ATI Radeon HD 4000 vs Nvidia GeForce GTX 200

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ATI Radeon HD 4000 vs Nvidia GeForce GTX 200
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Both graphics card giants have unleashed powerful new additions to their ranks recently, and their battle for supremacy is hotter than ever. We put the new arrivals through their paces

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Price: $349
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It’s been a hell of a month for graphics. First, Nvidia delivered two new GeForce cards that set new standards in performance. Then ATI retaliated almost immediately with its own deadly duo of Radeons, aggressively undercutting Nvidia’s prices in the process.

Nvidia’s new cards are called the GeForce GTX 260 and GeForce GTX 280 – confusing names, since GTX has previously always been a suffix. Both are based on the GT200 core, a new GPU built with the same 65nm process as existing GeForce 9000 series cards.

The GTX 280 offers 240 stream processors with a core clock speed of 602MHz, while the GTX 260 has only 192 stream processors and a slightly slower clock speed of 576MHz. These strange numbers seem to be a hallmark of the new cards: the GTX 260 comes with 896MB of GDDR3 clocked at 999MHz, while the 280 offers
a full gigabyte at 1107MHz.

The 260 also uses a novel seven-channel memory controller, giving it a bus width of 448 bits and an effective memory bandwidth of 112GB/sec. The 280 raises this to a full 512 bits for a bandwidth of 142GB/sec.

Some of these design decisions may seem arbitrary, but you can’t argue with the results. In our high-detail Crysis benchmarks, for example, the GeForce GTX 280 averaged a phenomenal 45 frames per second. That’s a 25% improvement over Nvidia’s previous flagship, the GeForce 9800 GTX.

Even with the detail settings turned up to very high, and resolution pushed all the way up to 1900 x 1200, the GTX 280 still managed a just-about-playable 23 frames per second in Crysis. The GTX 260 didn’t disgrace itself either, though at 39 frames per second at high detail it wasn’t usefully faster than a
9800 GTX.

The new cards showed their strength in Call of Juarez too. The mighty GTX 280 showed a remarkable 76% improvement over its predecessor at high detail, and even the GTX 260 was 43% faster than the 9800 GTX.

These are exciting results; but there’s a catch. The new GT200 core that is behind these great strides forward in performance is a huge beast, comprising 1.4 billion transistors in a massive 575mm2 die – the largest single GPU ever made.

This makes the new cards expensive. The GTX 260 comes in on decidedly the wrong side of $350, while the GTX 280 currently sells for an eye-watering $554. These prices effectively put Nvidia’s new cards out of reach to all but serious gamers.

ATI Radeon HD 4000 Series
ATI, meanwhile, has been working on its own secret weapons: the Radeon HD 4850 and 4870. The cards were audaciously rolled out just a fortnight after Nvidia’s new GTX cards, but they come from a very different school of design. While Nvidia’s evident goal has been to maximise raw power at any cost, ATI
has focused on efficiency.

ATI’s new RV770 core uses under a billion transistors, and is built on a 55nm process, as against the GT200’s 65nm fabrication. This keeps its area to just 260mm2 and leads to far lower prices than Nvidia’s monsters. At the time of writing, Gigabyte Radeon HD 4850 and HIS HD 4870 cards were available online
for $229 and $349 respectively. Power consumption is lower too: the HD 4000’s quoted maximum power drain is 160W, against 240W for the new GTX cards.

But capabilities haven’t been squeezed in the process. Both cards feature a remarkable 800 stream processors – more than three times as many as the GTX 280. Coupled with higher core speeds than the GTX cards (625MHz and 750MHz respectively for the HD 4850 and HD 4870), this enables both cards to exceed 1
teraflops (1012 floating point operations per second). The HD 4870 also benefits from ATI’s use of 900MHz GDDR5 RAM, enabling it to achieve a memory bandwidth of 115GB/sec – more than the 260 GTX – despite using only a 256-bit memory bus.

