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Video Memory width, versus speed. performance comparison

Last response: in Graphics & Displays
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February 3, 2009 2:01:05 AM

I am in the market for a new video card, and am curious about the different specs of ati and nvidia cards.
ati's hd 4870 has far more memory speed at 3.7 ghz gddr5 on some cards, but all their cards have the same 256 bit width. Nvidia offers 448 and 512 bit gddr3 at up to 2500 mhz or so, and I am wondering how these 2 specs effect performance. Nvidia solutions are a little more expensive, but I found a pretty good deal on a gtx 260 ssc overclocked at 675 mhz up from a 576 mhz base clock on the vanilla board. a radeon 4870 is about $50 cheaper with 100mb more memory.
Another option is a gtx 280 at a lower clock rate for $40 more than the ssc gtx 260, around 602 mhz. this would upgrade the shader proccessors to 240 from 216, and memory width to 512 from 448, with gpu and memory speed decreased.
So I'm wondering how these things affect performance. I'v thought, maybe the 4870 has too high a memory speed for its 256 bit width, making it bottlenecked, but I have nothing to base this off.
Thanks for any insight on the subject
February 3, 2009 2:56:32 AM

Nvidia buddy! All the way.

if your not worried about the price the GTX 280 is your best bet,

if so get the GTX 260,Both are great GPU's
February 3, 2009 2:58:44 AM

the price actually isnt much different. the reason I was asking is that the 260 has higher clock and memory speeds, but apparently less memory bandwidth
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a b U Graphics card
a b } Memory
February 3, 2009 4:30:59 AM

The memory bandwidth is the important fact. This is a combination of bus width and clock speed. Based on those available to you, I'd go with the 4870.
February 3, 2009 9:29:49 AM

cjl said:
The memory bandwidth is the important fact. This is a combination of bus width and clock speed. Based on those available to you, I'd go with the 4870.


I've seen reports about the GTX212 having 256bit memory bandwidth because nvidia will be putting GDDR5 on them.
February 3, 2009 7:36:01 PM

In effect, the DDR5 runs so fast that a 256-bit bus is enuf to keep up, whereas nVidia has to use larger buses for its slower DDR3 memory speeds.
a c 175 U Graphics card
a b } Memory
February 3, 2009 8:29:48 PM

Memory bandwidth is only one part of the equation. Focusing solely on one part is dumb, as it ignores other things that should be considered. (number and type of SP, IPC due to arch, levels of DX and OpenGL supported, etc.) I also don't understand why people get so concerned about 128/256bit bus width. 128bit memory clocked at 1GHz has the same amount of bandwidth as 256bit clocked at 500MHz. Why worry that the 4870 is a 256bit card if it has more bandwidth then the GTX series?

Just look at the benchmarks for the cards in question. If one is constantly in the lead over the other, buy that one.
a c 269 U Graphics card
a c 106 } Memory
February 3, 2009 9:58:08 PM

Prices have pretty much sorted themselves out. Do not anguish over specs and minor differences. If you are upgrading, stick with nvidia or ati, whichever you already have. Driver installation is simpler.

If looking for new, you will pay a premium for the top card, currently the GTX295, or possibly the 4800X2 or GTX285. There is good value just a tier below those.
The GTX260, GTX260-216, and 4870 are all good, and will give you good gameplay. Some do better in one game, but unless you exclusively play one game, you can pick any one and be satisfied. All the specs, have already been factored into the price performance equation.
February 4, 2009 12:26:04 AM

My cousin has an 4870 1 gb ram and with gpuz when the card is overclocked at max speeds the memory bandwith reads 147 GB/s i have an old 8800gts with 320 mb and 320bits (g80) and at 1000mhz i have a bandwith of 80GB/s, my brother has a 8800gt with 256bits and is limited upto 70GB/s but is prefered if you just dont take these numbers too much in a count and just find here in toms a comparison test against each other when they are overclocked, if you cant find a good test here finds somewhere else...
I hope i helped ...good luck
February 4, 2009 1:19:41 AM

Newer GDDR5 is clocked another (effective) 2Ghz faster. Somewhere around 5600Mhz.
February 4, 2009 1:52:19 AM

The 4870s have much faster memory with GDDR5, which is alot better than DDR3. But since it only has a 256 bit bus width it really was a waste. THough it does extremely well for such a small bus width.

