Sapphire Radeon HD 4890 1GB Graphics Card

We have a look at Sapphire's HD 4890 and compare it solely against the HD 4870 to see the improvements we've received.
| Apr 2, 2009 at 12:02 am CDT
Rating: 91%Manufacturer: Sapphire

Introduction

Sapphire Radeon HD 4890 1GB Graphics Card
IntroductionWe've already looked at one HD 4890 to see how it goes against a number of single GPU cards on the market and since the Sapphire model is quite similar to the GIGABYTE model, with the only difference being the fact that Sapphire has chosen to utilize the stock clocks, we will do something a bit different in our comparisons. What we'll do is see how the card competes solely against the HD 4870. Compared to our other review, this gives us a clearer picture of the kind of performance improvements we've seen over the last model from ATI.This ultimately gives us a better idea of just how hard ATI have been working to offer a new card that offers better performance than the previous model we saw. The HD 4870 has clearly had a good run and due to the amount of time it's been out we hope that there are some good performance improvements that give users of the HD 4870 a reason to upgrade.As usual, though, before we get into the benchmarking side of things we'll take the time to have a look at the package that Sapphire has put together while also having a closer look at the card itself.

The Package

The PackageAt the last minute Sapphire had actually slightly changed the box art to the HD 4890, so for this reason we've used one of their own shots. The general design is nothing new as we've been seeing this kind of box art from Sapphire for a while. Across the top we have the Sapphire logo, some other logos and a mention that the card has 1GB of GDDR5 memory, while across the bottom we have the model listed.
Sapphire Radeon HD 4890 1GB Graphics Card

(Click the above image for the large version)
In the middle of the box we have a picture of a girl, while moving over we see the fueled by Sapphire logo along with a tagline and to the right we have a run down on some of the main features that are implemented on the card such as GDDR5 memory, HDMI, 800 streaming processors and more.
Sapphire Radeon HD 4890 1GB Graphics Card

(Click the above image for the large version)
Turning the box over, Sapphire has expanded on the features along with giving us a run down on some of the product highlights and a mention of what's in the box. Like the front of the box, we have the logos across the top and the model again down the bottom.
Sapphire Radeon HD 4890 1GB Graphics Card

(Click the above image for the large version)
Diving inside the package, we see in true Sapphire style that we've got a bit more than just the standard manual and driver CD. Apart from these we have 3DMark Vantage along with CyberLink PowerDVD and CyberLink DVD Suite. We can also see that we have a little sticker included in the package that you can place on your case.
Sapphire Radeon HD 4890 1GB Graphics Card

(Click the above image for the large version)
Looking at the cables, we've got everything we need to get up and running; two molex to PCI-E 6-pin connectors, S-Video to RCA, Crossfire bridge, DVI to VGA and DVI to HDMI connector as well as a component out dongle.

The Card

The CardLike the box art, Sapphire also changed the sticker that they used on the cooler at the last minute; so again we've used one of their own shots here. We can see the same girl that was on the front of the package along with the model and logos from both Sapphire and ATI.
Sapphire Radeon HD 4890 1GB Graphics Card

(Click the above image for the large version)
As for everything else on the card, it follows the reference design which of course looks just like the HD 4870. While it probably would have been nicer to see ATI do something new with the cooler, if there's ultimately nothing wrong with it then there's not much point in changing.
Sapphire Radeon HD 4890 1GB Graphics Card

(Click the above image for the large version)
Sapphire Radeon HD 4890 1GB Graphics Card

(Click the above image for the large version)
As we mentioned earlier, the card uses the reference design which means that it looks just like the GIGABYTE HD 4890 we looked at earlier today. Towards the back of the card we have two 6-pin PCI-E power connectors; while closer to the front we see a pair of Crossfire connectors which give us the ability to run up to three of these cards.
Sapphire Radeon HD 4890 1GB Graphics Card

