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Conclusions – Radeon HD 4850 Is The Winner

The Fastest 3D Cards Go Head-To-Head

The minimum values can barely be achieved even by the fast graphics chips, but working upwards, the increase in frame rates are considerably higher. The GDDR5 RAM is not a wondrous answer to performance holes caused by anti-aliasing or minimum values, but Assassin’s Creed, Half Life 2: EP2, and World in Conflict do become evened out slightly. The HD 4870 has an almost identical progress to the HD 4850, just at a higher level.

The switch from a Radeon HD 3850 to a 4850 really is worth it. The overall results show an increase of up to 47.5%, while an upgrade from the HD 3870 to HD 4870 achieves a total of 40.6% more frames. If you are happy with a little less 3D performance, then the HD 3850 at $90 is a good buy, and is currently the best in terms of price/performance.

With the Nvidia cards, you need to take a closer look. Changing from a GeForce 8800 GTS 512 to an 8800 GTX or 9800 GTX would be pretty silly, as all three models show very little difference in the overall results. An upgrade from the GeForce 8800 GTS 512 to the GTX 260 would bring a total of around 18% more power, while changing to the HD 4870 would result in a 14% to 15% performance increase. The Nvidia recommendation is the 8800 GT for $120, which holds second place in the price/performance comparison.

Special models with old chips should always be compared against the Radeon HD 4850. A GeForce 9600 GT or 8800 GT, even with 1,024 MB of memory or higher clock rates, is only slightly faster than the new AMD card. A direct price and performance comparison is always worthwhile, as more graphics memory cannot compensate for higher basic 3D performance.

The GeForce GTX 280 is still a little too expensive. At the moment, it is a very powerful 3D beast, which when unleashed, becomes extremely power-hungry. The MSI Superclocked version can achieve a little extra in the higher resolutions, but the overclocked GTX 260 comes very close to the normally-clocked GTX 280.

The clear price recommendation goes to AMD’s Radeon HD 4850. It is quiet, but at the expense of performance versus the other current-generation GPUs. Bear in mind two issues, though. First, the standard design only has a single-slot cooler that gets very warm, which means your PC case needs excellent ventilation. Second, the test values were achieved using a good Core 2 Quad, and the card needs a lot of CPU power to achieve high frame rates. We’re also expecting dual-slot 4850s soon, which might be even more attractive for addressing cooling.

One recommendation goes to the Radeon HD 4870 and the other to the GeForce GTX 260. Both cards produced results too similar for us to single out just one of them. What the HD 4870 gains with its aggressive price, the GTX 260 compensates for via its 3D performance. Both cards have a two slot fan that exhausts heated air out of the case. AMD’s disadvantage is increased power consumption in 2D mode and very high temperatures. Nvidia’s disadvantage is high noise, but for that price, we’re willing to live with it.

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