ATI Radeon HD 4890 vs. NVIDIA GeForce GTX 275by Anand Lal Shimpi & Derek Wilson on April 2, 2009 12:00 AM EST
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NVIDIA is competitive at this new price point of $250 depending on what resolution you look at. We also see some improvement from NVIDIA's new 185 series driver and get a new feature to play with in the form of Ambient Occlusion. We did look at PhysX and CUDA again, and, while we may be interested in what is made possible by them, there is still a stark lack of compelling content that takes advantage of these technologies. We can't recommend prioritizing PhysX and CUDA over performance, and performance is where a GPU needs to compete. Luckily for NVIDIA, the GTX 275 does.
The fact that its worst-case performance is still better than the GTX 260 core 216 and in the best case, it can hit that of the GTX 280 was a plus for the GTX 275. It often posted performance more in line with its bigger brothers than a $50+ cheaper part. This is pretty sweet for a $250 card, especially as many games these days rely very heavily on shader performance. The GeForce GTX 275 is a good fit for this price point, and is a good option. But then there's the Radeon HD 4890.
The 4890, basically a tweaked and overclocked 4870, does improve performance over the 4870 1GB and puts up good competition for the GTX 275. On a pure performance level the 4890 and GTX 275 trade blows at different resolutions. The 4890 tends to look better at lower resolutions while the GTX 275 is more competitive at high resolutions. At 1680 x 1050 and 1920 x 1200 the 4890 is nearly undefeated. At 2560 x 1600, it seems to be pretty much a wash between the two cards.
At the same time, there are other questions, like that of availability. With these parts performing so similarly, and price being pretty well equal, the fact that AMD parts can be bought starting today and we have to wait for the NVIDIA parts is an advantage for AMD. However, we have to factor in the fact that AMD driver support doesn't have the best track record as of late for new game titles. Add in the fact that NVIDIA's developer relations seem more effective than AMD's could mean more titles that run better on NVIDIA hardware in the future. So what to go with? Really it depends on what resolutions you're targeting and what the prices end up being. If you've got a 30" display then either card will work, it's just up to your preference and the items we talked about earlier. If you've got a 24" or smaller display (1920x1200 or below), then the Radeon HD 4890 is the card for you.
AMD tells us that most retailers will feature mail in rebates of $20, a program which was apparently underwritten by AMD. Could AMD have worried they weren't coming in at high enough performance late in the game and decided to try and throw an extra incentive in there? Either way, not everyone likes a mail in rebate. I much prefer the instant variety and mail-in-rebate offers do not make decisions for me. We still compare products based on their MSRP (which is likely the price they'll be back at once the rebate goes away). This is true for both AMD and NVIDIA parts.
There will also be overclocked variants of the GTX 275 to compete with the overclocked variants from AMD. The overclock on the AMD hardware is fairly modest, but does make a difference and the same holds true for the GTX 275 products in early testing. We'll have to take a look at how such parts compare in the future along with SLI and CrossFire. In the meantime, we have another interesting battle at the $250 price point.