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


View All Comments

  • Warren21 - Thursday, April 02, 2009 - link

    Yeah, I don't know why they're playing this off as an RV770 overclock. RV790 is indeed a respin of RV770, but hey if nV can get by with 1000 different variants on the same GT200... Why not mention the benefits/differences between the RV770 and the RV790? Disappointed. Reply
  • SiliconDoc - Monday, April 06, 2009 - link

    I guess they didn't mention the differences ? Tell you what, when ati gets 999 more rebrands and catches up with their competitotr, we'll call it even, ok ?
    In the mean time, the 4870 crossfires with the 4980, and soon enough we'll have the gamer joe reviewers that downclock the 4890 and find it has identical results to the same clocked 4870 - at that point the red roosters will tuck their flapping feathers and go home.
    I know, it's hard to see it coming, when all you can see is s tiny dot of red, in a sea of 1000 choices of green. rofl
  • bill3 - Thursday, April 02, 2009 - link

    According to info at other sites, the 4890 has 3 million more transistors (959 instead of 956, very little difference). It also has a somewhat larger die due to tweaks made to allow the higher clocks.

    Go to Firing Squad or Xbitlabs review, both have an certain ATI slide that explains the small changes in detail.
  • SiliconDoc - Monday, April 06, 2009 - link

    " Because they’re so similar, the Radeon 4870 and 4890 can be combined together for mix-and-match CrossFire, just like the 4850 and 4870. "
    I guess it's not a rebrand.
  • bill3 - Thursday, April 02, 2009 - link


    The slide is the first clickable pic on that page, actually. Didn't realize we could do links.
  • bill3 - Thursday, April 02, 2009 - link

    Or even better


  • Proteusza - Thursday, April 02, 2009 - link

    Thanks guys, good read.

    The piece on PhysX kinda mirrors my thoughts on it - its not worth basing a GPU purchasing a decision on it because it affects so few games. If you design your game around PhysX, you end up making a gimmicky game, if you design a good game and think of good ways to let PhysX enhance it, you can make something good like Mirror's Edge.

    The way I think about PhysX is based on Amdahl's law, which says that overrall speedup of a CPU from an enhancement that affects only a certain class of application is affected by the amount of time spent using that certain class of application. In the case of PhysX, the amount of time spent using it is generally extremely low, and when it is used the effect isnt always noticeable or worth having.

    NVidia's marketing tactics leave a lot to be desired frankly, although I'm not naive enough to say AMD never tries a little marketing manipulation themselves.
  • Sylvanas - Thursday, April 02, 2009 - link

    Why on earth would you compare a newly released Nvidia driver to that of an ATI driver from December last year and a Hotfix at that? The latest ATI drivers have had substantial improvements in a few games and surely they would have sent you an up to date driver with the 4890 review sample- somethings not right there. Also, where was the overclocking comparisons? (some reviews stating 1ghz core 4890 no problem). What about Temps and Stock cooling fan noise?

  • 7Enigma - Thursday, April 02, 2009 - link

    I'm a bit disappointed with the ATI card. That is pretty much the Sapphire Vapochill model with increased core (actually it's a slightly slower memory setting). At least the GTX 275 is something different. Reply
  • bill3 - Thursday, April 02, 2009 - link

    Wow lol..both cards are just rehashes. Calling the Nvidia card "something different" is a hell of a stretch.. it's just their same other cards with various clocks twiddled for the trillionth time.

    If anything the ATI card brings more to the table, as it offers much more clock headroom (1ghz is said to be well within reach) due to it's redesign, while the Nvidia card is nothing at all new intrinsically (aka it will overclock similar to the 285). Too be fair Nvidia's better clock-capable models (285) just came out a couple months earlier instead of now.

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