It's been a busy year for the PC graphics world with both AMD and Nvidia going back and forth releasing new architectures, then improving them further to finally having to rearrange their line-up to match each other prices.
A perfect example is that of the Radeon HD 4870 which made its debut on late June with a retail price of $299, at the time significantly cheaper than the competition's GeForce GTX 260. Not too long afterwards we published our direct comparison of the GeForce GTX 260/280 and the Radeon HD 4800 series, where it became clear that the Radeon had the performance edge over the GTX 260 in spite of the lower price.
Nvidia was forced to heavily reduce the GeForce GTX 260 price to the Radeon's level, only to release an enhanced version that effectively replaced the original weeks later. The new GeForce GTX 260 which goes by the same name, now features 216 SPUs rather than the original 192.
However, these newer GeForce GTX 260 cards cost upwards of $310, meaning that the performance boost comes at an added cost. With many Radeon HD 4870 graphics cards currently priced as low as $270, the new GeForce GTX 260 is not necessarily more appealing than the original. In concluding our Radeon HD 4870 vs. GeForce GTX 260 comparison, in which the Radeon came out on top, there was but one small problem and that was heat generation.
Despite of using less power when under load, the Radeon HD 4870 runs considerably hotter than the GeForce GTX 260 using the stock cooler which is shared by a majority of outgoing cards no matter what the manufacturer. While the 80C+ load temperatures were a little concerning, it was the 70C+ idle temps that had us really worried. This means that even when sitting at the Windows desktop the Radeon HD 4870 is cranking out more than 70 degrees of heat, much of which escapes into the case.
This was also problem when we reviewed the Visiontek Radeon HD 4870, which used the AMD reference cooler. Using special software (Catalyst drivers support it now also) to increase the fan speed allowed for lower temperatures, but a noticeable increase in operating volumes came as a byproduct. Therefore we believed the best Radeon HD 4870 solution would be one that dropped the barely sufficient reference cooler for something more elaborate.
And finally we have a Radeon HD 4870 card that has done just that, the new Force3D Radeon HD 4870 Black Edition. Force3D has improved this special edition Radeon by overclocking the core and memory, albeit a small overclock, and replaced the reference cooler with one of the best VGA air coolers money can buy, the Arctic-Cooling Accelero Twin Turbo.
We can expect the Force3D Radeon HD 4870 Black Edition to be slightly faster than the original, but most importantly it's also going to be significantly cooler. Before we check out the performance numbers, let’s take a closer look at this impressive looking graphics card.