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With RV770 ATI has taken a slightly different approach to graphics card design. Rather than aiming for the top end it's gone straight for the lucrative ~£200 market and produced a card that fits the bill perfectly. Performance is exceptional for the price and certainly better than we'd expected. Especially when you look at the improvement over ATIs previous efforts.
Of course, ATI isn't completely neglecting the high-end market and in a few months time we'll be seeing a card, codenamed R700, that will use two RV770 chips on one board. And, bearing in mind the performance of a single HD 4870 card, it looks like it may bring down nVidia's dominance at the top end. Even if it doesn't, though, at least it'll drive prices down across the market. For the time being, though, we can't fault the HD4870 on performance for the price.
It's the same story when we consider the rest of the cards' characteristics. Power usage is very low when idle, which is accompanied by the fans running near silently, and although this ramps up when the card is hard at work it's never enough to be a concern.
If the look of a graphics card is something that concerns you then we'd have to admit the HD 4870 does fall down when compared to the sleek black of nVidia's cards. We also like the protective shroud that nVidia has used on its GTX 280 and 9800GX2. It helps prevent physical damage and also reduces the chance of static shocks destroying internal components. However, being careful when installing your card nullifies the latter concerns and unless you have a window in your PC case the former will be of little long term consequence.
We really, really like the ATI Radeon HD 4870. It offers unheard of performance for the price and is certainly a significant improvement over the HD 3870. So much do we like this card, in fact, that it runs away with our top, Editor's Choice, award.
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