Back in the Fray - ATI Radeon HD 4890

Harder, Faster, Stronger

Harder, Faster, Stronger

Work it
Make it
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Makes Us

Folks familiar with Kanye West's music should by now have a pretty good idea of what ATI's new Radeon HD 4890 (HD 4890) is all about. But for those who don't, it is quite literally, as the lyrics go, a pumped up, beefed up version of the Radeon HD 4870. Think of it as a HD 4870 that has taken a steroid or two and has undergone many hours of intensive weight-training.

Since the release of the Radeon HD 4830, ATI has been fairly quiet on the GPU scene. And in between then and now, NVIDIA has released a slew of new SKUs. To be fair, most of them are rehashed products, but the super-fast GeForce GTX 295 and GeForce GTX 285 were two particularly outstanding SKUs that managed to put NVIDIA back in the limelight. In fact, word on the street is that NVIDIA has another high-end SKU up their sleeves and is finding ways to slim it down and improve their massive GTX 295.

It's time ATI fought back and the HD 4890 is their response. It is ATI's latest flagship GPU, but it still retains the 55nm core and 800 stream processors from the HD 4870. Happily, clock speeds have been bumped up. The core now clocks in at 850MHz, whereas the memory is now doing a stratospheric 3900MHz DDR. This is up from the HD 4870's 750MHz at the core and 3600MHz DDR at the memory.

To accommodate these massive increases in clock speeds, ATI has redesigned the core by adding decoupling capacitors to reduce signal noise. The company has also re-timed the chip and altered the chip's power distribution. Thanks to this new design, ATI claims that most boards tested in their labs were able to achieve clock speeds of 950MHz at the core and 4300MHz DDR at the memory. We'll definitely be putting this claim to the test.

In any case, we are expecting the HD 4890 to significantly outperform the older HD 4870. With that, we must now put the HD 4890 to the test to see if it is really any better, faster and stronger. But first, a quick look at its technical specifications and how it stacks up against comparable competitive SKUs.

Our three Radeon HD 4890 cards stacked neatly. Without their stickers on, even "Photo Hunt" experts will have difficulty trying to spot the differences between them.

The Radeon HD 4890 and Competitive SKUs
Model ATI Radeon HD 4890 1GB ATI Radeon HD 4870 512MB ATI Radeon HD 4850 512MB NVIDIA GeForce GTX 260 Core 216 896MB NVIDIA GeForce GTX 285 1GB
Core Code RV790 RV770 RV770 GT200 GT200
Transistor Count 959 million 956 million 956 million 1400 million 1400 million
Manufacturing Process 55nm 55nm 55nm 65nm 55nm
Core Clock 850MHz 750MHz 625MHz 576MHz 648MHz
Stream Processors 800 Stream processing units 800 Stream processing units 800 Stream processing units 216 Stream Processors 240 Stream Processors
Stream Processor Clock 850MHz 750MHz 625MHz 1242MHz 1476MHz
Texture Mapping Units (TMU) or Texture Filtering (TF) units 40 40 40 72 80
Raster Operator units (ROP) 16 16 16 28 32
Memory Clock 3900MHz GDDR5 3600MHz GDDR5 2000MHz GDDR3 1998MHz GDDR3 2484MHz GDDR3
DDR Memory Bus 256-bit 256-bit 256-bit 448-bit 512-bit
Memory Bandwidth 124.8GB/s 115.2GB/s 64GB/s 111.9GB/s 159GB/s
PCI Express Interface PCIe ver 2.0 x16 PCIe ver 2.0 x16 PCIe ver 2.0 x16 PCIe ver 2.0 x16 PCIe ver 2.0 x16
Molex Power Connectors 2 x 6-pin 2 x 6-pin 6-pin 2 x 6-pin 2 x 6-pin
Multi GPU Technology CrossFireX CrossFireX CrossFireX SLI SLI
DVI Output Support 2 x Dual-Link 2 x Dual-Link 2 x Dual-Link 2 x Dual-Link 2 x Dual-Link
HDCP Output Support Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Street Price US$260 ~US$219 ~US$159 ~US$229 ~US$359
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