It is hard to believe, but it has been over a year now since ATI launched the 4850 and 4870 video cards. In June 2008 ATI delivered a great performing video card at a price that a lot of enthusiasts could afford. Here we are, it is now September 2009 and we are still patiently awaiting a major revision to the 4800 series. That isn’t to say that ATI hasn’t done anything for the last year as far as pushing the video envelope. In April we saw the launch of the Radeon HD 4890, a card that featured a nearly identical GPU that came clocked a full 100MHz higher than the 4870. What we have to look at today is what will probably be considered the most “future” proof of the 4800 series, the Sapphire Radeon HD 4890 2GB. That’s right, it has a full 2GB frame buffer dedicated to just one GPU, unlike the 4870X2 that splits its 2GB between two GPU’s.
Compared to a standard ATI Radeon HD 4890, our Sapphire card comes clocked at 870MHz, up from 850MHz. On a standard 4890 the GDDR5 memory is clocked at 975MHz, but our 2GB card from Sapphire is clocked all the way up to 1050MHz, which really helps in high resolution and anti-aliasing modes. Keep in mind that we’re talking about QDR here (Quad Data Rate), which makes 1050MHz an incredible 4200MHz! Here you can see that our Sapphire Radeon HD 4890 2GB is very slightly longer than a Radeon HD 4870. I would not expect the added length to cause problems. It still fit very easily into an Antec 900 which is on the small side of video card space.
The biggest physical change is that of the heat sink and fan. Departing from the noisy OEM blower style, Sapphire has implemented a quieter, custom GPU cooling solution called the ‘Vapor-Chamber Cooler”. Regardless of what it is called, it works! The dual slot Vapor-Chamber Cooler has a noise level under 20 dbA in 2D operation and is still under 30 dbA in 3D operation before it reaches 85 degrees Celsius.
Something worth noting is that this card requires both 6-pin and 8-pin PCI-e power cables, due to the additional memory and overclocking capabilities. Sapphire suggests a 500 Watt or greater power supply with a 6-pin PCI Express and 8-pin PCI Express power connector for proper operation. If run in CrossFire they suggest at least a 600W power supply with double the number of power supply connectors.
On the back side of the card, we see another pair of heat sinks, underneath which are the additional RAM IC’s to give our card 2GB.
This card has got connectivity in mind; it supports HDMI, Display Port, Dual Link DVI, and a standard VGA!