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Palit Radeon HD 4870 512MB Sonic Dual Edition Video Card Review

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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Prey / Enemy Territory: Quake Wars

Prey


Even though Prey may be a bit older game compared against many of the other ones we are testing, it still provides a workout of even the best graphics cards on the market. This time we have enabled its Graphics Boost feature (Gboost in the charts) and run through a custom timedemo.

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It seems like this card allows for a moderate boost in Prey but at such high framerates, it amounts to nothing more than window dressing.


Enemy Territory: Quake Wars


Enemy Territory: Quake wars is the latest iteration of the wildly popular Quake franchise from ID Software. While it was met with luke-warm reviews by both the media and the gaming community, it remains an extremely popular online game. In this test we set up a 15 minute timedemo on the Refinery level while the framerates were recorded in-game.

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ET: Quake Wars is much the same story like we saw in Prey but this time with sub-10% increases across the board. Considering the limited overclock on this card, any increase is more than welcome.
 
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SKYMTL

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Devil May Cry 4

Devil May Cry 4


Devil May Cry has long been a staple platformer on consoles but has found only moderate success with its PC ports. The 4th iteration of this series aims to buck this trend with stunning visuals and intuitive gameplay

In this benchmark we used the in-game benchmark tool while running FRAPS to measure an average and minimum framerate.



1280 X 1024

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1600 X 1200

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2560 X 1600

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I seems like Devil May Cry 4 really benefits from the increased clockspeeds considering we saw some good sized increases in framerates. Unfortunately, once again none of these increases would have translated into noticeable real world differences in terms of overall playability.
 
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SKYMTL

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Crysis DX9

Crysis DX9


Crysis is one of those games that comes along every now and then and totally humbles every graphics card on the market. While some people have pointed towards shoddy programming, it is undeniable that this game looks ridiculously good when played at higher settings.

For this test we recorded a custom timedemo on the Harbor level equaling about 20 minutes of game time through jungle, over water and in vehicles. All results were recorded with FRAPS over the course of the timedemo.


1280 X 1024

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1600 X 1200

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1920 X 1080

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Crysis is a tough game for ATI hardware but it seems that the combination of the new 8.9 drivers and the overlocked core and memory of the Palit Sonic allow it to pull ahead in more than one instance.
 
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SKYMTL

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Crysis DX10

Crysis DX10



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1600 X 1200

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1920 X 1080

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Crysis DX10 is much the same as we saw with the DX9 version where it looses some and wins some to both GTX 260 cards.
 
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SKYMTL

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Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare


This has quickly become one of the most popular games for the PC and with good reason. This is one of the few times I have experienced actual excitement when looking for a good area to record the timedemo. The graphics are amazing and at the same time quite demanding when you get into the higher resolutions.

For this test we recorded a 15 minute timedemo on the Crash multiplayer level and recorded framerates using FRAPS. The maximum in-game framerate was bumped to 999.



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1600 X 1200

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2560 X 1600

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Certain games love a few extra Mhz and Call of Duty 4 falls right into this category. Even though we were a bit disappointed with the overclocks on the Palit card, they seems to have done some good this time.
 
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SKYMTL

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World in Conflict DX9

World in Conflict DX9


This is one stunning game. World in Conflict has provided us with some of my most memorable gaming experiences since the first Homeworld game was released and it has not stopped wowing me. In its DX9 form it provides eye-popping visuals and pushes most modern GPUs to their limits. However, in DX10 mode this game will cause nearly every graphics card to beg for mercy.

For this test we used the in-game benchmarking tool.


1280 X 1024

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1600 X 1200

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2560 X 1600

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World in conflict has never really benefited much from lower-end overclocks but the Palit card is able to eke out a few frames per second more than the stock card here and there.
 
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SKYMTL

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World in Conflict DX10

World in Conflict DX10



1280 X 1024

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1600 X 1200

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2560 X 1600

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SKYMTL

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Temperatures & Acoustics / Power Consumption

Temperature Testing


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Overall, heat is kept well within the norms but we were expecting a bit better idle temperatures especially considering the speed one of the fans spins at (more on this below). Load temperatures were suitably impressive but we expected nothing less considering the size of the heatpipes Palit used along with the high quality construction of the heatsink itself.

You may also see we tried something a bit different here. Even though I am telling you the results before the acoustics section, let’s just say that this sucker is loud and it is only because the smaller fan spins at a constantly high speed. Since the 2-pin fan header this fan uses is easily accessible from the side of the card, we decided to disconnect it to see what results could be achieved with the single (larger) 80mm fan running. As you can see, temperatures did rise, but not significantly.


Acoustics


This is where the Palit HD 4870 Sonic Edition falls flat onto its face since it is loud as hell for no real reason other than horrible design. As we saw, the 70mm fan only has a 2-pin fan connector so it is either completely off or it is running at full tilt which in this case means 4000RPMs at a whooping 36dB according to T & T’s tech documents. To us, that is loud.

When installed into a completely closed case, the noise level goes down dramatically but if you have side opening like on the Gigabyte Aurora 570 or many other cases on the market with side fans, you have been warned.

