Sapphire Radeon HD4870

So I'm guessing by now that you're wondering if I'm crazy or not. Wondering why I'd go back down this road after having such a terrible experience with the same vendor and the same GPU the last time. Well. I sort of wondered that myself. But it seems it was for the best overall.

I picked up the Sapphire HD4870 1GB card the other day and I'm quite impressed with this one this time around. Though it's only a single GPU card, I think that at least some lessons were learned from the debacle of the X2 line. First off, the stock fan idle temperature has been knocked down by 10 degrees to 75C, still quite toasty by some estimations but hardly the blistering 85C from before. Secondly, I think AMD did some covert tweaking to the Catalyst 8.8 driver since the AMD overdrive settings actually work now and if I so desire I could overclock this thing by quite a bit. But I shall not, since I don't see the point. And thirdly, the fan speed profiles actually work this time. Something that was not functional with the X2 no matter which tweak guide you followed. I've been able to bump the fan up from 22% to 33% of maximum speed which knocked it down a whopping 20 degrees. So it's now idling at 55C on the desktop which is cooler than even my nVidia 8800GTX could manage. And I can't hear the fan. All in all, quite happy with the initial setup.

So I fired up my one major obsession: Oblivion. Yes, I'm what is apparently called a monogamous gamer. I play pretty much just this one thing, at least for now. But that also puts me in a position to be able to evaluate just what this card will do for the game. I've currently got the 3D settings on 4xAA Edge Detect ( effective 12X sampling ), 16xAF, Mipmap details set to full quality, and "adaptive anti-aliasing" set to full quality as well. The game looks nothing short of gorgeous this way. And to top it off, performance got the expected boost. Keep in mind, my Oblivion game is bogged down to the max with all manner of graphics enhancements that would bring most lesser PCs to their knees and this card picked up the slack nicely. Things feel nice and smooth. Though the game reports I'm only getting an average of 17FPS, I know this is complete crap because my 8800GTX reported numbers higher than that but had massive lag with AA turned completely off. I'm beginning to wonder if Oblivion's engine is capable of reporting properly. Things ran way too smoothly for 17FPS to be true. Even in the Open Cities areas things were well above what I was getting before. My setup usually delivers better framerates inside the cities than out in the wilderness, go figure, but since everything just felt smooth, I'm happy.

For those who are too lazy to go find it, or don't know where the information is, this is my current game's setup:

AMD Quad core Phenom 9850: 2.5Ghz.
4GB Corsair Dominator high performance gaming memory. Exact specs not known right this second, but suffice it to say, it's 4GB. Come on!
MSI K9A2 Platinum motherboard, AMD 790FX chipset. Yes, it's PCI-e 2.0 with 3 slots. I could in theory do 3-way Crossfire if I were fool enough to install Vista. And the BIOS is updated too.
Samsung SyncMaster 940BW - 1440x900 widescreen format.
PSU: Thermaltake Toughpower 650W with modular cabling. Has all the necessary PCI-e connectors.

Game Mods likely to affect things
All in-game sliders for detail are maxed, except the external and internal shadows. Those cause massive performance hits when fully extended.
QTP3 Redimized, with full bits mixed in from UOP patch updates.
Bomerat's SI texture pack - the SI equivalent of QTP3, but irrelevant since none of my testing took place there.
Animated Window Lighting System, using QTP3 meshes and Illumination Within textures.
Tamriel VWD Revised - A new pack of higher detail LOD meshes using full resolution textures. Supplemented by illuminated LOD buildings I altered myself.
Extra VWD stuff has also been plucked from several other sources.
Improved Trees and Flora volumes 1 & 2 ( now updated with even more goodies )

Improved Doors and Flora ( now updated with even more goodies )
Themed Loading Screens or something like that.
A mixture of high resolution night sky textures, which did get tested.
High resolution stock body textures and facial textures.
Ah hell, there's too many to really go into. You get the point.
Open Cities - full package. I mention this only due to the increased clutter they bring.

Some of the conditions would technically make things worse than the last round, yet the card handled it all as though I'd reduced everything instead. And since the gains were fairly significant even with AA on and functioning I'm calling this one a winner.

I was still able to crash the game after about 90 minutes of intense running around and killing of many things. What can I say? I got bored and went on a killing spree. I noticed it only bailed out after the texture memory reported I breached 1.4GB - which I found rather surprising. But hey. I do have an awful lot of stuff running. The temperature reported by CCC never got out of the upper 70s so I think that manual setting of 33% on the fan is just about right. It never tried to kick up higher. I will say though that if you insist on pushing the fan past 35% you're going to start noticing the noise level. I chose 33% because it's just a very small noticeable change in noise levels, which let me know I had taken it far enough. I can't imagine following recommended tweak guides that say to create a gaming profile set at 85% of max speed. That's just stupidly crazy.

