I'm not really sure why we have NDAs on these products anymore. Before we even got our Radeon HD 4890, before we were even briefed on it, NVIDIA contacted us and told us that if we were working on a review to wait. NVIDIA wanted to send us something special.

Then in the middle of our Radeon HD 4890 briefing what do we see but a reference to a GeForce GTX 275 in the slides. We hadn't even laid hands on the 275, but AMD knew what it was and where it was going to be priced.

If you asked NVIDIA what the Radeon HD 4890 was, you'd probably hear something like "an overclocked 4870". If you asked AMD what the GeForce GTX 275 was, you'd probably get "half of a GTX 295".

The truth of the matter is that neither one of these cards is particularly new, they are both a balance of processors, memory, and clock speeds at a new price point.

As the prices on the cards that already offered a very good value fell, higher end and dual GPU cards remained priced significantly higher. This created a gap in pricing between about $190 and $300. AMD and NVIDIA saw this as an opportunity to release cards that fell within this spectrum, and they are battling intensely over price. Both companies withheld final pricing information until the very last minute. In fact, when I started writing this intro (Wednesday morning) I still had no idea what the prices for these parts would actually be.

Now we know that both the Radeon HD 4890 and the GeForce GTX 275 will be priced at $250. This has historically been a pricing sweet spot, offering a very good balance of performance and cost before we start to see hugely diminishing returns on our investments. What we hope for here is a significant performance bump from the GTX 260 core 216 and Radeon HD 4870 1GB class of performance. We'll wait till we get to the benchmarks to reveal if that's what we actually get and whether we should just stick with what's good enough.

At a high level, here's what we're looking at:

  GTX 285 GTX 275 GTX 260 Core 216 GTS 250 / 9800 GTX+
Stream Processors 240 240 216 128
Texture Address / Filtering 80 / 80 80 / 80 72/72 64 / 64
ROPs 32 28 28 16
Core Clock 648MHz 633MHz 576MHz 738MHz
Shader Clock 1476MHz 1404MHz 1242MHz 1836MHz
Memory Clock 1242MHz 1134MHz 999MHz 1100MHz
Memory Bus Width 512-bit 448-bit 448-bit 256-bit
Frame Buffer 1GB 896MB 896MB 512MB
Transistor Count 1.4B 1.4B 1.4B 754M
Manufacturing Process TSMC 55nm TSMC 55nm TSMC 65nm TSMC 55nm
Price Point $360 ~$250 $205 $140

 

  ATI Radeon HD 4890 ATI Radeon HD 4870 ATI Radeon HD 4850
Stream Processors 800 800 800
Texture Units 40 40 40
ROPs 16 16 16
Core Clock 850MHz 750MHz 625MHz
Memory Clock 975MHz (3900MHz data rate) GDDR5 900MHz (3600MHz data rate) GDDR5 993MHz (1986MHz data rate) GDDR3
Memory Bus Width 256-bit 256-bit 256-bit
Frame Buffer 1GB 1GB 512MB
Transistor Count 959M 956M 956M
Manufacturing Process TSMC 55nm TSMC 55nm TSMC 55nm
Price Point ~$250 ~$200 $150

 

We suspect that this will be quite an interesting battle and we might have some surprises on our hands. NVIDIA has been talking about their new drivers which will be released to the public early Thursday morning. These new drivers offer some performance improvements across the board as well as some cool new features. Because it's been a while since we talked about it, we will also explore PhysX and CUDA in a bit more depth than we usually do in GPU reviews.

We do want to bring up availability. This will be a hard launch for AMD but not for NVIDIA (though some European retailers should have the GTX 275 on sale this week). As for AMD, we've seen plenty of retail samples from AMD partners and we expect good availability starting today. If this ends up not being the case, we will certainly update the article to reflect that later. NVIDIA won't have availability until the middle of the month (we are hearing April 14th).

