Originally we were set to test the Diamond Radeon HD 4870 X2 with a pre-release version of the Catalyst drivers, which caused us more than a few headaches. So, we decided to wait until the official Catalyst 8.8 drivers were pushed out of the door and test not only the Radeon HD 4870 X2, but all other Radeon cards with this latest driver set.
Almost all the problems that we were having with the beta drivers were solved by the Catalyst 8.8 release, which was a pleasant surprise. In fact, the only bugs that we encountered afterwards involved 3Dmark Vantage, which occasionally ran into some bizarre rendering errors when using Crossfire. As for all other real gaming titles that we tested, none showed signs of instability or any kind of glitches for that matter, so we were more than satisfied with this.
In other words, with the new Catalyst 8.8 drivers by its side, the Radeon HD 4870 X2 appears to be quite a solid product.
Like all multi-GPU graphics cards, the Radeon HD 4870 X2 heavily relies on driver support to perform as intended. So, every time a new game is released it is likely that the Radeon HD 4870 X2 will not correctly support it (in pure performance terms) until AMD updates the Catalyst driver.
Without full Crossfire support the Radeon HD 4870 X2 is just as fast as a single Radeon HD 4870 graphics card, which is far from slow. We can give a perfect example by citing our World in Conflict tests. The game is not very well optimized for Crossfire and therefore we never saw the Radeon HD 4870 X2 delivering outstanding results. Same goes for Nvidia cards using SLI.
For the most part the Radeon HD 4870 X2 is an impressive product delivering unbeatable performance. However when driver support is lacking, this $559 monster will quickly turn into a $299 mainstream performer, which is clearly a concern for those shelling out the money to play. Personally, I'm usually very skeptical about multi-GPU technology as the results tend to vary so much, though admittedly things have improved considerably from where we were a year ago.
This makes the GeForce GTX 280 the safer bet, as it will deliver 100% performance in every single game, and when the next hit title comes out this is likely to be the single fastest graphics card in that game until SLI and Crossfire driver support catches up.
Both the GeForce GTX 280 and the new Radeon HD 4870 X2 are amazing products. However if you want the best performance/value balance, the GeForce GTX 260 and Radeon HD 4870 are still the way to go, offering exceptional performance at $300 or less. We mention this because even in titles that scale very well, the Radeon HD 4870 X2 is not worth the price premium over a single Radeon HD 4870, not by a long shot. So as the $559 price tag suggests, this new Radeon is reserved purely for the most extreme gamers.