(Click the above image for the large version)
Finally, we finish looking at the card in the I/O department. Here we have two Dual-Link DVI connectors along with a standard TV-Out port in the middle. Above these we can see a number of vents which let the hot air escape. You can see through the vents to the gap in the cooler where the hot air is going to be coming from. SpecificationsAs we've mentioned previously, the Sapphire HD 4890 uses the stock clocks; the core comes in at 850MHz while the 1GB of GDDR5 memory comes in at 975MHz or 3900MHz QDR.
Sapphire Radeon HD 4890 1GB Graphics Card

Test System Setup and 3DMark Vantage

Test System SetupProcessor(s): Intel i7 920 @ 3.8GHz (190MHz x 20)Cooling: Noctua NH-U12P (Supplied by Noctua)Motherboard(s): GIGABYTE EX58-UD5 (Supplied by GIGABYTE)Memory: 3 X 2GB OCZ Technology PC-12800 DDR-3 8-8-8-24 (OCZ3G1600LV6GK) Hard Disk(s): Western Digital 300GB Velicorapter (Supplied by Western Digital)Operating System: Windows XP Professional SP2, Windows Vista SP1 64-BitDrivers: Catalyst 9.2, Catalyst 8.14.10.0647 (HD 4890)We mentioned before that we will be comparing the Sapphire HD 4890 against the HD 4870. With both cards clocked at stock speeds, we'll find out what kind of performance increase we get with the extra MHz that ATI has offered on the HD 4890.3DMark VantageVersion and / or Patch Used: 1.0.1Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.comProduct Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmarkvantage/Buy It Here
3DMark Vantage is the new industry standard PC gaming performance benchmark from Futuremark, newly designed for Windows Vista and DirectX10. It includes two new graphics tests, two new CPU tests, several new feature tests, and support for the latest hardware. 3DMark Vantage is based on a completely new rendering engine, developed specifically to take full advantage of DirectX10, the new graphics API from Microsoft.
Sapphire Radeon HD 4890 1GB Graphics Card
We can see some good gains in 3DMark Vantage, but when it comes down to looking at the % increase, the biggest increase is seen at the Extreme test where settings are more intensive.

Benchmarks - PT Boats: Knights of the Sea

PT Boats: Knights of the SeaVersion and / or Patch Used: Benchmark DemoDeveloper Homepage: http://en.akella.com/Product Homepage: http://www.pt-boats.net/
PT Boats: Knights of the Sea is a naval action simulator that places gamers in charge of a mosquito fleet of the Allied Forces, Russia or Germany during the height of World War II.Using the latest Direct X 10 technology PT Boards - Knights of the Sea manages to apply a lot of stress to the components of today which in turn gives us quite an intensive benchmark.
Sapphire Radeon HD 4890 1GB Graphics Card
Sapphire Radeon HD 4890 1GB Graphics Card
Like Vantage, we can see when the settings aren't that intensive there isn't a huge gap between the two cards. As we start climbing, though, the performance increase really begins to blow out.

Benchmarks - CINEBENCH R10

CINEBENCH R10Version and / or Patch Used: Release 10Developer Homepage: http://www.maxon.net/Product Homepage: http://www.maxon.net
CINEBENCH is a real-world test suite that assesses your computer's performace capabilities. MAXON CINEBENCH is based on MAXON's award-winning animation software, CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. MAXON software has been used in blockbuster movies such as Spider-Man, Star Wars, The Chronicles of Narnia and many more.MAXON CINEBENCH runs several tests on your computer to measure the performance of the main processor and the graphics card under real world circumstances. The benchmark application makes use of up to 16 CPUs or CPU cores and is available for Windows (32-bit and 64-Bit) and Macintosh (PPC and Intel-based).
Sapphire Radeon HD 4890 1GB Graphics Card
CINEBENCH performance seemed to have taken a hit with the new card; it's still up on the NVIDIA offerings, though, as we saw in our other HD 4890 review.

