Review: Up to 17% faster than the reference HD 4890
AMD recently rolled out its latest RV790–based card running at 1GHz, and the reason why this card is so special is obvious – the dream of 1GHz on your graphics card is now a reality. This GPU is the central point of the Radeon HD 4890 and its GDDR5 memory helps in achieving 1.6 TeraFLOPs.
Let us recap – the RV790 core has been announced in the beginning of April 2009, and it quickly found its place in AMD’s best single GPU graphics card. The RV790 runs at 850MHz, which is a significant improvement over the HD 4870’s 750MHz. Of course, the HD 4870 comes from a generation of GPUs that was announced in June 2008.
The difference between these two cards, the RV770 and RV790-based ones, is at a glance quite insignificant and is evident only in the higher MHz-count, but note that the core went through some significant changes allowing it to run at 1GHz. The specs say the RV790 has 22sq.mm larger core and 3 million transistors more, which is not a lot of added transistors compared to the RV770’s 956 million. As was the case with RV770 as well, the new GPU features 800 stream processors, 16 ROPs and 40 texture units.
By redesigning the internal structure, the old RV770 core has been adapted for higher clocks. The RV790 core is isolated with a decap ring, used to suppress electromagnetic interference. AMD also made some changes on the power distribution systems, which resulted in consumption lower than on HD 4870.
Being certain that the RV790 will run at higher than 850MHz, AMD decided to showcase its HD 4890 at 900MHz in April and said how the cards will easily run at 1GHz. This was a bit of an unusual step, as we’re used to seeing partners overclock the cards first. AMD encouraged everyone to utilize the RV790’s full potential, and we tried it with three cards but failed in the end. However, many journalists and end-users pulled it off, which means there are good and better RV790 chips on the market.
Now, XFX took the best RV790 chips and created its HD 4890 Black Edition series of cards. These are the first cards running at 1GHz with air cooling and XFX guarantees stable operation at these clocks. You can see the XFX HD 4890 Black Edition specifications below.
We’ve said that the HD 4890 Black Edition is the first graphics card that hits 1GHz with standard air cooling, but its cooling is not great if you like silence. Despite the fact that it keeps the temperatures in check, it gets quite loud.
The DVI outs are red, unlike the reference white ones. Radeon HD 4890 comes with HDMI support, so to connect the card to your HDTV, all it takes is the provided HDMI cable and the DVI-to-HDMI converter. Of course, Crossfire is supported on this card.
The fan is designed to push hot air out of the case, through the grills above the DVI outs. Note that the card is dual-slot.
The card is powered via one 6-pin and one 8-pin power connectors, and as we’ve said in the beginning, this card is more power efficient than the HD 4870.
XFX’s HD 4890 Black Edition 1GHz comes with 1GB of GDDR5 memory distributed on the face of the card, so the back is pretty unpopulated and uninteresting.
The box is compact and tough, and the card comes with HAWX gift game, a popular DirectX 10.1 game
Motherboard: MSI P45D3 Platinum ( Provided by: MSI );
Processor: Intel Core 2 QX9770 Extreme edition at 3.6GHz ( Provided by: Intel );
Memory: Corsair Dominator 12800 7-7-7-24 ( Provided by: Corsair);
HDD: WD VelociRaptor 300G 10,000RPM ( Provided by: SmoothCreation );
Vista 32 SP1
The difference between the XFX’s overclocked card and the reference Radeon HD 4890 is almost 6%, but it wasn’t enough to strike our chord. Overclocked to 1GHz, XFX’s HD 4890 Black Edition has 17% higher core clock than the reference HD 4890. However, the following tests prove that 17% better performance is by no means impossible.
XFX HD 4890 Black Edition managed to score 5493 in Vantage at extreme settings, which is 17% better than the reference card’s result of 4682.
FarCry 2 likes the XFX HD 4890 Black Edition card as it scores about 11% better than the reference HD 4890. Compared to the “green team” where we used Gainward GTX 275’s results, ATI’s GPU runs much better at high resolutions with antialiasing off, whereas turning on antialiasing results in Gainward winning by only 1fps or 2% better score at 2560x1600.
This game seems to like ATI. We enabled DirectX 10.1 support, helping the HD 4890 Black Edition to score 47fps with antialiasing on at 2560x1600, which is an excellent result. XFX’s card beats the reference one by 12%.
Left 4 Dead
In Left4Dead, XFX’s card scores 10-14% better results than the reference card does. With the resolution going higher, the Geforce GTX 275 came closer and closer to XFX’s card but it never beats it. The reference Radeon card couldn’t handle Gainward’s GTX 275.
World in Conflict
World in Conflict turned out to be an obstacle that Radeon cards couldn’t handle better than Geforce ones. XFX HD 4890 Black Edition however, still runs better than the reference HD 4890, this time with 11% better results.
The new XFX card, Radeon HD 4890 Black Edition runs at 1GHz, a speed which has once been an overclocker’s dream whereas today it’s just a matter of simply choosing an overclocked HD 4890 Black Edition. XFX bundles it with the HAWX gift-game so it’s the entire DX10.1 package priced under €185,-. The card will of course enable playing all the newer titles at standard or high resolutions.
Appearance-wise, the XFX HD 4890 Black Edition looks very much like the rest of the HD 4890 or HD 4870 pack, meaning the cooling is still reference. Unfortunately, this isn’t quite what we’d like as the HD 4890 gets pretty loud. Of course, you can regulate rpms, but in order to keep the temperatures down at 1GHz, the fan has to spin fast.
Compared to the HD 4870 card, the new HD 4890 Black Edition runs 250MHz faster, whereas compared to the HD 4890, the Black Edition runs 150MHz or 17% more. XFX’s performance is excellent, and a couple of tests has seen 17% better results, or 12% in average. Another good thing about this card is its 1024MB of GDDR5 memory, which will help with results at higher resolutions.
XFX Radeon HD 4890 Black Edition is a gamer's card and we’d recommend it to anyone who wants the best, and doesn’t care about noise that much.