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HIS HD 4870 IceQ 4+ Turbo 1GB DDR5Instead of looking at HIS' HD 4870 from a traditional review perspective, we'll be looking at their flagship card from an upgrader's perspective.
For a long time, I haven't really had the need to replace my existing video card. I've been offered a few here at VL, but for the games I play, my trusty GeForce 8800 GTX has always been able to do the job. As of late, I have noticed though that I've needed to scale back a few detail settings and even lower my resolution to enjoy consistent frame rates in some of my games. In doing so, this has altered the way developers intended the game to look of course, but pretty pictures don't do much good at 15fps. True, I exaggerate, but where I used to be able to play at 1920x1200 with everything on, this has not been the case lately.
I figured it's time to bite the bullet and off load my 8800 GTX while it is still worth something. I did consider a few options on what to replace it with, but having never tried offerings from before, the looked to be a good place to start.
|PCI Express x16 (PCI Express 2.0)
The is based on AMD's latest revision of the HD 4870. While not much has changed in terms of GPU features, the newest revision offers support of up to 1GB of video memory. Does anyone really need all that memory? That really depends on the type of usage you are planning. We would imagine anyone reading up until this point intends to play something more than stock games that come with Windows.
The box for the HIS HD 4870 IceQ 4+ Turbo is not overly large. Despite the rather small size, the box is quite heavy due to the cooling HIS uses. On the box are the list of the specifications as well as large stickers outlining that the package in question is the "Turbo" version. The back of the box shows off some more features as well as having a window display to show off the card.
The card sits in a hard cellophane, resting on a thin piece of foam. HIS includes a PCI Express power adapter, though only one is given. This struck us as a little odd given the card requires two power connections, but our hope would be that at this point, any serious power user will have a power supply with at least two PCI-E power connections.
A thin quick guide is also included as well as a driver CD. HDMI is supported with the , and it is done so via a DVI to HDMI adapter. There is also a DVI to VGA adapter as well for those of you limited to analog connections. While most CrossFire motherboards will include the bridge connection, HIS includes this as well. Finally, while not as well known as a game such as Far Cry 2, Stalker: Clear Sky is bundled with the card. Clear Sky is the stand-alone prequel for Stalker: Shadow of Chernobyl and includes DirectX 10 support.
Some of the core features of the HIS HD 4870 mirrors AMD's reference. The Radeon HD 4870 is built on a 55nm fabrication process and is composed of 956 million transistors. The Unified Superscalar Shader Architecture features 800 stream processing units which allow dynamic load balancing and resource allocation for vertex, geometry and pixel shaders. The stream processing units share a common instruction set and texture unit access for all types of shaders as well as dedicated branch execution units and texture address processors. Naturally, Direct X 10.1 is supported.
One of the major additions from AMD is custom Filter Anti-aliasing, or CFAA. Using the stream processors, the 4870 improves AA image quality without hitting the framebuffer and hence using less memory. The catch is if the game is very shader intensive, you may not have any available horsepower from the stream processors available. That said, if you use traditional AA methods, there have been improvements to the memory controller as well as support for GDDR5 and 256-bit memory bus.
While the default core speed of the Radeon HD 4870 is 750MHz, the factory overclocks to 770MHz. True enough, you can overclock any card on your own, but in the case of this card, the included overclock is covered by warranty by HIS.
HIS uses a large heatsink and fan combination for the 4870 IceQ 4+ Turbo. This is where the IceQ 4+ in the name comes in as the cooler is an upgrade over their previous version. The cooler works by drawing air into the rear of the card and blowing out of the front. The front in this case is towards the rear of the case where the card's IO connections are.
As heatpipes are all the rage these days, the uses them for their cooler here as well. This is one of the new improvements with their latest cooler. The increase from 6mm to 8mm heatpipes increases the thermal transfer capacity by 60% over the previous IceQ 4 design. Another improvement of the cooler is the heatsink block for the GPU is separate from the memory heatsinks. The advantage here is the GPU will not contribute additional heat to the memory and vice versa.
We mentioned the adapters HIS includes earlier, but for the majority of us, the DVI connections will be our main output for video. There is also a S-Video connection, though with modern LCDs and televisions offering digital interfaces, we do not expect this to see much action. The is a dual slot card, and you can also see the vent for the heat exhaust here.
The is a power hog in terms of connections. As we already said earlier, one PCI-E power adapter is included, but as AMD recommends a 500W+ PSU, many of these should already have both connections.