Benchmarks - World in Conflict

World in ConflictVersion and / or Patch Used: 1.0.0.5Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in TestDeveloper Homepage: http://www.massive.se Product Homepage: http://www.worldinconflict.com
World in Conflict is a real-time strategy video game by Massive Entertainment and to be published by Sierra Entertainment for Windows (DX9 and DX10) and the Xbox 360.The game is set in 1989 where economic troubles cripple the Soviet Union and threaten to dissolve it. However, the title pursues a "what if" scenario where, in this case, the Soviet Union does not collapse and instead pursues a course of war to remain in power. It is an intensive new game is sure to put plenty of stress on even the latest graphics cards and we use the built-in benchmarking for our testing.
Sapphire Radeon HD 4890 1GB Graphics Card
Sapphire Radeon HD 4890 1GB Graphics Card
Across the board we can see a performance increase with the new cards; not huge gains, but nice ones none the less that range from about 10% - 20%.Optimum Setup- With the HD 4890 we can find that we've got a good jump on that 30 FPS minimum, which means 1920 x 1200 is perfect with the settings at very high.

Benchmarks - Crysis Warhead

Crysis WarheadVersion and / or Patch Used: unpatchedTimedemo or Level Used: AirfieldDeveloper Homepage: http://www.crytek.comProduct Homepage: http://crysiswarhead.ea.com/Buy It Here
Crysis Warhead updates and refines the gameplay of the original game through a sidestory plot involving Psycho, one of previous protagonist Nomad's allies. The game is a parallel story that follows Sergeant Michael "Psycho" Sykes, a character from the original Crysis, as he faces his own trials and challenges on the other side of the island during the time period of the first game.It also showcases a new, enhanced and optimized version of CryEngine 2 using full DX10 extensions and is the first game developed by Crytek's Budapest studio.
Sapphire Radeon HD 4890 1GB Graphics Card
Sapphire Radeon HD 4890 1GB Graphics Card
We again see some good gains with the HD 4890; the extra MHz that ATI has offered us gives us a nice boost in performance.Optimum Setup- We see that the coding in Warhead does little for the HD 4890. Even at 1680 x 1050 we would want to drop the detail to get that 30 FPS minimum we need.

Benchmarks - Far Cry 2

Far Cry 2Version and / or Patch Used: 1.01Timedemo or Level Used: Ranch LongDeveloper Homepage: http://www.ubi.com/Product Homepage: http://www.farcry2.com/Buy It Here
The Dunia Engine was built specifically for Far Cry 2 by the award-winning Ubisoft Montreal development team. It delivers the most realistic destructible environments, amazing special effects such as dynamic fire propagation and storm effects, real-time night-and-day cycle, dynamic music system, non-scripted enemy A.I. and so much more.
Sapphire Radeon HD 4890 1GB Graphics Card
Sapphire Radeon HD 4890 1GB Graphics Card
Looking at Far Cry 2, we see some good gains once again with the HD 4890. Unfortunately 2560 x 1600 doesn't give us that 30 FPS minimum we like to see, but at 1920 x 1200 we see we're well above it. Optimum Setup- 1920 x 1200 isn't going to be a problem with a 38 FPS minimum. Adding a bit of AA or AF should keep us above 30 FPS while making the game look that little bit better again.

Benchmarks - S.T.A.L.K.E.R. - Clear Sky

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. - Clear SkyVersion and / or Patch Used: 1.5.07Timedemo or Level Used: Custom TimedemoDeveloper Homepage: http://www.gsc-game.com/Product Homepage: http://cs.stalker-game.com/en/Buy It Here
S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky, is the stand-alone prequel for S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl, a first-person shooter computer game by Ukrainian developer GSC Game World.[3] The game consists of a roughly 50/50 mix of new areas and old, remodeled areas from the previous game. The X-ray graphics engine has been updated to version 1.5 and includes DirectX 10 support (later patch 1.5.06 included DirectX 10.1). Additionally, the AI received an overhaul to accommodate the new faction wars feature.
Sapphire Radeon HD 4890 1GB Graphics Card
Sapphire Radeon HD 4890 1GB Graphics Card
Across the board we continue to see good gains with Clear Sky; this game has always favored the ATI offerings and the HD 4890 shows nothing different.Optimum Setup- While the game does favor ATI cards it's still not great at giving us high FPS, at 1680 x 1050 detail does need to be dropped to medium to get that 30 FPS minimum.

