Summary: With its Zalman cooling, DVI, DisplayPort, and HDMI outputs, Gigabyte's GV-R489OC-1GD is tailor made for HTPC use in a high-end PC. Thanks to factory OC'ing, the card should appeal to gamers as well. See how this card stacks up to ATI's stock 4890 in this review!
There are three basic categories of Radeon HD 4890 cards available on the market today. On the low-end are the plain jane reference designs that are exact replicas of each other and rely on the bone stock cooling and clock speeds ATI dictates at a minimum for the Radeon 4890 GPU. These cards tend to be priced cheaper Ė often right around $200 or less Ė as they're essentially competing for the gamer on a budget who wants no frills, and just wants to get their hands on 4890 technology at the lowest price point possible.
Then there are the hardware enthusiasts who want performance. For this user, card manufacturers offer their factory OC'ed 4890 boards.
Earlier this summer these cards tended to rely on the stock ATI cooler as well, but newer boards released in the last two months have offered significantly better cooling. These cards tend to reach for clock speeds approaching the 1GHz core clock frequency, and are priced appropriately.
The third camp wants the high-end cooling found on the aforementioned OCíed 4890 cards; ATIís stock cooler isnít good enough. At the same time though these users donít want to pay the $220+ many of the fastest Radeon 4890 cards sell for.
Basically, they want good GPU cooling, but they donít want to be forced to donate an organ to afford it either.
Tapping into a different market: HTPCs
With their latest Radeon 4890 card, Gigabyteís trying to entice a fourth category of users: the HTPC (home theater PC) crowd. Their GV-R489OC-1GD board ships with an aftermarket heatsink/fan solution from the cooling aficionados at Zalman, but at the same time the card is also affordable: it sells for $210 right now on Newegg. The card is also tailored for HTPC use thanks to its low noise cooler and diverse array of video outputs -- the board ships with dual-link DVI, DisplayPort, and a gold-plated HDMI video output.
Gigabyte also touts the GV-R489OC-1GD as their latest Ultra Durable VGA card, but to be honest ATIís reference design already incorporates many of Gigabyteís Ultra Durable features and as such most of the board-level components on Gigabyteís card are the same as the ATI 4890 reference board design. Gigabyte has sourced different capacitors than the reference board, but everything else is the same as the reference design including the 4.0Gbps GDDR5 memory modules from Qimonda (Ultra Durable VGA cards traditionally rely only on memory modules from Samsung or Hynix).
Itís the dual-slot cooling youíll probably be most interested in though. Gigabyte relies on Zalmanís VF1050 for cooling duties. The VF1050 is a bit of a hybrid in the sense that it isnít quite a VF1000, nor is it a VF2000. Itís a Ďtweener that incorporates bits of both designs.
Its most important feature is its quad heatpipes. These heatpipes are responsible for drawing heat off the GPU, which is then distributed to a dual-slot aluminum heatsink. From there, heat is dispersed by a 75mm fan.
Unlike the retail Zalman coolers you can purchase online, the OEM Zalman cooler Gigabyte employs doesnít ship with RAMsinks: the boardís memory modules are completely uncooled. Keep in mind that cooling isnít necessary, as the modules are fully rated to run at 4890 speeds uncooled. In addition, another difference between Gigabyteís cooler and a retail Zalman cooler is that the Gigabyte heatsink/fan unit also lacks Zalmanís Fanmate fan controller. Fanmate can be used to manually adjust the fanís RPMs on-the-fly.
Zalman prefers to keep Fanmate exclusive to their retail cards: of the dozens of Zalman-equipped VGA cards weíve tested over the years, none of them have ever shipped with Fanmate.
The Zalman cooler Gigabyte uses on the GV-R489OC-1GD is a terrific performer though. As youíll see in the benchmarks, it outperformed the stock ATI Radeon 4890 cooler while delivering comparable noise output. Whatís most notable is that it manages to do this while running at higher clock speeds than the stock 4890.
While ATIís reference specifications call for an 850MHz core clock speed for the 4890 graphics core, Gigabyte ups the core clock to 900MHz on their GV-R489OC-1GD, an improvement of 6% over stock. The boardís memory is then clocked at 975MHz, the same speed as ATIís reference speeds.
One downside to many competing Radeon 4890 cards that ship with HDMI and DisplayPort outputs is that they lack a dual DVI output option. Instead youíre limited to just one DVI.
Intel Core i7-920
6GB OCZ Reaper HPC DDR3-1600
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 260 216 core
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 275
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 280
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 285
NVIDIA GeForce 9800 GTX+
NVIDIA GeForce GTS 250 1GB
ATI Radeon HD 4850 512MB
ATI Radeon HD 4870 1GB
ATI Radeon HD 4890 1GB
Gigabyte GV-R489OC-1GD Radeon 4890
300GB Western Digital Caviar SE
Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit w/Service Pack 2
HTPC-ready: With its HDMI and DisplayPort outputs available right on the back plate of the graphics card, Gigabyteís GV-R489OC-1GD is equipped to drive the latest LCD and plasma televisions right out of the box, no adapters needed.
DX11 right around the corner: Rumor has it that ATIís next-generation DirectX 11 Radeon HD 5800 series cards could launch as soon as next month. If that happens, prices on existing 4890 cards could go down even further. The new DX11 cards could be significantly faster than todayís 4890 GPUs as well.