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Sapphire Radeon HD 4890 1GB Review

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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Heat & Acoustics / Power Consumption

Heat & Acoustics


HD4890-75.jpg

Surprisingly on paper it looks like the HD 4890 1GB does very, very well when it comes to keeping heat to a minimum. This partially comes from a slightly redesigned heatsink but the largest reason for the temperature drop between it and the stock HD 4870 is the speed at which the fan runs at. When under idle conditions, the noise the fan produces is well within the norms of what we would call acceptable. Unfortunately, as the heat starts to rise RPMs increase exponentially until the HD 4890 becomes the loudest thing in your case (unless you are running a few Delta 3000RPM screamers). I would have gladly sacrificed up to 10°C if it meant that the fan could be kept a bit quieter. This is unfortunate considering this is the only real blemish we could find with this card.


Power Consumption


For this test we hooked up our power supply to a UPM power meter that will log the power consumption of the whole system twice every second. In order to stress the GPU as much as possible we once again use the Batch Render test in 3DMark06 and let it run for 30 minutes to determine the peak power consumption while letting the card sit at a stable Windows desktop for 30 minutes to determine the peak idle power consumption. We have also included several other tests as well. Please note that after extensive testing, we have found that simply plugging in a power meter to a wall outlet or UPS will NOT give you accurate power consumption numbers due to slight changes in the input voltage. Thus we use a Tripp-Lite 1800W line conditioner between the 120V outlet and the power meter.

HD4890-74.jpg

All in all, power consumption is right where we would have expected it considering this card’s clock frequencies. Even though ATI is clearly leading the way with it comes to performance per watt under load conditions, its cards fall flat on their faces when it comes to idle power consumption. ATI, methinks it is time to get some patches going for PowerPlay. On the plus side, it is good to see that the new HD 4890 actually consumes slightly less power at idle than a lower clocked HD 4870 1GB
 
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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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12,840
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Overclocking Results

Overclocking Results


Unlike most other graphics cards on the market, ATI seems to be actively marketing the HD 4890’s overclocking abilities. Please note that we used the stock cooler with the default fan speed. Without the support of other aftermarket overclocking tools, we were somewhat limited by the Catalyst Control Center’s self-imposed overclocking limits but that didn’t stop us from getting some downright jaw-dropping results.

Final Core Overclock: 1Ghz
Final Memory Overclock: 1200Mhz (4800Mhz effective)

Sweet merciful Lord. Impressive isn’t it? And to make matters even better, we maxed out the Catalyst sliders which means this puppy has even more left in the tank! Considering we are now hearing reports that some manufacturers (like Sapphire) will be releasing cards which have a pre overclocked core running at 900Mhz or even 950Mhz, we have to wonder what the limit is on these cards. Not only did the core hit the 1Ghz mark but the memory is now flirting with the magical 5Ghz mark.


HD4890-20.jpg
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,840
Location
Montreal
Conclusion

Conclusion


We mentioned at the beginning of this review that in today’s marketplace innovation through the maturing of existing technologies would be the way to success. Even though their new architecture is still some time away, ATI knew that they needed a card placed between the HD 4870 1GB and HD 4870 X2 to better compete with Nvidia’s offerings. They also knew that while readers may think that cards like the GTX 285 are performance monsters, they just didn’t fit into many people’s budgets. With the HD 4890 1GB ATI has tried to offer consumers the middle ground: a card with performance within spitting distance of the $470+CAD Nvidia single chip flagship but sporting a retail price that is a whopping 30% less. It sounds like a tall order but against all odds, ATI has pulled it off with spectacular results.

Sure, at face value the HD 4890 looks a hell of a lot like the HD 4870 but this isn’t a rebadge folks; the RV790 core and the card’s components combine to make this card a different beast altogether. Its higher clocks meant that it retained a good 10-20% performance advantage over a stock-clocked HD 4870 1GB and it placed a serious beat down on the GTX 260 216. Granted, it seems like the HD 4870 1GB’s 9.3 drivers mean inconsistent performance versus the new betas being used with the HD 4890 but we expect the performance difference to stay the same as time goes on. This also means that the GTX 285 has some competition every now and then since there are some instances where the HD 4890 actually surpasses its performance. It is just too bad ATI didn’t release this card 6 months ago; it would have made the perfect alternative to the GTX 280. As it stands now, I think it will redefine the way we all look at how much we have to pay for incredible performance.

Unfortunately, Nvidia was spoiling for a fight and they released the GTX 275 in order to spoil ATI’s little party. How does it affect our outlook of ATI’s new wunderkind? Well, it doesn’t affect it in any way actually. While history is written by the victors, we can’t count the HD 4890 out yet since the GTX 275 won’t even be available when this review goes live. In addition, even though Nvidia quoted to reviewers a price of around $250 USD, after speaking to some contacts on the retail side of things, we expect Canadian pricing of between $350 and $380. If this holds true, the HD 4890 may be a slightly better buy on a price / performance level.

Most people look the other way when it comes to overclocking due to voided warranties and potential stability issues. Overclocking is an inexact science at the best of times which is why we usually leave mention of it out of conclusions but this time is different. ATI is specifically marketing this card’s overclockability and we have to commend them for backing up their words with some serious muscle. The HD 4890 1GB is the first card we have seen that can clock to 1Ghz (and beyond) on nothing but stock cooling. What more is there to say? Well, the memory overclocks like no one’s business too.

You probably know by now that no product is perfect and this holds true with the HD 4890. Personally, I find the fan profile is far too aggressive considering the relatively low temperatures we were getting after more than an hour under load. I would have been more than happy to sacrifice a few degrees if it meant some peace and quiet. Idle power consumption is also what I would call unacceptable for the whole 4800-series lineup and this card is no exception. While under load it was extremely efficient, it seems like ATI’s PowerPlay is still vastly inferior when compared to Nvidia’s dynamic clock and voltage scaling.

All in all, this evolution of the RV700-series architecture has been a long time coming and I for one think the wait was well worth the end result. Not only does ATI now have a card that bridges the gap between the HD 4870 1GB and the HD 4870 X2 but it has also put the screws to Nvidia as evidenced by their rushed GTX 275 release and its subsequent paper launch. One way or another, competition like this will surely bring down prices at just the right time. I could go on and on about the benefits of this new ATI card but there is probably one question on your minds: who wins the battle between the HD 4890 and GTX 275? The answer is simple: you the consumer do.


Pros:
- Amazing performance
- Huge overclocking headroom
- Good accessory package
- Efficient under load
- Price


Cons:
- Far too loud
- High idle power consumption


 
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