The HD 4850 uses 993MHz GDDR3 over the same bus, reducing its bandwidth to 64GB/sec. At present both cards ship with 512MB, but a 256MB HD 4850 is planned, along with a 1GB HD 4870.

Despite these technical advances, it was no real surprise that the $349 HD 4870 couldn’t best the $554 GTX 280 in our Crysis benchmarks. Nevertheless, its score of 39 frames per second at high detail was extremely creditable, rivalling the 260 GTX. The HD 4850’s 32 frames per second was lower than the 9800 GTX’s 36, but still made the game very playable at high settings – an achievement that would have been unthinkable for a card of this price not too long ago.

What’s more, in the Call of Juarez test, the HD 4870 pipped the GTX 280 to the post, attaining the highest score we’ve yet seen, and the HD 4850 pulled almost level with the GTX 260. It’s clear that the HD 4000 series’ massively parallel architecture has immense potential – as long as game designers take
advantage of it.

Conclusion
Which card you choose – Nvidia or ATI – is a simple question of balance. If you demand the very best performance, the GTX 280’s all-round appeal is untouchable. But while die-hard gamers may be able to justify the huge asking price, most will be looking for the bang-per-buck sweet spot – and today it lies unarguably with ATI. The HD 4870 delivers the power of a GTX 260 for $17 less, while the HD 4850 makes modern games fly at a price that’s simply incredible.

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This Review appeared in the September, 2008 issue of PC & Tech Authority Magazine

Source: Copyright © PC Pro, Dennis Publishing

See more about:  ati  |  radeon  |  hd  |  4870  |  nvidia  |  geforce  |  gtx  |  200
 
 

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Comments: 14
bbjai
20 August 2008
I think this review doesn't mention the noise and heat factor that is quite apparent between the two company's cards. The Ati is fairly noisy and hot whilst the NVidea tend not to run as hot or noisy with stock coolers. That being said you can always go get the 3rd party coolers


Comment made about the PC Authority article:
ATI Radeon HD 4000 vs Nvidia GeForce GTX 200?
Both graphics card giants have unleashed powerful new additions to their ranks recently, and their battle for supremacy is hotter than ever. We put the new arrivals through their paces

What do you think? Join the discussion.
Drake_Spartan
21 August 2008
well really it comes down to if you can spend the money to get the GTX 280....Also to weither you are an nvidia fnboy..like myself, but i've had an ati before and there wasn't much bang for my buck compared to the rival nvida card. Thats also true about the noise and heat factor playing an importance.
bbjai
21 August 2008
Well the way I see it the 4870 and the 4870X2 you gotta choose the right case airflow and if you want a quiet computer its out the window. Its a massive deciding factor if you got specific needs which most people do now a days.
Jim.Dude
23 August 2008
bbjai wrote:
Well the way I see it the 4870 and the 4870X2 you gotta choose the right case airflow and if you want a quiet computer its out the window. Its a massive deciding factor if you got specific needs which most people do now a days.


Temp's and stuff are (to a certain extent) mostly irrelevant me thinks these days...anyone willing to spend hundreds of dollars on equipment will spend the same on maintaining it, regardless of heat.

Besides, most gamers are deaf from playing the games too loud to notice the noise, :p
bbjai
23 August 2008
Jim.Dude wrote:
bbjai wrote:
Well the way I see it the 4870 and the 4870X2 you gotta choose the right case airflow and if you want a quiet computer its out the window. Its a massive deciding factor if you got specific needs which most people do now a days.


Temp's and stuff are (to a certain extent) mostly irrelevant me thinks these days...anyone willing to spend hundreds of dollars on equipment will spend the same on maintaining it, regardless of heat.

Besides, most gamers are deaf from playing the games too loud to notice the noise, :p


I beg to differ. Now a days alot of people don't really think about temperature and how case airflow works at all. I mean look at the bloke on the forums before asking about his computer. He had no idea about temps and airflow. He would have bought a 4870X2 and stuffed it into a mediocre case. It would have been an oven in there.