When the card is turned on you are greeted with a high-pitched banshee howl that will quickly drive almost anyone nuts. At least now we know why Palit didn’t include a Crossfire connector: two of these cards would put out as much noise as a 20 amp dust buster on steroids. We may never know why Palit didn’t combine the two low amperage fans onto a single temperature controlled fan header but we do know that the novelty of a cooler GPU core wears out really fast when the fan sounds like this one.

However, as we saw above, simply unplugging the 70mm fan doesn’t result in outrageous temperatures yet it makes this card whisper quiet. Are you willing to take a hit of a few degrees if it means suddenly near-silent operation? I know I would.


Power Consumption


For this test we hooked up our power supply to a UPM power meter that will log the power consumption of the whole system twice every second. In order to stress the GPU as much as possible we once again use the Batch Render test in 3DMark06 and let it run for 30 minutes to determine the peak power consumption while letting the card sit at a stable Windows desktop for 30 minutes to determine the peak idle power consumption.

Please note that after extensive testing, we have found that simply plugging in a power meter to a wall outlet or UPS will NOT give you accurate power consumption numbers due to slight changes in the input voltage. Thus we use a Tripp-Lite 1800W line conditioner between the 120V outlet and the power meter.

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Even though it has a significantly different design when compared to the reference version, the Palit Sonic still consumes more power than its stock-clocked brethren. It isn’t a significant increase but we would still recommend you use a good 600W power supply if you are running this card with a quad core or overclocked dual core CPU.
 

SKYMTL

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Overclocking

Overclocking


Please note that overclocking this card will void your warranty

Final Clock Speeds:

Core: 849Mhz
Memory: 1140Mhz (4560Mhz DDR)

Overclocking ATI cards these days is usually a lesson in futility since the Catalyst Control Center has extremely strict limits to exactly how far you can overclock. In this instance we used Rivatuner to push past the Catalyst limits and ended up with some pretty respectable overclocks. The core speed was increased almost 150Mhz over its bone stock speed while the memory really shone with an amazing 560Mhz overclock over Palit’s pre-overlcoked values.

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SKYMTL

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Conclusion

Conclusion


In the past, we have seen pre-overclocked graphics cards blaze through tests their stock-clocked forefathers would have downright choked on. However, the never-ending question with these types of cards has always been whether they provide enough performance over reference-based products to justify their price premium. This leads us to what Palit is offering with their HD 4870 Sonic Dual Edition and when you take a close look at its current pricing coupled with what amounts to blazing performance, it looks pretty convincing. What really began to sell us on this card was the fact that even through it has an aftermarket cooler, uses custom BIOS profile for increased clocks and sports a totally custom PCB, it still retails for less than the majority of stock HD 4870s. This bucks the trend of what we have come to expect from a factory overclocked card. We also like the fact that the heatsink is able to offer some very good cooling potential even with only one of its two fans running. Indeed, if this conclusion would end right here and now the Palit HD 4870 Sonic Dual Edition would win accolades from us from sunup until sundown but that wasn’t meant to be.

There is no two ways about it; it seems like Palit tried to save money and play it safe in all the wrong places with this card. The Turbo switch looks cool but it seems redundant when you consider the “Turbo” mode offers very little in the way of real world performance benefits due to the lackluster core speed increase. Granted, the memory overclock seems to benefit framerates but not enough to really warrant a switch in order to enable it. This switch is also a perfect example of something money should never have been invested into, especially when something as basic as a Crossfire connector was excluded from the accessory package. Cutting out the basics in order to include a feature 99.9% of consumers will never use is a huge faux pas in our books. Luckily, for those of you who need a Crossfire connector, Palit’s customer support will help you out if you contact them.

Even though the heatsink on this card looks cool as hell, the love affair with it stops right there since it is too loud for its own good courtesy of an over enthusiastic 70mm fan. This one small item which probably costs less than a buck completely ruined our experience with a $300 graphics card and to make matters worse, this situation was entirely avoidable. All Palit needed to do was to wire both fans together onto a single 4-pin fan connector and have the whole shebang temperature controlled. As it is, the only way to avoid the obnoxious whine emitted by a 70mm fan running at 4000RPMs is to unplug its 2-pin connector. This isn’t an overly complicated process but it should never be necessary in the first place.

With a new PCB and a custom cooler, Palit gave themselves a blank canvas to work with but instead of painting a masterpiece, they made a great modern impressionist painting that is good but will never be as good as it should have been. That being said, the HD 4870 Sonic Dual Edition is still a perfect card for those of you who want a well-priced HD 4870 and are willing to live with the noise it produces or simply unplug a single fan cable.


Pros:

- Great Performance
- Amazing price
- Looks great
- Shorter than a reference HD 4870


Cons:

- Loud
- Only one dual link DVI connector
- Dual slot cooler yet can’t exhaust hot air outside the case
- No Crossfire connector
- 2 year warranty



Thanks to Palit for sending us this graphcis card​

 
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