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The ATI Radeon HD 4870 X2 model is deservedly considered the fastest graphics card in the consumer class. Being the most striking illustration of ATI’s new development strategy, this dual-headed monster easily ensures comfortable playing conditions in most of today’s games even at a resolution of 2560x1600 but demands 260 watts of power and produces quite a lot of noise.

The GPU developers seem to have reached the limit beyond which it is impossible to increase performance any further due to the constraints imposed by the capabilities and dimensions of cooling systems. The dual-slot form-factor of the cooler has long become standard in modern gaming PCs, but even such coolers can barely cope with the heat generated by the two RV770 cores of the Radeon HD 4870 X2.

We will hardly see unique versions of this graphics card. The dual-processor design leads to most sophisticated PCB wiring and also makes it unprofitable for third-party developers to devise more effective coolers than the reference one. Such coolers are meant to be universal, but a cooler developed for the Radeon HD 4870 X2 wouldn’t fit any other card. And $500 cards account for but a negligible share of the total sales of desktop discrete graphics solutions. Of course, some makers such as ASUS and CoolIT have announced exclusive coolers for ATI’s dual-headed monster, but they are talking about liquid cooling systems which are very specific solutions themselves.

Factory overclocking of a Radeon HD 4870 X2 is a rather fruitless effort and even a dangerous one with the reference cooler that already works at its limit, so ATI’s partners have to appeal to the potential buyer with such time-tested means as pretty-looking packaging and rich accessories with something special.

One such card is going to be reviewed today. It is the HD 4870 X2 HDMI 2GB GDDR5 model from HIS. Besides checking it out for anything unusual, we will try to estimate the overclocking potential of an ordinary off-the-shelf Radeon HD 4870 X2 and see if such overclocking can be rewarding.

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