The Cards and The Test

In the AMD department, we received two cards. One was an overclocked part from HIS and the other was a stock clocked part from ASUS. Guess which one AMD sent us for the review. No, it's no problem, we're used to it. This is what happens when we get cards from NVIDIA all the time. They argue and argue for the inclusion of overclocked numbers in GPU reviews when it's their GPU we're looking at. Of course when the tables are turned so are the opinions. We sincerely appreciate ASUS sending us this card and we used it for our tests in this article. The original intent of trying to get a hold of two cards was to run CrossFire numbers, but we only have one GTX 275 and we would prefer to wait until we can compare the two to get into that angle.

The ASUS card also includes a utility called Voltage Tweaker that allows gamers to increase some voltages on their hardware to help improve overclocking. We didn't have the chance to play with the feature ourselves, but more control is always a nice feature to have.

For the Radeon HD 4890 our hardware specs are pretty simple. Take a 4870 1GB and overclock it. Crank the core up 100 MHz to 850 MHz and the memory clock up 75 MHz to 975 MHz. That's the Radeon HD 4890 in a nutshell. However, to reach these clock levels, AMD revised the core by adding decoupling capacitors, new timing algorithms, and altered the ASIC power distribution for enhanced operation.  These slight changes increased the transistor count from 956M to 959M. Otherwise, the core features/specifications (texture units, ROPs, z/stencil) remain the same as the HD4850/HD4870 series.

Most vendors will also be selling overclocked variants that run the core at 900 MHz. AMD would like to treat these overclocked parts like they are a separate entity altogether. But we will continue to treat these parts as enhancements of the stock version whether they come from NVIDIA or AMD. In our eyes, the difference between, say, an XFX GTX 275 and an XFX GTX 275 XXX is XFX's call; the latter is their part enhancing the stock version. We aren't going to look at the XFX 4890 and the XFX 4890 XXX any differently. In doing reviews of vendor's cards, we'll consider overclocked performance closely, but for a GPU launch, we will be focusing on the baseline version of the card.

On the NVIDIA side, we received a reference version of the GTX 275. It looks similar to the design of the other GT200 based hardware.

Under the hood here is the same setup as half of a GTX 295 but with higher clock speeds. That means that the GTX 275 has the memory amount and bandwidth of the GTX 260 (448-bit wide bus), but the shader count of the GTX 280 (240 SPs). On top of that, the GTX 275 posts clock speeds closer to the GTX 285 than the GTX 280. Core clock is up 31 MHz from a GTX 280 to 633 MHz, shader clock is up 108 MHz to 1404 MHz, and memory clock is also up 108 MHz to 2322. Which means that in shader limited cases we should see performance closer to the GTX 285 and in bandwicth limited cases we'll still be faster than the GTX 216 because of the clock speed boost across the board.

Rather than just an overclock of a pre-existing card, this is a blending of two configurations combined with an overclock from the two configurations from which it was born. And sure, it's also half a GTX 295, and that is convenient for NVIDIA. It's not just that it's different, it's that this setup should have a lot to offer especially in games that aren't bandwidth limited.

That wraps it up for the cards we're focusing on today. Here's our test system, which is the same as for our GTS 250 article except for the addition of a couple drivers.

The Test

Test Setup
CPU Intel Core i7-965 3.2GHz
Motherboard ASUS Rampage II Extreme X58
Video Cards ATI Radeon HD 4890
ATI Radeon HD 4870 1GB
ATI Radeon HD 4870 512MB
ATI Radeon HD 4850
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 285
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 280
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 275
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 260 core 216
Video Drivers Catalyst 8.12 hotfix, 9.4 Beta for HD 4890
ForceWare 185.65
Hard Drive Intel X25-M 80GB SSD
RAM 6 x 1GB DDR3-1066 7-7-7-20
Operating System Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit SP1
PSU PC Power & Cooling Turbo Cool 1200W
New Drivers From NVIDIA Change The Landscape The New $250 Price Point: Radeon HD 4890 vs. GeForce GTX 275


View All Comments

  • lk7900 - Monday, April 27, 2009 - link

    Can you please die? Prefearbly by getting crushed to death, or by getting your face cut to shreds with a

    I hope that you get curb-stomped, f ucking retard

    Shut the *beep* up f aggot, before you get your face bashed in and cut
    to ribbons, and your throat slit.">