Buy which ever is cheaper, and which ever might add to its life. example sli or crossfire.

The 260 GTX has been known to be faster ATM, though I don't like that it has less ram which may be it's breaker.

Review the games you like playing and make ur choice after those.

Specs?
a b U Graphics card
a b } Memory
February 4, 2009 2:45:40 AM

L1qu1d said:
The 4870s have much faster memory with GDDR5, which is alot better than DDR3. But since it only has a 256 bit bus width it really was a waste. THough it does extremely well for such a small bus width.

Buy which ever is cheaper, and which ever might add to its life. example sli or crossfire.

The 260 GTX has been known to be faster ATM, though I don't like that it has less ram which may be it's breaker.

Review the games you like playing and make ur choice after those.

Specs?

A waste? How? It allows them to get more bandwidth than a GTX 260 with much smaller amount of die space needed for the memory bus. That hardly sounds like a waste to me...
February 4, 2009 2:48:46 AM

get nvidia ....ati has way to many problems with there drivers if you haven't noticed
a b U Graphics card
February 4, 2009 3:01:30 AM

salabarria said:
get nvidia ....ati has way to many problems with there drivers if you haven't noticed


Which depends on what you're doing with them, just like with nVidia which also has it's share of problems.

Between the two 'mantras' people like to preach, which do you think is worse: ATi has problems with drivers /or/ nVidia has problems with hardware ?

Both are pretty much equal and limited in their differences with pluses and minuses each.
a b U Graphics card
a b } Memory
February 4, 2009 3:01:50 AM

I've had roughly equal luck with drivers, which wasn't spectacular in either case.
February 4, 2009 3:02:28 AM

cjl said:
A waste? How? It allows them to get more bandwidth than a GTX 260 with much smaller amount of die space needed for the memory bus. That hardly sounds like a waste to me...



Definately isn't showing that in its benchmarks:)  Real world gaming says everything, and for the GDDR5 to match the 260 GTX GDDR3 when the bandwidth is way bigger, to me is a waste.

There are 280s and 260s with 55 dies now:) 
February 4, 2009 3:03:00 AM

salabarria said:
get nvidia ....ati has way to many problems with there drivers if you haven't noticed

I have noticed. ESPECIALLY in linux. their linux drivers are a joke, not that there are many games I play in linux, but it is my main os for everything else. I'm sure some of you could care less about their linux drivers though, but still windows ati drivers have always been a problem too, and im not going to even get into the catalyst control center. I always download the minimal driver package without that, and it somehow seems to always get installed one way or another. with driver updates, and such
a b U Graphics card
a b } Memory
February 4, 2009 3:09:08 AM

L1qu1d said:
Definately isn't showing that in its benchmarks:)  Real world gaming says everything, and for the GDDR5 to match the 260 GTX GDDR3 when the bandwidth is way bigger, to me is a waste.

There are 280s and 260s with 55 dies now:) 


Real world gaming, the 260 and 4870 1GB are darn close, with the 4870 edging the 260 in most cases. I'd hardly call that a waste, especially with the much smaller die size to achieve that performance.
February 4, 2009 3:48:41 AM

OK, let me correct just about everyone here. A 256 bit bus is enough for any card out today and that why it is still being used by top of the line cards from ATI. Just like Nvidia uses a really old 55nm process that just is new to them, that doesn't mean their cards are slow because of this.

Again, 256 bit is more than enough for DDR5.