NVIDIA hasn't been hitting their launches as hard lately, and we've gotten on them about that in past reviews. This time, we're not going to be as hard on them for it. The fact of the matter is that they've got a competitive part coming out in a time frame that is very near the launch of an AMD part at the same price point. We are very interested in not getting back to the "old days" where we had paper launched parts that only ended up being seen in the pages of hardware review sites, but we certainly understand the need for companies to get their side of the story out there when launches are sufficiently close to one another. And we're certainly not going to fault anyone for that. Not being available for purchase is it's own problem.

From the summer of 2008 to today we've seen one of most heated and exciting battles in the history of the GPU. NVIDIA and AMD have been pushing back and forth with differing features, good baseline performance with strengths in different areas, and incredible pricing battles in the most popular market segments. While AMD and NVIDIA fight with all their strength to win customers, the real beneficiary has consistently been the end user. And we certainly feel this launch is no exception. If you've got $250 to spend on graphics and were wondering whether you should save up for the GTX 285 or save money and grab a sub-$200 part, your worries are over. There is now a card for you. And it is good.

New Drivers From NVIDIA Change The Landscape
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  • SiliconDoc - Monday, April 06, 2009 - link

    LOL - antoher hidden red rooster bias uncovered...
    Umm... look, when there's a new ati card, there's no talking about crunching down on former ati cards - OK ? That just is NOT allowed.
    " No mention of the death of the HD 4850X2 as the HD4890 trashes the power consumption, price, availability, speed and OC-ability "
    Dude, not allowed !
    PS- Don't mention how this card is going to smash the "4870" "profit" "flagship" - gee now just don't talk about it - don't mention it - look, there's no rooster crying in fps gaming, ok ?
    Reply
  • Torquer350 - Friday, April 03, 2009 - link

    Props to ATi for delivering a very compelling product. I admit I've always been an Nvidia fan, and I'll generally forgive them a single generational performance loss to ATi, but I've recommended ATi products recently to friends due to their resurgent desirability.

    That being said, am I the only one who detects a subtle but distinct underlying disdain for Nvidia? So they tried to market the hell out of you - so what? They are trying to sell cards here. Why the surprise that sales and marketing people are trying to do exactly what they're paid to do? Congrats for being smart enough to see it for what it is, but jeers for making an issue of it as if its some kind of new tactic. Has AMD/ATi never done the same?

    CUDA and PhysX are compelling, but I agree not a good reason to overcome a significant gap between Nvidia and ATi at a comparable price point. You clearly agree, but it seems like what little praise you offer is begrudging in the extreme.

    Nvidia has definitely acted in bad form in a number of ways throughout this very lengthy generation of hardware. However, you guys are journalists and in my opinion should make a more concerted effort to leave the vitriol and sensationalism at the door, regardless of who it is that is being reviewed. That kind of emotional reaction, personal opinion, irritation, etc is better served for your blog posts than a review article.

    Love the site, keep up the good work. Nobodys perfect.
    Reply
  • SiliconDoc - Monday, April 06, 2009 - link

    Yeah thanks for noticing, too. It been going on a long time. Notice how now, suddenly when ati doesn't have 2560 sewn up - it doesn't matter anymore ... LOL
    Of course the "brilliiantly unbiased" reviewers will claim they did a poll on monitor resolution useage, and therefore sudenyl came to their conclusion about $2,000.00 monitor users, when they tiddled and taddled for years about 10 bucks between framerates and nvidia ati - and chose ati for the 10 bucks difference.
    Yep, 10 bucks matters, but $1,700.00 difference for a monitor doesn't matter until they take a poll. Now they didn't say it, but they will - wait it's coming...
    Just like I kept pointing out when they raved about ati taking the 30" resolution and not much if anything else, that declaring it the winner wasn't right. Now of course, when ati isn't winning the 30 rez - yes, well, they finally caught on. No bias here ! Nothing to notice, pure professionalism, and hatred of cuda and physx for it's lack of ability to run on ati cards is fully justified, and should offer NO advantage to nvidia when making a purchase decision ! LOL
    OMG ! they're like GONERZ man.
    Reply
  • Dried - Friday, April 03, 2009 - link

    Best review so far. And nice cards BTW, they are both worth it, but i like the 4890 better
    Funny thing is that GTX 275 > GTX 280.
    But my guess is that GTX 280 benefits more from overclocking.
    Reply
  • Arbie - Friday, April 03, 2009 - link

    Because of my PC's location I am concerned with idle power, and purchase based on that if other specs and price are even comparable. Peak power doesn't matter as long as it's within the capability of my 800W PSU.