    I wish you a truly painful, bloody, gory, and agonizing death, *beep*
  • joeysfb - Wednesday, April 15, 2009 - link

    Hahaha! An eye for an eye. Guess the table has turned. AMD used to be in a needy position... taking it from and back from players like Nvidia. Reply
  • joeysfb - Monday, April 13, 2009 - link

    Good job AnandTech!!, really like your behind the scene commentary. Reply
  • araczynski - Saturday, April 11, 2009 - link

    so far my overclocked 4850 crossfire setup has been keeping me happy, i'll come back into the market when the 5000 series rolls out and i upgrade my rig in general. Reply
  • ChemicalAffinity - Thursday, April 9, 2009 - link

    Can someone ban this guy? I mean seriously. Reply
  • SiliconDoc - Friday, April 24, 2009 - link

    Are you on drugs, is that why you don't understand or have a single counterpoint ?
    Come on, come up with at least one that refutes my endless stream of corrections to the lies you've lived with for months.
    No ?
    Ban the truth instead ?
    Yeah, that wouldn't help you.
  • Ananke - Thursday, April 9, 2009 - link

    I had 4850, 4870-1Gb, 260-216 and 280-Overclocked. Ran on 24" 1900*1200 - Crysis and Warhead, FarCry2, GTA4, Stalker ....whatever else you can imagnine...

    My experience:

    Radeons are hot and noisier. You HAVE to increase the fan speed and it is audible. Image quality in games is very good though. Especially Crysis was better looking with the Radeons. Bullet tracing and sunshine effects were spectacular...GTX 280 on max everything in Crysis was also very beautiful. However that card gets HOT, so you would be better off with 285. I didn't like the image quality of Radeons in movies , but maybe my settings were not good. 4850 is definitely not the money, too hot for my test.

    So, 4870 or 4890 1 Gb is definitely worth buying, performance is on par with 285 on 1900*1200 - Crysis was 27-41 FPS with standart Radeon 4870, and 31-45 with 280 OC 615 MHz.

    IF 285 price is $250, that would be the best buy. If it costs more is NOT worth the money, unless you really want bigger and quiter card. Performance wise is the same as Radeon 4890, which now costs 229 and can be overclocked. I did overclock the GTX280 and 285, which doesnt show any performance change, I guess they are constrained by memory bandwidth?

    So, honestly, for the money Radeon 4890 for $229 is the better choice. IF you find 4870 1Gb for $169 is worth considering also. The 896MB on the Nvidias is a constraint, I would not reccomend anything but 285, but that is expensive.

  • Truenofan - Tuesday, April 7, 2009 - link

    woops. i meant arctic cooling S1 Rev2. Reply
  • Truenofan - Tuesday, April 7, 2009 - link

    i don't get whats going on with silicon. but i enjoy my 4870. it works best at my resolution(1920x1200) and it costed less than the 275 with the ac-1. runs very chilly(45C idle 57C load oc'ed). i dont need phys-x or an application to do video encoding that costs extra adding to the total cost of the video card. gaming is its sole purpose to me and it does that extremely well.

    180 + 80 dollars for the video applications costs more than what my 4870 ran me and it completely outclasses at stock speeds it let alone a 275(260) or 280(270) which mine still costed less than. now you can get a 4870 for what the 260 runs. wheres the logic in that? just so you can run a few games with physx that aren't even that good? to do some video encoding? i'll stick with my lower cost 4870.
  • SiliconDoc - Tuesday, April 7, 2009 - link

    I see, now your 4870 completely outclasses even the 280. LOL
    Your 4870 is matched with the 260, not the 275, and not the 280.
    You don't have anything but another set of lies, so it's not something about you determining "my problem", or you "not knowing what it is", but it is rather the obvious lies required for you to "express your opinion". Maybe you should read my responses for the 20 some pages, and tell me why any of the 20 plus solid points that destroy the lies of the reds, are incorrect ? You think you might try it ? I mean we have a lot more than just YOUR OPINION,, false as you presented it, to determine, what is correct. For instance:">
    Now, not even your 4870 overclocked XXX can beat the GTX260 GLH. In your MIND, though, it does, huh....? lol
    Too bad, for you. I, unlike you, know what your problem is, and that is exactly what should bother you, about me.

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