Sapphire Radeon HD 4890 graphics card

A single GPU graphics card for ATI's Radeon HD 4800 series

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Sapphire Radeon HD 4890
  • Sapphire Radeon HD 4890
  • Sapphire Radeon HD 4890
  • Sapphire Radeon HD 4890

Pros

  • Cool running temperatures, good overclocking potential, audio passthrough, decent performance

Cons

  • Loud, not the best single GPU on the market

Bottom Line

Providing big performance with a little price, ATI's Radeon HD 4890 graphics card is a step up from the Radeon HD 4870 with a minimal cost increase. It isn't the fastest card available, but it will run the latest games without problems.

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The latest addition to ATI's Radeon HD 4800 series of graphics cards falls short of the performance benchmark set by NVIDIA's GTX285. Nevertheless, if you are after decent performance without the credit card debt, the Sapphire Radeon HD 4890 will provide a modest boost in performance over the Radeon HD 4870.

In most respects, the Radeon HD 4890 isn't all that different from its predecessors, though ATI has made some tweaks under the hood. The card runs an altered 55nm RV770 GPU dubbed the RV790 which, thanks to tweaks and an increase in transistors, features a standard clock speed of 850MHz. Along with the GPU alterations, ATI has made 1GB of GDDR5 memory a mainstay of the Radeon HD 4890, with a clock speed of 975MHz for 124.8GB per second total memory bandwidth.

These changes also decrease the power consumption, going from the 90W required for the Radeon HD 4870 to a comparatively green 60W, though the Radeon HD 4890 graphics card will still require two 6-pin power connections. Temperatures also see a drop, going from hellish 90 degrees Celsius to more reasonable temperatures of 34 degrees at idle and a peak of 51 degrees during intensive operation. There is a cost to pay for this cool operation, however, as the video card's fan reaches sound levels that rival a construction site and, without an automatic fan monitoring utility, the fan's continuing attempts to deafen you will surely become a nuisance if installed in the wrong enclosure. The Radeon HD 4890 graphics card measures 241mm in length for an easy fit in most ATX cases, though it will still take up two PCI slots. ATI provides a single S-Video and two DVI outputs, with the latter enabled for HDCP and audio throughput, making connection to a conventional television or HDMI-equipped monitor easy to accomplish.

Despite the noise, the Radeon HD 4890 performed quite well in our tests, which we ran on Windows Vista 64-bit PC with an Intel Core i7 965, 6GB of DDR3 RAM and a Western Digital VelociRaptor (WD3000GLFS) hard drive, in an Antec Skeleton case.

In Futuremark's 3DMark06, the Radeon HD 4890 graphics card scored a total of 10509 points, a significant advantage over the 9708 points that the NVIDIA GTX285 managed. However, in the 3DMark Vantage benchmark tests, the Radeon HD 4890's score of X4718 was inferior to the GTX285's X6191.

In real world gaming benchmarks, ATI's single GPU graphics card managed 131.42fps in Half Life 2: Episode Two and 60.3fps in Call of Juarez. These results are commendable, though the Radeon HD 4890's 48fps fell behind the GTX285's 60.17fps in Far Cry 2. In the DirectX 10 version of Lost Planet, the Radeon HD 4890 performed at 34.45fps to the GTX285's 50.1fps. Surprisingly, the two graphics cards were on par in Crysis: Warhead, showing a negligible 0.2fps between the ATI graphics card's 35.1fps to the GTX285's 35.3fps. Though the GTX285 remains a clear winner overall when comparing the two graphics cards, the Radeon HD 4890 still performs well.

While overclocking potential is generally not an area we pay too much attention to, it is definitely worth mentioning with the Radeon HD 4890 as overclocking the GPU and memory modules beyond their standard clocks is an easy and — in this case — a rewarding task. Using only the standard cooler and ATI's own Overdrive utility (available in the Catalyst Control Centre), we managed to overclock the Radeon HD 4890 reference design to a GPU clock of 1GHz and memory clock of 1200MHz without losing system stability. At these increased speeds we managed to squeeze an extra 3.1fps out of our Crysis: Warhead benchmark, a decent result for little effort.

The small improvements made to the Radeon HD 4890's GPU core and increased memory make for a decent boost in performance over other single GPU Radeon HD 4800 series cards, without inflating the price significantly. Though the noise is worrying, the performance and overclocking potential are well worth it.

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