Today we're going to finish off last month's introduction to Nvidia's latest addition to their video card lineup - the GeForce GTS 250 - and also introduce ATI's latest powerhouse GPU, the HD 4890.
Both cards are reiterations of existing technology, with the GTS 250 being a rebadged 9800GTX+ and the HD 4890 being a slightly revamped and faster version of the HD 4870.
Both cards however offer a new price/performance level, and in the case of the HD 4890, fill a gap in the market pricing-wise. With a certain large national gaming event on the horizon, many people will be considering hardware upgrades over the coming weeks, so let's take a closer look at our worthy competitors;
Nvidia GeForce GTS 250
* Quantum Engine: Embedded Physics features * 3-Way SLI capable
* Dual-link HDCP -capable, ready for viewing High Definition movie content
* NVIDIA® Unified Architecture with GigaThread™ technology
* Full Microsoft® DirectX® 10 Shadow Model 4.0 support
* Lumenex™ engine * 16x full-screen anti-aliasing
* Built for Microsoft® Windows Vista® and Windows Media Center
* NVIDIA® Quantum Effect™ physics processing technology
* Two dual-link DVI outputs support two 2560x1600 resolution displays
* PCI Express® 2.0 support * HDMI capable with the use of HDMI certified components
* HDMI Certified * 128-bit High Dynamic-Range Rendering
* NVIDIA® PhysX™ Technology ready * NVIDIA® CUDA™ Technology ready
ATI Radeon HD 4890
As far as you gamers are concerned, the HD 4890 is an overclocked 4870, going up to an 850MHz core speed and 3900MHz memory speed from the 750MHz and 3600MHz of the older 4870. The XFX Extreme Edition we are using for testing today has a slightly bumped up core speed of 875MHz.
* 1GB of GDDR5 memory * DirectX® 10.1 support * 800 stream processing units
* 24x custom filter anti-aliasing (CFAA) and high performance anisotropic filtering
* Quad mode ATI CrossFireX™ multi-GPU support for highly scalable performance
* PCI Express® 2.0 support * Dynamic geometry acceleration
* Game physics processing capability * ATI Avivo™ HD video and display technology
* Unified Video Decoder 2 (UVD 2) for Blu-ray™ and HD Video * Built-in HDMI with 7.1 surround sound support
* Dynamic power management with ATI PowerPlay™ technology * ATI Stream technology
So without further ado let's compare the specs of all the cards on the block today then jump in and see what they are capable of.
CPU: Core 2 Duo E8500 @ 3600MHz
RAM: 2x2GB G.Skill DDR2-1000 CL5
Mobo: Asus P5Q Pro
O/S: Vista Home Premium 64bit SP1
3DMark06 isn't too useful for comparing Nvidia cards to ATI cards but it's a good yardstick nonetheless, particularly when looking at video cards from the same family like the HD 4800 series.
The HD 4890 slots in exactly where it should do in this set of cards - right at the top. Adding a second card in the Crossfire configuration doesn't add a lot of points, even at high resolution. Looking at the Nvidia cards, the extra half gigabyte of RAM on the 1GB does nothing for its score, in fact it goes backwards slightly.
The most graphically intensive game since, well, the first Crysis. Nvidia cards have traditionally fared much better than ATI in this game so I'd expect the GTS 250 to outperform the similarly-priced HD 4850.
As predicted, the Nvidia card outshines its competition from ATI, and almost reaches the level of the more expensive 4870. Again, however, the extra memory fails to provide any performance boost whatsoever. Meanwhile the 4890 offers 4~5 more frames per second than its predecessor, and again adding the second provides minimal performance increase.