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R700: ATI Radeon HD 4870 X2 - Power Consumption and Verdict
At idle, the HD 4870 X2 isn't too power hungry. Even with the addition of a whole extra chip and 1,024MB of memory, it only draws 6 more Watts than a single HD 4870 and only 13 Watts more than a GTX 260. Undoubtedly impressive, which is more than you can say for power consumption when under load.
Now in fairness we test the power consumption of these cards when they're running through our Crysis demo, as this is just about the most taxing test for any graphics card, so while the HD 4870 X2 does draw more power it is also giving more performance for that extra energy being consumed. Still, it's quite an impressive amount of extra power.
So, the HD 4870 X2 is definitely the fastest card we've ever tested and it worked flawlessly with all the games we tested. However, we can't escape two familiar thoughts.
First, is the nagging doubt about the compatibility of this card with upcoming games. After all, if you spend £300+ on a graphics card, you expect a great gaming experience for a fair proportion of the foreseeable future. With any kind of multi-chip implementation - whether it be a conventional two or three card Crossfire/SLI setup or a two-chips on one card setup - there's always a question mark hanging over future compatibility, often leaving you waiting for several weeks or months for the driver team or the game developer to release an update.
Second, is simply the case that apart from Crysis, you will only need this card if you're playing at 2,560 x 1,600 or at 1,920 x 1,200 with very high antialiasing settings. Obviously this isn't something that will influence our overall opinion of the card but it is definitely something to think about if you're considering buying one.
Aside from this, though, we can have no significant complaints about this card. We still prefer the look and feel of nVidia's cards but at least ATI has made a positive step in that direction by making the PCB black. The Peak power draw is also alarming but ultimately understandable. Even the odd orientation of the power connectors we can forgive. However, most importantly of all, is the price, which we think is just about right.
ATI's tactic of using multiple graphics chips on a single card to get the top performance may set our alarm bells ringing when it comes to compatibility issues. However, we experienced no problems and the price and performance of this card is undeniably great. All of which makes it thoroughly deserving of a recommended award.
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