantage of Blu-ray functionality with dual-stream, picture in picture (PIP) capabilities. Sophisticated new features within ATI Avivo™ HD technology provide a truly responsive experience. Support for the latest audio visual interconnects ensures you can take advantage of the latest display technology.

  • Unified Video Decoder 2
    Unified Video Decoder 2 frees up your CPU for other tasks so you get The Ultimate Visual Experience™ for even the most processing-intensive content, including VC-1, H.264 and now MPEG-2. Also, take full advantage of Blu-ray functionality with dual-stream, picture in picture (PIP) capabilities.
  • Upscale Beyond 1080p
    Watch the hottest Blu-ray movies or other HD content at full 1080p display resolution and beyond.
  • On-chip HDCP
    On-chip HDCP (High-Bandwidth Digital Content Protection) makes life easier by allowing you to playback HDCP protected content.**
  • HDMI
    Enjoy the latest audio technologies using HDMI with 7.1 digital surround sound support. Also, xvYCC support allows the user to enjoy a wider range of color when connected to a capable HDTV.

*Note: HD capable monitor required

** Note: Playing HDCP content requires additional HDCP ready components, including but not limited to an HDCP ready monitor, Blu-ray or HD DVD disc drive, multimedia application and computer operating system.


Break-through Efficiency

Like its predecessors, the ATI Radeon HD 4870 Series GPUs offer optimal performance and break-through efficiency with platform-independent intelligent power management. ATI PowerPlay™ delivers the power needed to blaze through even the most intense games while intuitively conserving energy at idle or when demand is low.

  • ATI PowerPlay™ Technology
    ATI PowerPlay™ Technology delivers high performance when needed and conserves power when the demand on the graphics processor is low.
  • Energy Efficient Manufacturing Process
    Second generation 55nm chip uses the industry‟s most energy efficient manufacturing process.


System Requirements

–PCI Express® based PC is required with one X16 lane graphics slot available on the motherboard

–500 Watt or greater power supply with two 75W 6-pin PCI Express® power connectors recommended (600 Watt and four 6-pin connectors for ATI CrossFireX™ technology in dual mode)”

–Certified power supplies are recommended. Refer to a list of Certified products

–1GB of system memory

–Installation software requires CD-ROM drive

–DVD playback requires DVD drive

–Blu-ray™ / HD DVD playback requires Blu-ray / HD DVD drive

–For a complete ATI CrossFireX™ system, a second ATI Radeon™ HD 4870 graphics card, an ATI CrossFireX Ready motherboard and one ATI CrossFireX Bridge Interconnect cable per board (included) are required


Closer look

The Sapphiretech HD4870 is built on their tradional red PCB they we have become accustom to seeing from many of the AMD partners. The whole red theme makes the board stand out from any other component that resides in the PC. Besides the red PCB the card uses a dual slot fan asembly that is based on the reference design from AMD. The 70mm fan is cooling off a series of heat pipes that are attached to heat shields that covers the RV770 core and memory modules. Turning the card over we see a metal bracket that is used to secure the cooling mechanism to the card. This bracket helps to ease the stress of the weight copper heat pipe assembley.

One end of the card we see that Sapphire elected to use dual 6-pin connectors for power. This is a good thing for alot of people that have a little older (not much older) power supplies that only contain 6-pin connectors and no 8-pin ones. sapphire recommended atleast a 500 watt power supply for a single card setup and a 600 for a crossfire system. The opposite end we have dual DVI connectors along with a single S-Video-type TV-out inlet. We have to remind you this card comes with dual HDMI convertors for those that want max resolution on their big screen.

For anyone that wishes to build a Crossfire or even quad Crossfire setups would be happy to know the HD4870 fully supports it via the two bridge slots at the top of the card. With the prices of these cards this may be possible for more people than before. Or you can do what I am doing and run dual cards in a non-Crossfire setup and run dual instantances of folding for Team 135737. Shameless plug there. LOL.

