Sapphire Radeon HD 4890 1GB video card review
When AMD's ATI graphics division first unveiled their "sweet spot" strategy for graphics board design and production, we couldn't help but nod our heads enthusiastically while quietly thinking to ourselves "but will it actually work?". Well, it may have taken a couple of generations of lagging behind NVIDIA's offerings, but the Radeon HD 4000 series launch last year proved well and truly that just such a strategy can and will work when paired with a good enough architecture.
Just to recap, the "sweet spot" strategy in question devised by AMD involved first attacking the graphics board market at its overall sweet spot of price and performance (in the form of the Radeon HD 4850 and 4870), before ramping up to take the performance crown using a dual GPU version of the same core and architecture (the Radeon HD 4870 X2 in this case) and then finally producing a reduced version of this architecture to take on leadership of lower price points. This time around, the strategy has worked perfectly, and while NVIDIA has frequently floundered with their mix of the huge GT200 core on the one hand and constant G92 refreshes on the other, AMD have managed to look like the smarter, more forward thinking and customer-focused company, winning both mind share and market share in the process.
Of course, perceived leadership and a solid architecture doesn't mean that a company can rest on their laurels, and the coming weeks will see the launch of a couple of new parts designed to keep things ticking over for AMD while we wait for DirectX 11 to make its grand entrance as "the next big thing". First out of the gate is RV790 and the Radeon HD 4890, a simple refresh of AMD's RV770 core to boost clock speeds and keep it competitive with both NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 260 as well as the GeForce GTX 275 which launches (albeit largely on paper) today. Is it going to be enough to keep the punters coming to AMD for their high performance graphics needs over the next six months or so? We're here to take a look at Sapphire's reference based Radeon HD 4890 board to find out.