Benchmarks - Left 4 Dead

Left 4 DeadVersion and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam UpdateTimedemo or Level Used: Custom TimedemoDeveloper Homepage: http://www.valvesoftware.com/Product Homepage: http://www.l4d.com/Buy It Here
Left 4 Dead uses the latest version of Valve's Source engine, with improvements such as multi-core processor support and physics-based animation to more realistically portray hair and clothing, and to improve physics interaction with enemies when shot or shoved in different body parts. Animation was also improved to allow characters to lean realistically when moving in curved paths. Rendering and artificial intelligence were scaled up to allow for greater number of enemies who can navigate the world in better ways, such as climbing, jumping or breaking obstacles. Lighting has been enhanced with new self-shadowing normal mapping and advanced shadow rendering that is important to convey information about the environment and player actions.
Sapphire Radeon HD 4890 1GB Graphics Card
We continue to see good gains from the HD 4890 and there are some especially nice ones at 2560 x 1600 which equate to over 15%.Optimum Setup- With the graphics not being the best on the Source based game compared to something like Far Cry 2, we're able to run at 2560 x 1600 with no issues.

Benchmarks - High Quality AA and AF

High Quality AA and AFOur high quality tests let us separate the men from the boys and the ladies from the girls. If the cards weren't struggling before they will start to now.Far Cry 2
Sapphire Radeon HD 4890 1GB Graphics Card
Sapphire Radeon HD 4890 1GB Graphics Card
We can see a good gain here, but unfortunately the HD 4890 does still struggle, though. World In Conflict
Sapphire Radeon HD 4890 1GB Graphics Card
Sapphire Radeon HD 4890 1GB Graphics Card
We again see a good gain that equates to over 20%. Unfortunately we're just a bit below that 30 FPS minimum. Drop back the AF and move to 2x AA, however, and you'll fix that issue.Left 4 Dead
Sapphire Radeon HD 4890 1GB Graphics Card
Again we see that 20%+ increase in performance with the new card. With no minimum shown, though, we probably want to be closer to 55 - 60 FPS average for smooth game play, so we would probably recommend moving back from 8x MSAA to 4x.

Benchmarks - World in Conflict - XP

World in ConflictVersion and / or Patch Used: 1.0.0.5Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in TestDeveloper Homepage: http://www.massive.se Product Homepage: http://www.worldinconflict.com
World in Conflict is a real-time strategy video game by Massive Entertainment and to be published by Sierra Entertainment for Windows (DX9 and DX10) and the Xbox 360.The game is set in 1989 where economic troubles cripple the Soviet Union and threaten to dissolve it. However, the title pursues a "what if" scenario where, in this case, the Soviet Union does not collapse and instead pursues a course of war to remain in power. It is an intensive new game is sure to put plenty of stress on even the latest graphics cards and we use the built-in benchmarking for our testing.
Sapphire Radeon HD 4890 1GB Graphics Card
Sapphire Radeon HD 4890 1GB Graphics Card
Under WIC in XP it's interesting to see that both cards are performing almost identically; this is a different picture to what we saw in Vista.

Benchmarks - Far Cry 2 - XP

Far Cry 2Version and / or Patch Used: 1.01Timedemo or Level Used: Ranch LongDeveloper Homepage: http://www.ubi.com/Product Homepage: http://www.farcry2.com/Buy It Here
The Dunia Engine was built specifically for Far Cry 2 by the award-winning Ubisoft Montreal development team. It delivers the most realistic destructible environments, amazing special effects such as dynamic fire propagation and storm effects, real-time night-and-day cycle, dynamic music system, non-scripted enemy A.I. and so much more.
Sapphire Radeon HD 4890 1GB Graphics Card
Sapphire Radeon HD 4890 1GB Graphics Card
The HD 4890 continues to show us 20% gains in some areas; unfortunately it's not enough to play at 2560 x 1600, but enough to let us increase the detail at 1920 x 1200.