Lastly, we have the PCIe slot. These are is best ran on a board that supports the 2.0 PCIe variation but is fully backwards compatiable with the old 1.0.


Testing Hardware and Software

We used GPU-Z and ATI Over Drive to show core and ram speeds.

Testing Hardware:
ASUS P5E3 Deluxe
Intel Core2Duo E8400 @ 4.05
Crucial Ballistix 2gb PC6400
Thermalright Ultra 120
Sapphire HD4870
Maxtor Diamond 10 100GB
Thermaltake TP1000

Testing Software:
Futuremark 3DMark06
Sierra Entertainment F.E.A.R.
3D Realms Prey
Electronic Arts Crysis
Ubisoft Far Cry
Devil May Cry 4
World in Conflict

Windows XP Pro SP3
ATI Cat 8.7

Sapphire Ultimate HD3870
Sapphire Toxic HD3870


Pushing Sapphire and the Toxic

Futuremark 3DMark 06
Futuremark 3DMark06 Build 1.0.2 3DMark®06 is the worldwide standard in advanced 3D game performance benchmarking. A fundamental tool for every company in the as well as PC users and gamers, 3DMark06 uses advanced real-time 3D game workloads to measure 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. Futuremark’s exclusive Online ResultBrowser tracks and compares 3DMark06 scores.

Sierra Entertainment F.E.A.R. (Builtin demo – Settings on Highest)
“Gamespot’s PC Shooter of the Year is coming to the Xbox 360™ gaming and entertainment system with new levels, new weapons, and more explosive online action – Coming Fall 2006.
F.E.A.R. ™ (First Encounter Assault Recon) is a paranormal action thriller presented entirely in first-person. An unprecedented adrenaline rush of close quarters combat seamlessly melded with the spine-tingling, shocking intensity of the paranormal unknown.
Already a critical and commercial smash on the PC, F.E.A.R. will bring a new level of FPS game play to Xbox 360 with brand new single-player content designed to immerse the player deeper in the world of the F.E.A.R. team, as well as brand new multiplayer content created to fully utilize Xbox Live®.”

3D Realms Prey (HardwareOC Benchmark – Guru3D demo – Shader on highest level)
“Tommy is a down-on-his-luck garage mechanic, stuck in the middle on who-knows-where on some forgotten reservation, where Native Americans are tucked away out of sight, out of mind.
And then the unthinkable happens! Earth becomes prey to the galaxy’s largest predator, a space bound Texas-sized alien that’s looking to satiate its hunger with the organic goodness that most populates Earth: Us. And the first course is a certain forgotten reservation.
Tommy and his girlfriend have become prey, his grandfather killed, and hundreds of his tribal nations have been abducted through space-warping portals. Freeing himself, all Tommy cares about is saving Jenny. But the spirit of his grandfather beckons him to embrace his heritage, accept the ancient teachings, and prepare to battle the menace that threatens to destroy all the planet’s life.  It’s a choice between love and responsibility. It’s a choice that cannot be made easily.”

Electronic Arts Crysis (Benchmarking Tool – Settings on high – GPU Time)
“Earth, 2019. A team of US scientists makes a frightening discovery on an island in the South China Sea. All contact with the team is lost when the North Korean Government quickly seals off the area. The United States responds by dispatching an elite team of Delta Force Operators to recon the situation. As tension rises between the two nations, a massive alien ship reveals itself in the middle of the island. The ship generates an immense force sphere that freezes a vast portion of the island and drastically alters the global weather system. Now the US and North Korea must join forces to battle the alien menace. With hope rapidly fading, you must fight epic battles through tropical jungle, frozen landscapes, and finally into the heart of the alien ship itself for the ultimate Zero G showdown.”