Personaly, I would get an ATI card simply because of how Nvidia has been riping off their customers for the past few years. Nvidia has dominated for a couple of years until 3rd quarder 2008 or so. Right before ATI released their monster 48xx card, Nvidia released their GT280. The GT280 was priced at about $550. ATI released their 48xx cards which were just as fast but for about half the price. Their 4870 card (256 bus btw) could easily keep up with Nvidia cards with the most highest setting up and was priced $300 during its release day. Within three weeks, the Nvidia GT280 dropped in price by over $150. That is just unprecedented for Nvidia that sold 8800 Ultras for about $600 for several months. Currently the prices from Nvidia are more sane, but I would go with ATI for at least one generation for punishment.
February 4, 2009 4:04:56 AM

cjl said:
Real world gaming, the 260 and 4870 1GB are darn close, with the 4870 edging the 260 in most cases. I'd hardly call that a waste, especially with the much smaller die size to achieve that performance.


Really? I've seen alot of sites that say otherwise about edging:)  I don't really look into the cards, so I might be wrong.

But to me its a waste of GDDR5 if you can do the same thing with GDDR3. When I see the card surpass what a regular GDDR3 card can do, or what the DDR3 card can't reach, then I'll say it isn't.

Though the die size is impressive, half the size of the 280 GTX.
a b U Graphics card
a b } Memory
February 4, 2009 4:12:53 AM

The reason that the die size is impressive is because of the GDDR5. You seem not to get it - the 4870 is able to pump just as much bandwidth through half the bus, making a far cheaper component (production cost wise) perform just as well as the more expensive, larger die component. Also, 3600MHz GDDR5 is quite conservative - newer GDDR5 is available up to 6 GHz (wow...). Basically, it's not that the DDR5 is slow, it's that Nvidia has pushed DDR3 well past its practical limits by way of massive bus widths.
a b U Graphics card
February 4, 2009 4:50:00 AM

Being that the very first usage of GDDR5 comes in ATI cards, and all have smaller buses than nVidias top of the line, which use GDDR3, and they keep pace with them, and as said, since its the very first GDDR5 ever used, its also the slowest, so, smaller die, smaller bus, smaller layered pcb, equal performance, and its a waste of GDDR5? The very first and slowest GDDR5?
February 4, 2009 10:36:10 AM

Yes I don't think it is. I could understand the 4850 being like this, but the 4870 should've been the flagship card and been alot faster.

Remember this isn't a matter of fact, its a matter of opinion. When I see a new faster product I want it to actually be pushed to the test. Not used in a way that has innovation but isn't what it could be.
February 4, 2009 12:38:40 PM

If I had to chose between two similar performing cards by ATi and nVidia I would chose ATi because of the better drivers.
February 4, 2009 12:44:54 PM

LOL they don;'t have better drivers!! ROFL.

Like ppl said they don't have (both companies) good drivers that deserve respect, but Nvidia has been slightly ahead of ati when it comes to both driver support and stable drivers.

What I do like about Nvidia is 2 fold, Notebook drivers which helped my laptop, and as soon as there is a bug, theres a fix like the next day...example Mirror's Edge far cry 2.

Though I do like the catatlyst control panel more than the Nvidia 1. You don't need to install so many things, while the catalyst comes with everything. PLus Sometimes Nvidia drivers takes A TON to install, but when it comes to perforamnce, Nvidia's number have been proven to be more effective.

Example if they say 30% increase you can bet it is around 30%. The review on this was done by THG.
February 4, 2009 1:58:04 PM

Also, think about the future, of Nvidia... Phix & SLI modes... and lots of games comming out, with phix and such... makes games much better... if the game does not have phix, then check the option for SLI, if the game has Phix, then pick that option... so you can have both worlds (bonus)... for nvidia...

just a thought...

Nvidia for life... since 1995, (the few times i try ATI, had problems...)
February 4, 2009 1:59:41 PM

Thing is that nVidia's drivers fix only new games (which makes sense).
Maybe it's just me, but I had better experience with ATi's drivers.
February 4, 2009 2:39:16 PM

its really on your usage...my ATI came in handy with its hdmi...audio
February 4, 2009 2:43:08 PM

Though if you can afford go with the GTX280/285
a b U Graphics card
a b } Memory
February 4, 2009 3:29:36 PM

Bad drivers, good drivers, memory buss width, memory speed, blah, blah on and on, ATI fan boys and nVidiots (though most everyone is being pretty sensible here)

Linux.....good god who cares how a high end gaming card works under Linux.

