ATI Radeon HD 4850: Smarter by Design?

It has been a long time since Nvidia and ATI released new architectures so close to one another. The last time this happened was in 2004, with the R420 and NV40 launches, and overall the two architectures were extremely similar (six vertex shaders, 16 pixel pipelines, 16 texture units, etc.) Since that time the two companies have followed divergent paths with their architectures, but while they may not have necessarily agreed on technical choices, they both stayed with the concept of monolithic GPUs – with each new generation, the number of transistors have more or less doubled, and then, based on these enormous chips, a full line of cards was produced by varying the number of processing units.

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No doubt encouraged by the success of its G80, Nvidia has chosen to continue using that approach as you know if you’ve read our article on the GT200. ATI, on the other hand, since it was bought out by AMD, has had a number of difficulties, in particular with its R600 architecture, which didn’t perform as expected and caused many technical difficulties for the engineers. With its financial problems, it was hard for AMD to continue battling it out with Nvidia, whose sterling financial health enabled them to continue developing such chips. So instead of continuing to focus on raw performance, AMD decided to concentrate on two factors – performance per watt and performance per mm² of die. Have they succeeded?

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  • TechSupport
    Bottom line as i see it, this is a Smashing card!
    Prices on the UK market put a HD4850 at £120 ( where as the GTX260 is £300! considering the overal performance difference between the two, i'd get 2 HD4850's in Crossfire mode and still be cheaper than a GTX260.

    Once again AMD/ATI have produced a card that isnt amazing on performance, but bang for your buck its probably the best card on the market at those prices
  • david__t
    The very fact that, yet again, we have a whole page dedicated to noise is a sure sign that these manufacturers still don't have all of the priorities covered. How many years ago was it that THG posted that funny video showing an Nvidia card as a leaf blower & barbecue? - and still we have to put up with substandard cooling solutions. I haven't bought a graphics card for years now without getting an aftermarket heatsink to go with it - thank god for companies like Zalman & Thermalright who are sparing our ears!!
  • americanbrian
    I have seen on the reg that the 4870 more than doubles the performance of a 3870. If this is true and they hit a ~$300 price tag than AMD/ATI are back baby.

    Apparently they use 160W at load but beat the 3870 on performance/W by a long way.

    Can't wait to see it. Even though I know that this site rakes in more from intel/nvidia.
  • QueueMan

    Dual 4870s can take on a 280 no sweat and push for serious performance, and they're supposedly near similar price. By itself the 4870 takes on the $100USD more; 260. I smell price drops.
  • JohnVulcan
    Thanks to Tom’s Hardware for including the FSX test in these results. It’s interesting to see how differently the cards line up with FSX. No other game produces similar results or shows up the new technology in a different light. To any serious simmer it is the AA/AF performance on big screens that is crucial and this shows the biggest differences and biggest insights. Also it was good to see that my card (an overclocked 8800 GTX) is still top of the pile!
  • Anonymous
    lets just hope that this brings in enough profits to help the CPU market, because if you look at the info on the intel nahalem, it looks as though they have alot more potential, but they dont want to release that potential just yet, where as, if AMD release a competitor then we might just see the nahalems full potential!!