1 - A Ruby Introduction
AMD Radeon HD 4870 (supplied by ASUS)
Sometimes when a company announces and alters their strategy you just go "Uh-oh"- you know with the Scooby Doo voice ? I literally had that moment when AMD announced it would put it's focus on the mid-range segment. I was like Oh heck .. there goes AMD, leaving NVIDIA playing with itself in the high-end segment, driving prices up even further.
Last week then AMD released the first new mid-range graphics card, the Radeon HD 4850, a charming little fellah at roughly 199 USD. The minute I started testing that little goblin I figured I was hallucinating. Seriously my first though was ''man, this is amazing performance for the money, is this driver rendering properly ?''. Paranoia hit me pretty badly and I started constantly looking behind me to see if there was a man with an NVIDIA t-shirt behind me ... and a knife.
Lame puns aside, obviously NVIDIA reacted faster than lightning against the Radeon HD 4850 with the release of the GeForce 9800 GTX+ to counteract that performance and price.
Then there was the speculation of that second product ATI was about to be released, the Radeon HD 4870. Again initially at an AMD briefing .. I was just downright skeptical. Richard Huddy (AMD) opens his speech with another "dating for geeks joke", and although fun, the last time that happened .. things went a little sour with ATI. After the presentation I figured, why in gods name would AMD put expensive GDDR5 memory on that 4870. An AMD representative said to me .. Hilbert, just wait and see for yourself. Well fair enough, okay.
Shortly after I return from that briefing things went a little sour, NDA's where moved forward, time was running out quickly and yes yes .. one FeDEX courier is now apparently the happy owner of a Radeon HD 4870, as our sample was missing. Next to AMD shipping a review unit real late, this is the reason behind our somewhat 'delayed' article.
The good news is this, as early as one day after the Series 4000 launch one board finally arrives. The even better news it that the card is just amazing. All my fears had vanished the minute I noticed what it can do. See, I don't want to spoil the fun just yet, but this card is tagged at a price of 299,- USD and quite frankly just as fast as a GeForce 260 GTX at 399 USD. So while I say 299 USD, isn't a mid-range product, this surely is a high-end product at a fantastic price. Not bad for an actual mid-range targeted product eh ? See AMD, that indeed is good strategy. Customers really like value.
So then, in this review we'll briefly walk through the two products released, then we'll shift our focus towards the Radeon HD 4870. This review will cover single GPU performance only as next week, when more boards will come in, we'll handle CrossFireX in a separate review.
The products announced are twofold and I guess do not need a big introduction, the Radeon HD 4850 and 4870. The new leading mainstream products that pack some really good punch for the money. These two products gave me that old Radeon 9700 launch feel again, the AMD/ATI empire strikes back .. hard.
Both the products have a near billion counting transistor count, 800 shader cores and will come in both GDDR3 (4850) and GDDR5 (4870) flavors.
Most interesting will be AMD's pricing point, the Radeon 4850 (GDDR3) for example will start at a price of 199 USD, the 299 USD costing Radeon HD 4870 will be equipped with luxurious GDDR5 memory. All in loads to talk and write about.
This launch definitely is an interesting one, so therefore let's startup the review, it's a good time to be in the wonderful graphics land right now for sure, though as an editor fascinating yet a little tiresome. [Ed - I gave you a case of redbull for a reason!]