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AMD ATI Radeon HD 4890 - Power Consumption & Verdict

By Edward Chester


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Power Consumption

Despite ATI's efforts to reduce the idle power consumption of the HD 4890, the real world reduction we've observed is not as significant as the expected 30W, indeed it's just 5W. More to the point, though, nVidia's GTX 260 holds a significant lead in this regard. It's a similar, though less dramatic, story when the cards are under load but here the performance advantage of the HD 4890 compensates for the fact it is the most power hungry. All in all, the HD 4890 holds its own with regards to power consumption.


The ATI Radeon HD 4890 actually brings very little in the way of surprises to the table. ATI has gone away and tweaked the design of an existing product, the HD 4870, and optimised it to go a bit faster and consume, relatively speaking, less power. The result is a card that should be the first choice for people looking to spend around £200 to upgrade from either a card in a lower price bracket or from a card that's a year or more old.

If you already own something like an HD 4870 or GTX 260, then the small performance difference may come as a slight disappointment but I don't feel this is something that can be cause for serious complaint. If you've spent £200 on a graphics card and want to get a significant performance boost nine months later then you should expect to be paying a significant amount more. That said, if you can put off your purchase for another four to six months then that £200 will likely get you a more marked performance improvement.

As for the GTX 275, well looking round the web it looks pretty clear that the GTX 275 performs on a par with the HD 4890 and is priced very similarly, so we'll definitely have to withhold our definitive judgement until we've tested it ourselves. For now, though, what we can say is that you're unlikely to be disappointed whichever card you choose.

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April 2, 2009, 9:57 pm

Nice review Ed. Any news on when you'll have a GTX 275 review, most places only seem to have reviews of the 4890 up and not the GTX 275, even though they're both on sale and in stock at the moment.

As for the benchmarks, did you test the 192 or 216 SP version of the GTX 260, and the 512MB or 1GB version of the 4870? Also, there's a bit of a mistake in the table - you list the number of stream processors for the GTX 260 as 182, unless that's a version I don't know about? ;)


April 3, 2009, 12:25 am

@smc8788 - Thats because Nvidia was originally supposed to launch the GTX 275 around the 13th, they have brought it forward to take some of the attention off ATI. Nobody seems to have had any time to review them because the decision was taken at the last second, it isn't expected there will be significant stock of them available for a couple of weeks.

I think the high end 40nm cards are worth waiting for personally, nothing revolutionary enough here to tempt me from my HD3870 :)


April 3, 2009, 1:16 am

Precisely right there Xenos - it's been a hectic week!

You do realise even the HD 4870 is significantly faster than the HD 3870?

@smc8788: we don't actually have a GTX 260 216 and it was too late to get one in by the time I realised - we did have one for a while but it went back before being reviewed. As such I'm comparing to the older one.

I'm working on the GTX 275 now (currently 20:15) and the review will be up tomorrow sometime. I'll also do some overclocking of both cards and generally come to an absolute conclusion (at least based on the games I'm able to test) and update this review as well.


April 3, 2009, 3:07 am

will these scores change depending on the review of the gtx 275? also how does it compare to the gtx 280?

Sean Groarke

April 3, 2009, 12:37 pm

On the one hand I sympathise with the difficulty of getting all the elements of a comparative review lined up, but plenty of other review sites had 4890 versus GTX 275 ready on Day One.

But, as pointed out already, you've ended up comparing ATI's brand-new 4890 against the *old* model of the GTX260. Comparing it against the newer GTX260-216 would have been bad enough, but this is just totally meaningless. You conclude that a GBP 230 card performs a lot better than an old GBP 150 card. Amazing!

You really should have sat on this and done a proper comparison against the GTX 275. Or if you simply HAD to get something out, you should have done a non-comparison overview of the ATI and then followed up with the comparative review.

Last gripe (sorry): you say you'll do some overclocking tests when you've got the GTX 275. Meaningless. Fun, but meaningless. You surely know as well as I do that overclockability is a crap-shoot where one card of model X overclocks this much, but another identical model X overclocks to a totally different degree. The only overclocking it's worth reporting in a review is if it is guaranteed and under-written by the manufacturer (as does happen with some cards) Unless you can overclock say 20 randomly sourced versions of a card, the results from just one are not worth anything.


April 4, 2009, 11:16 am

"...nothing revolutionary enough here to tempt me from my HD3870 :)"

"You do realise even the HD 4870 is significantly faster than the HD 3870?"

...not only faster...series 3 should be avoided.


April 18, 2009, 1:21 am

So, whats better; HD 4870 or HD 4890?

Lucian Proctor

August 28, 2009, 6:38 pm

Actually, you can reduce the memory clock manually at idle with CCC. It reduces the idle power by about 30 watts.

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