Summary: In one corner we have the new and improved 800 shader, Radeon HD 4850. In the other, NVIDIA's improved 55-nm GeForce 9800 GTX+. We've also thrown in GeForce GTX 260, GeForce 8800 GT, 8800 GTX/Ultra, and the original 9800 GTX. See where the cards stack up in performance inside!
It’s been an awfully busy week if you follow PC graphics closely. On Monday AMD and NVIDIA debuted a pair of teraflop workstation graphics cards, while NVIDIA also introduced new high-end cards for the performance and enthusiast segments: the GeForce GTX 260 and GTX 280. Oh, and don’t forget AMD’s Cinema 2.0 event which Alex attended. AMD then followed that up with new performance drivers which have already made some of our 3870 X2 performance results from Monday obsolete!
Now we’re here today to report on two more GPUs: the Radeon HD 4850 and the GeForce 9800 GTX+!
AMD’s Radeon HD 4850
AMD’s Radeon HD 4850 is built around AMD’s new 800 stream processor RV770 Pro GPU. The GPU is clocked at 625MHz and ships with 512MB of GDDR3 memory running at 1.0GHz (2.0GHz effective):
The Radeon HD 4850 is a single-slot board, with a cooler similar to AMD’s previous Radeon HD 3850. As you can see on our VisionTek card, the reference board design shares many traits with 3850. You can’t miss the copper heatsink/fan unit AMD employs, the cooler is even large enough to cool the board’s VRM circuitry. The fan is a variable speed unit that adjusts RPMs based on temperature.
During operation the fan runs quietly, although in our short amount of testing we’ve already noticed that the board’s PCB gets extremely hot under load. This doesn’t seem to affect GPU temps though, as Catalyst Control Center records idle temp of 55 degrees Celsius, while load temps topped out at 83 degrees. Because of the high PCB temps, you probably will want to place a fan near the card just to prevent creating a hotspot within your case.
Moving on to the backplate of the card, AMD employs two dual-link DVIs. HDMI adapters are then included with the card for HTPC users. The card requires a single 6-pin PCIe power connector for power.
NVIDIA’s answer to the Radeon 4800 series: GeForce 9800 GTX+
Not wanting to be outdone by AMD, NVIDIA is countering the Radeon HD 4800 series with a new GeForce 9800 GTX+ GPU, as well as price cuts to the rest of the GeForce 8/9 family.
The board design and cooling of the GeForce 9800 GTX+ is identical to the original GeForce 9800 GTX. If you place the 9800 GTX+ side-by-side with the 9800 GTX, you wouldn’t spot any differences. The original 9800 GTX cooler does a good job of cooling the GPU without generating much noise, so this is a bonus in our opinion.
So what’s the price point on the new GTX+? As of today, NVIDIA’s GeForce lineup now looks like this:
GeForce GTX 280: $649
GeForce GTX 260: $399
GeForce 9800 GTX+: $229
GeForce 9800 GTX: $199
GeForce 8800 GT 512MB: $169
GeForce 9600 GT 512MB: $149
NVIDIA has prepped a new 177.39 driver to coincide with the 9800 GTX+ launch which includes PhysX and CUDA support, but to bring you this quick take article as quickly as possible we’re using NVIDIA’s current WHQL-certified 175.19 drivers for testing. The 175.19 driver properly detects the 9800 GTX+, although obviously lacks PhysX and CUDA support. We’ll re-run our tests with 177.39 ASAP.
Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9770
EVGA nForce 790i Ultra SLI motherboard
2GB Crucial Ballistix 2.0GHz DDR3
GeForce 9800 GTX
GeForce 8800 GTX
GeForce 9800 GTX+
GeForce 8800 GT 512MB
GeForce GTX 260
AMD Radeon HD 3870 X2
AMD Radeon HD 4850
Catalyst 8.6 beta
300GB Western Digital Caviar SE
Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit w/Service Pack 1
Company of Heroes 1.71
Crysis High – Direct3D
This battle is a neck-and-neck race. In games like Quake Wars, F.E.A.R., and Call of Duty 4, our testing gave the edge to the 4850. But in Lost Planet DX10 and BioShock DX10 the GeForce 9800 GTX ran faster than the 4850 (in Company of Heroes, the 4850 and 9800 GTX traded wins). Meanwhile Crysis, HL2 Episode Two, and Oblivion were too close to call. Depending on which games you play (and perhaps certain levels in the same game) the edge could go to AMD or NVIDIA in our preliminary testing.
Clearly the moral of this story if you’re AMD is to keep your plans quiet. If AMD had done a better job of keeping the details on RV770 under wraps, NVIDIA wouldn’t have had the opportunity to spoil their big launch. NVIDIA’s lesson learned is to not underestimate AMD. We along with everyone else in the online media were extremely disappointed by the original 9800 GTX launch: the card offered little over the GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB, much less an 8800 GTX or 8800 Ultra. The GeForce 9800 GTX+ is what the original 9800 GTX should have been in our opinion. The 9800 GTX runs about 8 or 9% faster than the 9800 GTX, which still isn’t always enough to overtake the 8800 Ultra, but it’s definitely an improvement. The disappointing part about the 9800 GTX+ is that these cards won’t hit shelves until sometime in July.
The Radeon 4850 will hit retail as soon as June 25th, giving it a few weeks head start over the GTX+. And we don’t know when NVIDIA’s new pricing will take effect. A quick glance at Newegg right now reveals that 9800 GTX boards are still selling for well over $199.
We’ll have more benchmarks with the 4850 and GTX+ next week, as well as AMD’s higher-performing Radeon HD 4870. If a Radeon HD 4850 can outrun a GeForce 9800 GTX in some cases, imagine what a 4870 can do!
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