Just look at Tom's GPU charts and look for the games you play the most, buy whatever works best for what you are doing. As suggested in a couple of other replys, you cannot base a cards performance on these things alone
That is why the charts are so nice, you get to see exactly what the cards will do according to the programs or games you will be running.

And, it is a fact that many games are better optimized for ATI Drivers, some are better optimized for Nvidia drivers.
February 4, 2009 5:05:53 PM

dude THG charts are def not to date, I saw a 8800 gTX match 2 280s...honestly...
a b U Graphics card
a b } Memory
February 4, 2009 8:30:00 PM

Well, as I said, it depends on what you are doing, and yes the charts are in need of an update again, that is certain. BUT it would not suprise me at all if an 8800GTX could match a couple of 280's in certain benchmarks. The 8800GTX was a monster card in it's day, and still even now it is no slouch.....why?
Because it does have a 768bit wide memory buss........but it certainly will not compare in most things to the newer cards, and talking only about the buss is not the way to buy a card.
Main thing is, you can get a decent idea of how a certain card performs against others using the charts.
It is a hugely better comparison that to figure out if a wider memory buss, a faster memory buss, faster or slower memory etc. makes a certain card better or worse than another.
February 4, 2009 9:06:44 PM

it has 768 ram, and 384 bit bus width lol you confused the 2:) 

You can't get a decent idea. It gives you false information, to me thats not decent. Your best bet is using reviews.
February 4, 2009 9:17:49 PM

jitpublisher said:
Bad drivers, good drivers, memory buss width, memory speed, blah, blah on and on, ATI fan boys and nVidiots (though most everyone is being pretty sensible here)

Linux.....good god who cares how a high end gaming card works under Linux.

Just look at Tom's GPU charts and look for the games you play the most, buy whatever works best for what you are doing. As suggested in a couple of other replys, you cannot base a cards performance on these things alone
That is why the charts are so nice, you get to see exactly what the cards will do according to the programs or games you will be running.

And, it is a fact that many games are better optimized for ATI Drivers, some are better optimized for Nvidia drivers.

Who cares about linux? I do, so do a ever growing number of people. Maybe if some of you all who bash it, tried it out, you might learn something. It is a superior os for multimedia, and htpcs, in many ways, and games like doom3 and quake4 can hardly be called old yet. High end performance does have advantages in linux. Every time windows Vista makes your game take a performance hit, if the game was available for linux, it would run faster than on windows xp or winFLP. I guarantee you. And for those of you who think 64 bit is years away... it is years away, IN windows. linux has been running fully optimized 64 bit apps, and I mean ALL apps, since the begginning.
edit: and when drivers are as bad as ati's are, it affects more than just high end performance. buggy drivers= unstability
a b U Graphics card
a b } Memory
February 4, 2009 10:20:53 PM

What do you mean 64 bit being years away? Most people here will agree that 64 bit is basically here now in Windows.

Oh, and Linux hasn't been running 64 bit apps since the beginning. Linux first came around in the early 90s, and was 32 bit.
a b U Graphics card
February 4, 2009 10:42:50 PM

GDDR5/512bit same thing different methods to increase Bandwidth. When more bandwidth is needed Ati has to use 512bit interface and Nvidia needs to switch to GDDR5 both have there ups/downs. Im not trying to be biased but I think Ati has a slight lead with there bandwidth method. I really wanna see true multi-core gpu on a single pbc board. =]
a b U Graphics card
February 4, 2009 10:47:44 PM

I think the difference between the 4870 is greater than the 4850 vs the G280 and the G260, so, again, it shows nicely
February 4, 2009 10:48:22 PM

AMD has always been better for innovation. Phenoms being real quad cores. x2s being real dual PCB cards instead of sandwhiches.
a c 175 U Graphics card
a b } Memory
February 4, 2009 11:01:07 PM

Can't we drop this "bad driver" theory? Its fanboi crap, stop spreading it. The first "real" video card (DX7 or later) video card I had was the AIW 9600PRO. It ran fine on my Nvidia NF3-250 motherboard. I killed it doing a "dumb dumb move", and bought a 9700pro. (also on the NF3-250.) It to ran fine until I upgraded again, this time to the x1800XT. (ATI chipset this time) This ran everything just fine, I never had any issues with these setups. I would think these horrible drivers would have done something by now.

