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Sapphire Radeon HD 4890 review

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £210
inc VAT

ATI’s Radeon HD 4890 is the latest chipset in the consistently good HD 4800 range.

Both the HD 4850 and HD 4830 received Best Buy awards, and the HD 4870 impressed us too. The HD 4890 is likely to be the last outing for this architecture, and its price puts it in competition with cards based on Nvidia’s GTX 275 chipset, such as the Inno3D GeForce GTX 275.

Sapphire’s card uses the reference HD 4890 design. It’s not overclocked, but it’s still impressive on paper. There’s 1GB of DDR5 memory – twice that of the standard 4870. The clock speed is 850MHz, up from 750MHz on the HD 4870, and the memory speed has increased from 900MHz to 975MHz. Unlike the new 40nm Radeon HD 4770, it uses the old 55nm process.

In use the HD 4890 gets noticeably hotter than the GTX 275, and while it’s smaller than its competitor, it still takes the space of two expansion card slots. Both cards require two six-pin PCI-Express power connectors, so most users will need to use the supplied Molex-to-PCI Express adaptor. Like all current Radeon cards, this has an onboard audio controller and doesn’t need any other hardware or cabling to output audio via an HDMI adaptor. It’s also CrossFireX compatible, so you can use multiple cards with a compatible motherboard.

CrossFire won’t be necessary, though, as a single HD 4890 produced outstanding results in our tests. In Call of Duty 4 it scored a blistering 71.3fps at 1,680×1,050 with our demanding detail settings. We increased the resolution to a full-HD 1,920×1,080 and it still produced a smooth 66.2fps.

It was the card’s Crysis score that really impressed us, though: 37.8fps at 1,680×1,050 is one of the best scores we’ve ever seen. It even produced a playable 34.2fps at 1,920×1,080. This card will run any current game at high resolutions and detail settings. Its 3DMark Vantage score of 6,089 is impressive, but was significantly bettered by the GTX 275.

Despite getting hot at stock speeds, this card has plenty of overclocking potential. We used ATI’s new OverDrive Autotune tool, which set the core clock speed to 960MHz and the memory to 1,120MHz – although you can’t guarantee that the card you buy will be capable of these settings. This added another four to five frames per second to our Crysis scores. Of course, overclocking your card comes with problems. Fan noise increases dramatically, and it could shorten the life of your new hardware.

If you’re looking for a powerful graphics card, the HD 4890 is hard to separate from the GTX 275. That card is only marginally quicker in our game benchmarks, but it produced a far better 3DMark Vantage score. More importantly, the Nvidia-based card feels cooler and runs quieter.

As it uses the reference design, Sapphire’s card is essentially identical to those from many other manufacturers. At only £205 including VAT, though, this was the cheapest HD 4890 we could find. It’s a fantastic graphics card and a great buy if you want to connect your PC to a TV over HDMI, but the award-winning GTX 275 just pips it at the post.

Basic Specifications

Price £210
Rating *****
Award N/A
Interface PCI Express x16 2.0
Crossfire/SLI CrossFireX
Slots taken up 2
Brand ATI
Graphics Processor ATI Radeon HD 4890
Memory 1GB GDDR5
GPU clock speed 850MHz
Memory speed 975MHz


Architecture 800 stream processors


DVI outputs 2
VGA outputs 0
S-video output yes
S-Video input no
Composite outputs yes
Composite inputs no
Component outputs yes
HDMI outputs 0
Power leads required 2x 6-pin PCI Express

Benchmark Results

3DMark Vantage 1680 6,089
Call of Duty 4 1680 4xAA 71.3fps
Call of Duty 4 1440 4xAA 78.0fps
Crysis 1680 High 4xAA 37.8fps
Crysis 1440 High 4xAA 45.4fps

Buying Information

Warranty one year RTB
Price £210

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