AMD's ATI Radeon HD 4870 with 1GB of GDDR5

AMD’s brand new ATI Radeon HD 4870 with 1GB of GDDR5 RAM is on the chopping block today. We throw two brand new games at it; Crysis: Warhead and Stalker: Clear Sky. We will directly compare the new 1GB Radeon HD 4870 to a 512MB Radeon HD 4870 and the newer GeForce GTX 260 video cards.

Introduction

AMD launched the Radeon HD 4800 series on June 25th of 2008. Leading the single-GPU performance arena at $299, the Radeon HD 4870 was the king of the hill at this price range, until now.

One of the important and note worthy features of the Radeon HD 4870 is its use of GDDR5 memory. The Radeon HD 4870 was launched with 512MB of that memory. The direct competition to the Radeon HD 4870 from NVIDIA is the GeForce GTX 260 with a large 896MB memory capacity. Recently NVIDIAآ’s partners released a beefed up version of the GTX 260 with more shader processors enabled but still packing the huge 896MB of memory. The Radeon HD 4870 with its آ“paltryآ” 512MB of RAM seems to be, on paper at least, weaker than its GTX 260 competition.

AMD has answered by one-upping NVIDIA and has equipped a full 1GB of GDDR5 on newer models of the Radeon HD 4870, alongside its original 512MB cards. This means there are now two different versions of the Radeon HD 4870 out there in the wild. Memory capacity is the only change made to the new 4870; the core clock speed and the memory clock speed remain exactly the same between both models as do all other specifications. The only difference is the added 512MB of memory capacity on board, so as you might guess this makes for a very interesting real world gaming comparison.

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Here are both models next to each other, the 1GB 4870 is above and the 512MB 4870 is below. As you can see they appear exactly the same.

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Here is a closer look at the 1GB 4870, with the only difference being the label indicating there is 1GB of memory on board.

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Here is a screenshot from Catalyst Control Center indicating the memory capacity and clock speeds. As you can see the 1GB model (on left) and 512MB model (on right) are clocked at the same frequencies. You can also see the BIOS versions between both, the 1GB model has a slightly different (newer) BIOS version.

We Want Answers

Does the 1GB 4870 really have any gameplay experience advantages over the 512MB Radeon HD 4870?

Since both video cards are clocked at the same frequencies we can do a direct comparison in our highest-playable settings section and apples-to-apples section. We will be using an AMD reference 1GB Radeon HD 4870 and a Sapphire Radeon HD 4870 512MB (stock clocks) to compare. We will also be including a stock NVIDIA clocked GeForce GTX 260 (216 Core Edition) which is price competitive with the 1GB Radeon HD 4870. The ASUS 1GB HD 4870 can be had for $289.

We will be running our usual highest-playable settings testing, as well as a plethora of apples-to-apples testing. We are including hot off the shelf the new games Crysis: Warhead and Stalker: Clear Sky.