Silent PC's are the new fad didn't you hear. I myself have been thinking about it extensively. Some people I've noticed have chosen the NVida cards becaues they are quieter. They do seem to be the less maintaience type cards. Bear in mind that the 4870 is now affordable to the amateur builder too so the noise and temperature factor is an important review point in my mind.
Jim.Dude
23 August 2008
Noise and temperature are only important if you want them to be important. The 4870/4850 are designed to give hurrah, make your eyes bleed performance and damn to hell everything else, the same goes for the GX280/260. If people are wanting to run silent cases, they mayaswell just forget about gaming, because gaming = heat, and heat = cooling = fans = noise, :-P and the ATI 4000 and GT200 series are both designed with games in mind.

nVidia and ATI should get together and rename all their cards with terms that make some sense...like the 'Media PC card' and the 'uber spiffy gamers card'... ;-)
bbjai
23 August 2008
The GT200 series funnily enough though has significantly less heat and noise compared to the ATI. This is in light of the complete lack of 3rd party cooling solutions mind you. Its interesting because I have seen people picking between the two and this being their actual choosing criteria.
Jim.Dude
24 August 2008
bbjai wrote:
The GT200 series funnily enough though has significantly less heat and noise compared to the ATI. This is in light of the complete lack of 3rd party cooling solutions mind you. Its interesting because I have seen people picking between the two and this being their actual choosing criteria.


Yeah ATI seem to have a kick for making really hot cards. :-k
butterz
24 August 2008
yes ati do overheat quite fast, but my experience and knowledge, i choose to be with Nvidia- because these cards have never failed on me and ive had 1 x ati (9600XT), which would overheat bad and eventually cause my computer to restart. ive had nvidia since the mx series (4), and ive had a 6 series card a 7 and a 8, even my new lappy with a 9500, no problems and no overheat fails either. I choose nvidia over ati any day, i am a computer technician and we sell about 1 ati card for every 10 nvidia that we sell, so results also base from this.- i love the 200 series havent seemed to get enough money for one but hoping for a 280 soon
Jim.Dude
24 August 2008
Yuck, lol, I wouldn't buy a 280 if you paid me. The damn things are so power hungry and take up too much space...although I will probably be plonking for a cheap 8800GT 512Mb soon and going Sli...which is hardly any better.
bbjai
24 August 2008
Lols wouldn't SLI be more power hungry ?

Then a 280 any day? It probably comes out the same in performance. I'd be going a 280 if i had to build a computer right now, its just the heat and noise of it. Whats the point of getting an expensive case like i will be (P182) when its meant to be a silent case and you whack a loud ass fan in it from the 4870.
Jim.Dude
25 August 2008
bbjai wrote:
Lols wouldn't SLI be more power hungry ?

Then a 280 any day? It probably comes out the same in performance. I'd be going a 280 if i had to build a computer right now, its just the heat and noise of it. Whats the point of getting an expensive case like i will be (P182) when its meant to be a silent case and you whack a loud ass fan in it from the 4870.


Yeah SLI is probably more power hungry, but it's an initial cost thing for me atm. I have an 8800 already and I can't afford 500-600+ for a GX280. :p

For mind, the expensive case isn't designed to be quiet. In fact, very few are...with the exception of some (e.g. Cosmos 1000 has that sound dampening rubber/foam stuff on the walls). Most are designed to give air flow and keep things cool.
bbjai
25 August 2008
Thats where you are wrong Jim Dude, I regularly read Atomic (sister magazine to PC Authority) and they have great case reviews about having silent cases. There are reams of information on the net about silent cases. The two Antec cases come to mind, P182 and Sonata III. Some of the Lian Li's are also designed to reduce noise. Even the PSU of the cases being recommended (all the Corsair Variants, the Earthwatts) are more quiet then say some of the rubbish ones. No Jim you will find alot of quality parts are designed to reduce noise. TRUE with a 120 Scythe comes to mind. Quality overclock and quietness compared to standard stock fan.
markline
29 December 2011
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