So there you have it. This baby is a keeper. Better performance, survived the Oblivion torture fest, 1GB of VRAM, tweakable fan. All for a mere $314. It's an nVidia killer for sure. Highly recommended over the GTX280 any day.
"It is pointless to resist, my son." -- Darth Vader
"Resistance is futile." -- The Borg
"Mother's coming for me in the dragon ships. I don't like these itchy clothes, but I have to wear them or it frightens the fish." -- Thurindil

Well. I guess that's that then.

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Posted on Sep 17, 2008 11:53 pm by Samson in: | 11 comment(s) [Closed]
So, you're saying you didn't opt for this particular card for the image of the chick on the case? :P

Samson said:

I'm what is apparently called a monogamous gamer. I play pretty much just this one thing, at least for now.

You mean there's a name for folks like us, er.. folks like that... I don't play just one game obsessively to the exclusion of others, sometimes... in fact, I have several that I bounce between regularly, especially now that Mythos is down so I can't play it exclusively anymore.. er...

So, you're saying you didn't opt for this particular card for the image of the chick on the case? :P

Heh, nope. When I fired off the order with Newegg the pictures weren't even up yet. She's just a bonus even though you can't see her from inside the case :)

And yes, apparently the term is used to describe folks like me who play one game either exclusively or near exclusively. Though I'll be breaking my vows come November when Fallout 3 finally ships. This card should put me in pretty good shape for that too.

I honestly haven't seen much out right now that I'd like to play. So I play what I have. I'm simply not into shooters or I'd have no shortage of titles to pick from.

:lol: Surprise bonuses are good. :)

I hear you about the shooters thing, for me I like shooters but not specifically 'war' games, and I don't care for most popular sports enough to have any interest in that category of games either. I'm also looking forward to Fallout 3, but currently I'm mainly playing Fate 2, Hellgate London, and a handful of RealArcade & WildTangent games.

...we demand screenshots. Yes.

Not that it would tax that thing at all, but you should still try GalCiv. Or you could just let me have it. I have a whole bunch of stuff I'd like to use it on.

*ponders how great CoD4 would look, or MTW2*

And you will have screenshots soon enough. I turned AA back up to 8x Edge Detect and discovered that the game isn't slowing to a crawl with it, so they'll be that much more impressive when the shots start rolling in. The game still insists I'm only getting 17FPS but I don't believe that for one second now. It's running far too smoothly for that. Although going to Bravil right now is still exceedingly painful because of texture memory overload. Apparently the Blood&Mud mod is VERY demanding.

It could also be because I've not fully completed my evil plot to bump many of the LOD meshes up to their full detail versions. The irony being that it would lower actual texture memory usage because the game would no longer be calling up the lowres stuff at the same time it wants to display the hires stuff. There's also some serious polygon optimizations I still need to do since I can turn and look north toward Bruma and the game does bog down a bit. Something up there is pissing it off but I don't know what. Same with looking west out past Chorrol. But I had the same things happening on the 8800GTX and it would lead to crippling disk stutter the closer I got to whatever is causing it. At least now I can still move around :)

Possibly try FRAPS to see what it reports your frame rate as ?

I suppose I could try that but I've been told already by a few people that the in-game FPS indicator is right. I have a hard time believing that after having spent the last couple of nights eviscerating 600,000 polygons from the test scene I've been working on. I did manage to get my VRAM usage knocked down 133MB just by switching out my LOD objects for lowpoly lowres versions of them. Which is actually how LOD should normally be done. So I know the efforts paid off I just question why eliminating 600,000 polygons from the scene has no affect on FPS. It still claims I'm only getting 15 even though the game sure as hell doesn't feel like 15.

I have similiar experiences with games like Hellgate: London too. Dragona and I have identical machines and we play side by side, she'll show 75 fps while mine shows 60 fps. On the other hand, her video is set to 1360x768 whereas mine is set to 1280x1024 but otherwise we're configured identically. If I change my config back to 1600x1280 everything looks great and runs beautifully, but my fps drops to ~35. Personally, I've concluded that the fps numbers are a nice indicator, but really don't seem to impart how the game 'feels' well.

Four screenshots posted in the gallery now taken with the 8xAA settings. Go and be amazed :)

That's shiny. My assassins will be in touch.

A few interesting glitches aside...

1. Woo, Weye.

2. What's that huge ass village just north of Weye?

Well there's always going to be some glitches when dealing with LOD. Especially when mods alter landscape. The game doesn't account for that in the distance unless you rebuild that quad's land mesh.

The village north of Weye is Verona Bay, from the Verona House: Bloodlines mod.

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