Benchmarks - S.T.A.L.K.E.R. - Clear Sky - XP

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. - Clear SkyVersion and / or Patch Used: 1.5.07Timedemo or Level Used: Custom TimedemoDeveloper Homepage: http://www.gsc-game.com/Product Homepage: http://cs.stalker-game.com/en/Buy It Here
S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky, is the stand-alone prequel for S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl, a first-person shooter computer game by Ukrainian developer GSC Game World.[3] The game consists of a roughly 50/50 mix of new areas and old, remodeled areas from the previous game. The X-ray graphics engine has been updated to version 1.5 and includes DirectX 10 support (later patch 1.5.06 included DirectX 10.1). Additionally, the AI received an overhaul to accommodate the new faction wars feature.
Sapphire Radeon HD 4890 1GB Graphics Card
Sapphire Radeon HD 4890 1GB Graphics Card
Like we've see all along, we have good gains from the HD 4890. Here we can see at 1680 x 1060 we're less than 2 FPS away from the 30 FPS minimum we want.

Temperature and Sound Tests

Temperature Tests
With the TES 1326 Infrared Thermometer literally in hand we found ourselves getting real-world temperatures from the products we test at load (3D clock speeds).There are two places we pull temperature from - the back of the card directly behind the core and if the card is dual slot and has an exhaust point we also pull a temperate from there, as seen in the picture.
Sapphire Radeon HD 4890 1GB Graphics Card
The HD 4890 manages to run a good chunk cooler than the HD 4870 which is a good sign.Sound Tests
Pulling out the TES 1350A Sound Level Meter we find ourselves quickly yelling into the top of it to see how loud we can be.After five minutes of that we get a bit more serious and place the device two CM away from the fan on the card to find the maximum noise level of the card when idle (2D mode) and in load (3D mode).
Sapphire Radeon HD 4890 1GB Graphics Card
Unfortunately the drop in temperature does come at the cost of more noise from the cooler. Really, though, it's nothing major.

Power Consumption Tests

Power Consumption Tests
Using our new PROVA Power Analyzer WM-01 or "Power Thingy" as it has become quickly known as to our readers, we are now able to find out what kind of power is being used by our test system and the associated graphics cards installed. Keep in mind; it tests the complete system (minus LCD monitor, which is plugged directly into AC wall socket).There are a few important notes to remember though; while our maximum power is taken in 3DMark06 at the same exact point, we have seen in particular tests the power being drawn as much as 10% more. We test at the exact same stage every time; therefore tests should be very consistent and accurate.The other thing to remember is that our test system is bare minimum - only a 7,200RPM SATA-II single hard drive is used without CD ROM or many cooling fans.So while the system might draw 400 watts in our test system, placing it into your own PC with a number of other items, the draw is going to be higher.
Sapphire Radeon HD 4890 1GB Graphics Card
We can see that the HD 4890 here is sucking a bit less power at load which is always a good thing. At idle both cards are pretty similar, though the HD 4890 is drawing slightly more.

Final Thoughts

Final ThoughtsAcross the board we've seen some good gains from the HD 4890 when compared to the HD 4870. With that said, though, it's not next generation gains, which is fine since ATI chose to keep the card a part of the HD 4800 series. If they had come out and called it a HD 5870 it would have been a lot more disappointing as we would have expected something that would really give the GTX 285 a run for its money. Diving more in to the Sapphire part of the card, there isn't much to say about the card itself. It uses the default clocks, which are a nice increase from the HD 4870 and also the stock cooler which, while doing a better job at cooling, is also louder.But the package is where Sapphire has really shined. While they haven't included anything in the line of full version games, they have added a nice little package which includes 3DMark Vantage, PowerDVD and Cyberlink DVD Suite. It really is a step up from what a lot of other companies offer.If you're an ATI fan and you want to upgrade the HD 4870, this is a good jump that should give you a nice performance increase over your current card. If you're using something even older than a HD 4870 then the performance increase will be very much appreciated.The HD 4890 is a nice card that looks to have a nice launch price. While NVIDIA are still ultimately the king when it comes to downright performance, ATI continue to offer its users and fans good valued products.
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Shawn takes care of all of our video card reviews. From 2009, Shawn is also taking care of our memory reviews, and from May 2011, Shawn also takes care of our CPU, chipset and motherboard reviews. As of December 2011, Shawn is based out of Taipei, Taiwan.

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