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

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

    If the 4890 is in fact a respin then I retract my original comment. My point if just a simple OC was that they were basically rebranding (binning) parts that could clock higher than the stock 4870 and selling it as a new card. That seems not to be the case, and so I can't be at fault if the Anand article didn't address this.

    Regardless of whether the Nvidia card is in fact similar to the other offerings it does have disabled/enabled parts that do make it different than the 285 and 260.

    I'd still really like to see one of the Vapochill units up against the 4890. I'm pretty confident you could get to the stock 4890 speeds, so it's just a matter of whether $70 is worth the potential to OC much higher than the 4870 (if these 1gig core clocks are the norm).

    What we really need to see though is the temps for these cards under idle/load. That would be extremely helpful in deciding how good they are. For example if we see the 4890 at its stock speed is significantly cooler than the 4870 (and they haven't done much to the heatsink/fan), then the Vapochill 4870's just don't stand a chance. If we find the 4890's are similar or higher in temp than the stock 4870's, then it seems much more like a rebadge job.
  • MadMan007 - Thursday, April 02, 2009 - link

    If you look at it objectively the GTX 275 is something more different than the HD4890 unless there are undercover changes in the latter of which we haven't been made aware. HD4890 = clock bumped HD4870 exactly, GTX 275 = 240SP 448-bit memory interface GT200b which was not available as a single GPU card. Reply
  • bill3 - Thursday, April 02, 2009 - link

    Meh..Madman Nvidia are still just playing around with the exact same modular component sets they have been, not adding anything new. Besides as even you alluded it isnt even a new card, it's just half the exact previously existing configuration in a GTX295

    But as I said 285 is clocked higher than 280, I'm assuming Nvidia did die tweak to get there (at the least they switched to 55nm). They just did them 3 months ago or whenever, ATI is just now getting to it.

    But for todays launches, imo ATI brings more new to the table than Nvidia, ever so slightly.
  • Snarks - Tuesday, April 07, 2009 - link

    Ati was the first with the 55nm core.. or did you mean something else?

    the GTX275 is just simply a 280GTX with a few things disabled is it not?
  • SiliconDoc - Monday, April 06, 2009 - link

    Right, they brought ambient occlusion to the table with their new driver.... LOL
    Man , I'm telling you.
    The new red rooster mantra " shadows in games do not matter " !
    ( "We don"t care nvidia does it on die and in drivers, making it happen in games without developer implementation ! WE HATE SHADERS/SHADOWS who cares!" )
    I mean you have to be a real nutball. The Camaro car shop doesn't have enough cherry red paint to go around.
    I wonder if the red roosters body paint ATI all over before they start gaming ? They probably spraypaint their Christmas trees red - you know, just to show nvidia whose boss...
    Unbelievable. Shadows - new shadows not there before - don't matter... LOL
  • Warren21 - Thursday, April 02, 2009 - link

    I'm surprised they didn't mention it, maybe they hadn't been properly briefed, but yes the HD 4890 IS a different core than the HD 4870.

    It uses a respin on the RV770 called RV790 which has slight clock-for-clock performance increases and much better power efficiency than the RV770. Case in point: higher clocks yet lower idle power draw. It's supposed to clock to 1 GHz without too much hassle granted proper cooling also.
  • Live - Thursday, April 02, 2009 - link

    This review was kind of a let down for me. It almost seems Nvidias sales rep terrorized you so much the last year so you felt compelled to write about CUDA and PhysX. But just as you said from the beginning it’s not a big deal.

    As a trade off temperatures, noise and power seems to have gone missing. You talk about Nvidias new driver but what about ATIs new driver? Did you really test the ATI cards with “Catalyst 8.12 hotfix” as is stated on the test page?!? Surely ATI sent you a new driver and the performance figures seem to support that. I is my understanding that ATI has upped their driver performance the last months just like Nvidia has. No mention of IQ except from Nvidias new drivers. No overclocking which I had heard would be one of the strong points of the ATI card with 1 GHz GPU a possibility. I know you mentioned you would look at it again but just crank up the damn cards and let us know where they go.

    Dont get me wrong the article was good but I guess I just want more ;)

    ATI sems to win at “my” resolution of 1680x1050, but then again Nvida has some advantages as well. Tough call and I guess price will have to settle this one.
  • dubyadubya - Friday, April 03, 2009 - link

    I agree noise and temps should be in all reviews. So should image quality comparisons. While we are at it 2d performance and image quality comparisons should really be part of any complete review. It seems frame rates are all review sites care to report. Reply
  • The0ne - Thursday, April 02, 2009 - link

    You and others want more but yet keep bitching about mentions such as CUDA and PhysX. If Anandtech doesn't mention then someone has to complain why they weren't and weren't included in the test. For example the recent buyers guide. And when they do mention it and said it doesn't do anything much and left it alone there's bitching going on. I really don't get you guys sometime. Reply
  • SiliconDoc - Monday, April 06, 2009 - link

    Well it's funny isn't it - with the hatred of NVidia by these reviewers here. Anand says "he has never played Mirror's Edge" - but of course it has been released for quite some time. So Anand by chance with the red rooster gone has to try it - of course he didn't want to, but they had to finally mention CUDA and PhysX - even though they dpn't want to.
    Then Anand really does like the game he has been avioding, it's great, he gets near addicted, shuts off PhysX, notices the difference, turns it back on and keeps happily playing.
    Then he says it doesn't really matter.
    Same for the video converter. Works great, doesn't matter.
    CUDA - same thing, works, doesn't matter, and don't mention folding, because that works better on NVida - has for a long time, ATI has some new port, not as good, so don't mention it.
    Then Ambient Occlusion - works great, shadows - which used to be a very, very big deal are now with the NVidia implementation on 22 top games, well, it's a "meh".
    There's only so many times so many added features can work well, be neat, be liked, and then the reviewer, even near addicted to one game because of the implementation, says "meh", and people cannot conclude the MASSIVE BIAS slapping them in the face.
    We KNOW what it would be like if ATI had FOUR extra features Nvidia didn't - we would NEVER hear the end of the extra value.
    Anand goes so far as to hope and pray openCL hits very soon, because then Havok via ATI "could soon be implemented in some games and catch up with PhysX fairly soon".
    I mean you have to be a BLIND RED ROOSTER DROOLING IDIOT not to see it, and of course there is absolutely no excuse for it.
    It's like cheering for democrats or republicans and lying as much as possible depending on which team you're on. It is no less than that, and if you don't see it glaring in your face, you've got the very same mental problem. It's called DISHONESTY. Guided by their emotions, they cannot help themselves, and will do everything to continue and remain in absolute denial - at least publicly.

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