Ubisoft Far Cry (HardwareOC Benchmark – Volcano – Shader 3.0)
“A tropical paradise seethes with hidden evil in Far Cry, a cunningly detailed action shooter that pushes the boundaries of combat to shocking new levels.
Freelance mariner Jack Carver is cursing the day he ever came to this island. A week ago, a brash female reporter named Valerie had offered him an incredible sum of cash to take her to this unspoiled paradise. Shortly after docking, however, Jack’s boat was greeted by artillery fire from a mysterious militia group swarming about the island.
With his boat destroyed, his money gone, and the gorgeous Valerie suddenly missing, Jack now finds himself facing an army of mercenaries amidst the wilds of the island, with nothing but a gun and his wits to survive. But the further he pushes into the lush jungle canopy, the stranger things become.
Jack encounters an insider within the militia group who reveals the horrific details of the mercenaries’ true intentions. He presents Jack with an unsettling choice: battle the deadliest mercenaries, or condemn the human race to a maniac’s insidious agenda.”

Devil May Cry 4 (Built-in benchmark – DirectX 9 – High Setting )
Long ago the Dark Knight Sparda rebelled against the dark emperor and waged a one-man war to save humanity. Thousands of years later, a religious organization worships this renowned savior and has taken it upon themselves to rid the world of all evil. Residing in Fortuna, this organization is known as the “Order of the Sword,” and is made up of an elite group of “Holy Knights.” One day, a young knight named Nero witnesses Sparda’s legendary son Dante slaughter his fellow warriors. Has the renowned devil hunter turned his back on mankind? What does thie encounter mean for these two individuals?

World in Conflict (Builtin demo – Highest setting)
War is Coming Home
On November 9th, 1989 the Cold War was supposed to end….it didn’t
World in Conflict is the action strategy game where players defend their country, their homeotwon, and their families in the face of Soviet-led World War III, delievering an epic struggle of courage and retribution. You are a field commander leading the era’s most powerful military machines in the heroic effort to turn back the invasion…one city and suburb at a time. This war isn’t on the television. It’s on our soil and in our backyards.
Prepare yourself for the most intense strategy game ever created.

Inserts taken from respective deverloper’s website.



We used the built-in overclocking feature in the Catalyst Control Center to handle all the overclocking duties in this test. The end result on part of the GPU core was pretty decent as we hit a wall at 780MHz from 750. We were more impressed by the overclocking of the memory. GDDR5 is fast and has a very good bandwidth and we were able to increase that from the default of 900MHz to and incredible 1090MHz.


Noise is something most of us can not stand. When it came to the 4870, the start up resulted in a high burst of fan spin and that lead to a loud whine for the card. This only happened when the system was started up. After Windows had been loaded we heard very little from it. Until the gaming started. On load the fan speed did increase and increased to the point it can easily be heard but when gaming I don’t think many of us care much.



No longer must we pay $600 plus for a very high performing video card. Sapphire and ATI has made sure of that. With the 4870 using the RV770 GPU chipset the price for a great card is well in reach of almost everyone. It is nice to see someone on a limited budget be able to play Crysis at a high settings and still afford to upgrade other areas of their PC like ram for instance. It seems this way of marketing has caught the other side off guard and now they are seeing the light.

The Sapphire HD4870 ran like a bat out of hell. Boasting a 750MHz core clock and 1800MHz worth of GDDR5 bandwidth Sapphire has a real winner in game play and pricing. It isnt all about speed and price but also about features and add-ons. With the HD4870 you get full support for all your high definition videos and 7.1 audio. There are many video and audio buffs out there that need their entertainment and this card gives them that without any compromise.

The only thing I can see wanting more than a single 4870 would to be having two 4870s in Crossfire. With the abundance of Intel chipsets currently available that support Crossfire you can not go wrong with starting with atleast one 4870. And if greater performance is needed in the future just pick up another one at your local computer store.

Currently this Sapphire model can be had for about $290 from more respectable etailors. This is well below the asking price of the Nvidia GTX280 which is their top end card. Both are great cards but ATI owns the performance to price ratio.


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