    I bought an ATI HD4850 last year because it idled significantly lower than the 4870, and it would run everything in sight. A great card. The Nvidia GTX 260 and 280 had even better performance vs idle power ratios but were way too expensive at the time.

    So I think Nvidia takes the laurels now with the GTX 275. 30W less (!) than the HD 4890 at idle, with essentially the same performance. If I were shopping now it would be a VERY easy choice.

    I really hope ATI can get their idle power down too. They need to pay more attention to throttling back or downpowering circuits that aren't needed in 2D modes.
    Reply
  • helldrell666 - Friday, April 03, 2009 - link

    Use the radeon bios editor to edit the 2d profile and then downclock your gpu frequencies. Reply
  • OCedHrt - Friday, April 03, 2009 - link

    The power consumption on the 4890 really interests me. While it uses more than 275 at idle, it uses less under load. Also, it is a significant drop from the 4870 which is a slower card. Reply
  • bobvodka - Friday, April 03, 2009 - link

    So, on the charge of drivers; I've gone from recently having a GT8800GTX 512Meg to a HD4870X2 2gig and if anything I've seen stability improvements between the two. Or to put it another way NV drivers were bluescreening my Vista install when I was doing nothing more than using my TV card and it was crashing in a DirectDraw DLL. Nice.

    Not to say AMD hasn't had issues; trying to use hardware acceleration with any bluray play back resulted in a bluescreen due to the gpu going into an infinite loop. Nice. Fortunately, unlike the DDraw error above, I could at least turn off hardware acceleration (and honestly, with an i7 it's not like I needed it).

    So, stability wise it's a wash.
    As for the memory usage complaints about CCC;
    Unless it is running it is NOT taking up physical memory. Like many things in the windows world it might load something into the background but this is quickly paged out and doesn't live in ram. Even if it does living in ram for a short period of time being inactive it will be paged out as soon as memory presure requires it. The simple fact is unused ram is wasted ram; this is why I'm glad Vista uses 10gig of my 12 for cache when it isn't needed for anything else, it speeds up the system.

    Cuda.. well, the idea is nice and I like the idea but as mentioned in the article unless you have cross vendor support it isn't as useful as it could be. OpenCL and, for games, DX11's compute shaders are going to make life intresting for both Cuda and AMD's option. I will say this much; I suspect you'll get better performance from NV, AMD and indeed Larrabee when it appears by going 'to the metal' with them but as with many things in the software world you have to trade something for speed.

    Now, PhysX.. well, this one is even more fun (and I guess it effects Cuda as well to a degree). Right now, with Vista, you can't run more than one vendor's gfx card in your system at once due to how WDDM1.0 works; so it's AMD or NV and that's your choice. With Win7 however the rules change slight and you'll be able to run, with WDDM1.1 drivers, cards from both vendors at once. Right away this paints an intresting landscape for those intrested; if you want an AMD card but also want some PhysX hardware power than you'll be able to slide in a 'cheap' NV series card to use for that reason (or indeed if you have an old series 8 laying about use that if the driver supports it).

    Of course, with Havoc going OpenCL and being free for games which retail for <$10 (iirc) this is probably going to be much of a muchness in the end, but it's an intresting idea at least.
    Reply
  • SiliconDoc - Monday, April 06, 2009 - link

    Except you can run 2 nvidia cards, one for gaming, the other for physx.... so red fanboys are sol.

    "Right now, with Vista, you can't run more than one vendor's gfx card in your system at once due to how WDDM1.0 works; so it's AMD or NV and that's your choice. "

    WRONG, it's TWO nvidia or just ONE ati. Hello - you knew it - but you didn't say it that way - makes ati look bad, and we just cannot have that here....
    Reply
  • Rhino2 - Monday, April 13, 2009 - link

    The hell are you talking about? Crossfire works in vista just fine. Reply

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