I upgraded again, this time to the 8800GS. (actually a 9600GSO.) Honestly, I don't see any difference in drivers or game play. Newer games run faster on the 8800GS of course, but both work just fine playing games or watching stuff on my TV. To say that the AMD drivers are bad is like claiming Nvidia outputs bad video on TVs. I've done both while using both, NEVER had an issue. This of course is with windows, I hated Linux when I had to use it in school.
February 4, 2009 11:08:47 PM

see but we're talking about frame rates, you'd have to be an enthusisast. I notice performance drops when I switch to newer drivers if they are better or worse. Run fraps 24/7 and always compare new results with old. Thats what most ppl are noticing. But if your just a mainstream user, or just it to play games and not be anal. Then ofc we can't tell you to tell us what driver is better.

Frankly I never had problems with ATI neither, for me I always thought they were the most reliable as the box use to say:p 

But I had a couple of issues with scaling with the 4870 X2 when I first got it. NOw its running fine although I did expect more frames, then again I am very anal about the fps:D 

Anywho I'm not getting into this anymore. My fav card to date still is and always will be the ati 9500 pro. Nothing will ever be like it...well there sorta was the Asus 9800 GT real or something like...which was actually an 8800 GTS:p  or something aha, but thats still not the same.
February 4, 2009 11:54:54 PM

Why would you run FRAPS 24/7? Your system is top of the line, just why? I always figure, if you can't see a slow-down, stutter, or basically if you don't notice your gameplay suffering at all, who cares how many FPS you have?

Maybe I'm not enthusiastic enough, or maybe my system isn't so expensive I have to SEE how many hundreds of frames I get per second. Just seems like a waste of the few hundred pixels covered up in ugly yellow numbers to me.
February 5, 2009 12:21:33 AM

yup.

Remember why do some guys build up their muscle cars? I mean when you drive on the street and you make a stupid decision in using the hp and showing the speed, car taken away, fine and maybe imprisonment. If ppl are willing to risk that, cover a couple hundred pixels with yellow numbers is a god blessing compared to that:) 
a c 175 U Graphics card
a b } Memory
February 5, 2009 1:17:28 AM

Quote:
see but we're talking about frame rates, you'd have to be an enthusisast. I notice performance drops when I switch to newer drivers if they are better or worse.


Nothing against you, but thats crap. I've seen the driver reviews where they test one card against a bunch of drivers to see quality/speed changes. Differences are nearly always small, a frame or two at the most. Are you actually claiming you can tell the difference between 58 and 60FPS? No offense, but I doubt anyone can.

Most of the time newer drivers either give you new abilities for the cards, or fix issues with certain games. Every now and then you get Big Bang or the performance ones that AMD released not to far back. But most of the time it isn't much.
February 5, 2009 1:27:54 AM

like I said your entitled to ur opion. Alot of review sites don't show min frame rates, we see only avgs and go buy the cards...next we hate the sutters:p 

really its somethign you need to experience for urselves.

Example with my old 9800 GX2 I had to switch out of Beta drivers because of poor performance. so really, this is more of an opinion thing:p 
February 5, 2009 1:57:27 AM

No offense, but maybe it's a "you're crazy" thing?
February 5, 2009 2:02:19 AM

I'm not killing any1:)  So not as crazy as you think:D 

I'm just a fanatic about high frames:D 
a b U Graphics card
February 5, 2009 6:13:46 AM

febisfebi said:
Who cares about linux? I do, so do a ever growing number of people. Maybe if some of you all who bash it, tried it out, you might learn something. It is a superior os for multimedia, and htpcs,


I have used it, for YEARS, and still do from time to time, and you're pushing BS saying it's superior for HTPCs, it's barely got basic support found on Windows. Gimme a break bud, Linux is fine, but it's not superior for HTPCS when you can't play whatever you want on it. Even the DRM circumventing tools are better on Windows. Windows is far FAR from great, but Linux ain't there either.

