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Graphics Slugfest: ATI Radeon HD 4850 CF, HD 4870, HD 4870 CF vs. NVIDIA GeForce GTX 260, GTX 280

NVIDIA has been sitting at the top for a little too long without much competition. That resulted in the somewhat disappointing G92 and GT200 designs, which allowed AMD/ATI to launch a surprise attack on the green camp. Does the GT200 actually have enough to hold back the ATI resurgence led by their new RV770?

There was a lot of hype surrounding the NVIDIA GT200 before it was launched. Fans weren’t happy when NVIDIA took them on a long ride with the G92 core, which is found in both the GeForce 8800 GTS 512, and the GeForce 9800 GTX. To make things worse, the G92 could not give any substantial gains over the aging G80 core.

Many were disappointed when Nvidia’s flagship GeForce GTX 280 1GB was officially launched, as performance was not ‘as good as what many had expected it to be’. On average, the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 280 could not even outperform the older GeForce 9800 GX2, which is based on two separate GPU cores, by even 30%.

ATI launched the RV770-based Radeon HD 4850 512MB shortly after NVIDIA’s launch of the GT200. Suddenly, NVIDIA’s GeForce 9800 GTX 512MB looked like a severly-overpriced piece of equipment as benchmarks of the Radeon HD 4850 showed that it could keep up with the G92 for a much cheaper US$ 199. To make things worse, a CrossFired Radeon HD 4850 setup runs just as fast as a single GeForce GTX 280 1GB card. Things did not get better when ATI launched the Radeon HD 4870 512MB at US$ 299 which has about 75% the performance of the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 280 1GB (priced at US$ 649 back then). A CrossFired Radeon HD 4870 at US$ 600 wiped the GeForce GTX 280 out of the door.


Today, we will be testing both ATI CrossFire setups – the Radeon HD 4850 and Radeon HD 4870, as well as single-card performance from the ATI Radeon HD 4870 512MB, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 260 896MB and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 280 1GB. Many thanks to ASUS, PowerColor and Sapphire for providing us with Radeon HD 4850 cards, Force3D and Sapphire for the Radeon HD 4870 cards and Kaira Technologies for providing us with the XFX GeForce GTX 260.

First, let us take a look at what’s on paper.

  ATI Radeon HD 4850 ATI Radeon HD 4870 NVIDIA GeForce GTX 260 NVIDIA GeForce GTX 280
Texture Units 40 40 64 80
ROPs 16 16 28 32
Stream Processors 800 800 192 240
Transistor Count 956 million 956 million 1.4 billion 1.4 billion
Memory Bus 256-bit 256-bit 448-bit 512-bit
Frame Buffer 512MB 512MB 896MB 1GB
Manufacturing Process TSMC 55nm TSMC 55nm TSMC 65nm TSMC 65nm
Core Clock 625MHz 750MHz 576MHz 602MHz
Shader Clock 625MHz 750MHz 1242MHz 1296MHz
Memory Clock 993MHz GDDR3 900MHz GDDR5 999MHz GDDR3 1107MHz GDDR3



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