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Radeon HD 4850 Vs. GeForce GTS 250: Non-Reference Battle

If you skipped over the article to find out if there’s a clear winner between the Asus EAH4850 MT or the Gigabyte GV-N250ZL-1GI, I’m afraid you’re probably going to be disappointed. Both have a great deal of strengths, a few weaknesses, and on average very similar gaming performance.

Let’s start with the Gigabyte’s GV-N250ZL-1GI. It’s an efficient, cool-running, quiet GeForce GTS 250 equipped with a full gigabyte of RAM. While it doesn’t have low-level control over things like voltage, the excellent Zalman VF1050 cooler and Gigabyte’s Ultra Durable VGA feature have proven, at least with our test sample, that it has some real overclocking prowess. Gigabyte’s Gamer HUD Lite overclocking tool is a great, simple utility that gets the job done.

The Asus EAH4850 MT is a similar, but slightly different, kettle of fish. It’s an efficient, quiet Radeon HD 4850 with granular control over all of the card's core functionality. The user can tweak 2D or 3D clock speeds, voltages, and fan settings very easily using Asus' iTracker software. The card even has a passive cooling mode so a user can get the best of both worlds: silent 2D desktop operation and blazing fast 3D overclocked speeds.

Let's look at relative gaming performance across all of our benchmarks:

As you can see, in general, the cards are close. In the majority of titles, the Gigabyte GV-N250ZL-1GI shows a notable advantage, with the Asus EAH4850 MT showing a colossal advantage in a single game title, Burnout Paradise. This one game really slants the average Asus' favor so that the total average performance is extremely close, putting both cards within 1% of one another. Those are the results at stock clock speeds, so let's see if the Asus card's high overclock can gain it some ground over the overclocked Gigabyte card:

Even with both cards overclocked, the landscape remains very similar, with the Asus EAH4850 MT gaining a little ground in most of the titles but losing in World in Conflict.

In summary, performance is strikingly similar across the board with a few exceptions. In the end we'd say the Gigabyte GV-N250ZL-1GI comes out a bit ahead in the games we tested. Conversely, the EAH4850 MT has its own strengths, such as Burnout Paradise with SSAO enable.

What's interesting is that the overclocked Asus EAH4850 MT, which was set higher than that of the Radeon HD 4870 GPU, didn’t translate into Radeon HD 4870-like results in the game benches. This is a clear indication of how reliant the Radeon HD 4870 is on its huge memory bandwidth, thanks to its fast GDDR5 memory.

At the end of the day, we have only two real nit-picks, and they apply to both of these cards: firstly, the coolers don't channel heated air outside of the case. This isn’t much of a complaint as these cards are designed for silence and GPU cooling first.

However, our second complaint is a bit more devastating: price. both of these cards should be available in the $150 neighborhood, and this brings them within spitting range of the $160 Radeon HD 4870 512 MB, a much faster gaming card. Frankly, these cards should be sitting closer to $140 in order to differentiate them from the garden-variety Radeon HD 4850s and GeForce GTS 250s, while at the same time maintaining some distance from the superior Radeon HD 4870.

We also need to note that when the Asus sample arrived at our door, the EAH4850 MT could be found for about $150 on Newegg with a mail-in rebate from Asus that bought it down to a much more acceptable $140. Curiously, sometime in the last few weeks the Asus EAH4850 MT has since been pulled from Newegg. We hope this is a temporary situation, because it's an impressive implementation of the Radeon HD 4850.

Regardless of pricing politics, these are both excellent products. The Asus EAH4850 Matrix is an overclocker’s dream with easy access to fundamental settings, while the Gigabyte GV-N250ZL-1GI is a quiet, cool, and efficient card with overclocking prowess and a full gigabyte of RAM to boot.

While the GV-N250ZL-1GI takes a slight performance lead in the game benchmarks we used, if you’re a user who wants a quiet system and has a 20” or smaller monitor, either of these products will provide 3D gaming and 2D silence satisfaction.

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