Also as for it growing, not enough to matter to anyone in the high end market.
Heck Linux can't match Apple's tiny market share and it's FREE and easily available and has been for over a DECADE!

I have nothing against Linux itself, it still holds alot of promise (like it did a decade ago) but I do have something against the Linux fanbois who sound like PowerPC Mac users commenting on gaming. :pfff: 

febisfebi said:
and games like doom3 and quake4 can hardly be called old yet.


Yes, they can be called old, D3 is 4.5 year old and Q4 is 3.5 years old, in PC terms that friggin' old. They're older than Core2 procs and older than SLi and consumer SATA drives. THAT'S OLD !!
February 5, 2009 10:17:17 PM

TheGreatGrapeApe said:
I have used it, for YEARS, and still do from time to time, and you're pushing BS saying it's superior for HTPCs, it's barely got basic support found on Windows. Gimme a break bud, Linux is fine, but it's not superior for HTPCS when you can't play whatever you want on it. Even the DRM circumventing tools are better on Windows. Windows is far FAR from great, but Linux ain't there either.

Also as for it growing, not enough to matter to anyone in the high end market.
Heck Linux can't match Apple's tiny market share and it's FREE and easily available and has been for over a DECADE!

I have nothing against Linux itself, it still holds alot of promise (like it did a decade ago) but I do have something against the Linux fanbois who sound like PowerPC Mac users commenting on gaming. :pfff: 



Yes, they can be called old, D3 is 4.5 year old and Q4 is 3.5 years old, in PC terms that friggin' old. They're older than Core2 procs and older than SLi and consumer SATA drives. THAT'S OLD !!


I'm not talking about available software, in linux, although there is plenty for everything I need to do on an htpc. I dont use DRM and never will so I wouldnt know. I am talking about performance wise. you can take an old crappy computer and do a lot more with it performance wise, than the same computer on windows. May not seem like a big deal to people who would never dream of using an old computer for anything, but personally I dont have the money to constantly upgrade all my computers to be able to do things on a resource wasting os, that can easily be done given the right software.
a b U Graphics card
February 6, 2009 12:16:09 PM

febisfebi said:
I'm not talking about available software, in linux, although there is plenty for everything I need to do on an htpc. I dont use DRM and never will so I wouldnt know.


Which is fine for YOU. But that's not what you said, you said it was superior for HTPC which it's not. It may be a better fit or you, and it may do more than what you need, but when building a new HTPC for the fullest range of features Windows is still prefered to Linux. Linux is very capable for most BASIC HTPCs, but not for SUPERIOR ones as you would lead people to believe.

febisfebi said:
I am talking about performance wise. you can take an old crappy computer and do a lot more with it performance wise, than the same computer on windows.


I don't disagree with that idea that it's a better choice than XP or Vista for a very old or low powered PC, although I've never bothered to go back and see what I can do with Win98SE or Win2K on a crappy computer in a modern environment to be able to put that in definitive terms.

febisfebi said:
May not seem like a big deal to people who would never dream of using an old computer for anything, but personally I dont have the money to constantly upgrade all my computers to be able to do things on a resource wasting os, that can easily be done given the right software.


Which is funny for a thread that talks about the HD4870 & GTX280 instead of better value cards.
However your statement wasn't about doing more with less, it was about Linux driver support in an enthusiast forum, and you're not about to get much support about 'basic functionality of old PCs when talking about those cards. As for ATi's drivers, they're not the best in Lunux, but they are better than intel (who used to be #1) and they have an open source option unlike nV, so there are benefits and good things as well as bad. However as was mentioned, it's still a minority, heck, ATi & nVidia likely have more new hardware/driver purchases/activations from Apple users than Linux users, many of which are running older legacy hardware that has pretty much been abandoned on other platforms. Same goes for game developement which likely still sees linux as the red-headed step child of the three PC OSes. Linux support is nice, but it's as niche as Workstation / Professional support, and not the major focus of many, nor what comes to mind when people talk about the quality/features/stability of the various IHV's drivers.
!