VisionTek HD 4890 OC Review

Author: Kevin Spiess
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Friday, August 7th, 2009
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Hardware/s/visiontekhd4890/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.

Today we will be checking out the VisionTek HD 4890 OC.

We have reviewed a number of HD 4890's in the last few months: such as the Sapphire HD 4890 Vapor-X, and the Powercolor Plus! HD 4890. But when it comes to high-end gaming video cards, here at Neoseeker, we always have room for more.

Today's piece of work features a nice looking custom cooler on it, and an overclock that is pretty serious. Best part of it all is that even though the HD 4890 is currently the fastest GPU on offer from ATI, this video card is not a totally unreasonable amount of money, selling for not much more than $200 bucks.

If you haven't been following hardware developments recently, or you are reading this review at some point in the hazy future when information on the current generation is not prevalent, let's really quickly outline the state of higher-end video cards available right now.

For ATI cards, we have today's top-dog RV790 powering the HD 4890, with 800 shader processors, and a core clock close to the incredible 1GHz mark. Below the HD 4890, we have the HD 4870. This the most popular ATI card out there at the moment -- prices on this part have become very reasonable, and there is a huge variety of options out in this class. Below that we have the HD 4850, which has been somewhat supplanted by the inexpensive (around $100) HD 4770 -- but this 40nm GPU video card has been short supply in most markets.

For the fastest ATI card you can get a hold of, the dual-GPU HD 4870 X2 still reigns king.

Likewise, on the Nvidia side, if you want big power in a single video card you can go with the dual GPU GTX 295.

The GTX 285 is maintaining Nvdia's flagship performance. While more expensive than the HD 4890, the GTX 285 can't be caught by any single-GPU ATI video cards very often. Below the GTX 285, competing with the HD 4890 and heavily overclocked HD 4870 cards, you have the GTX 275. The GTX 275 is selling for a very wide range of prices, ranging from around $200 to around $300, and offers solid, high-end framerates.

Below the GTX 275 we have perhaps the best-selling video card out right now, the GTX 260. Like the HD 4870, the second version of the GTX 260 (originally, the video card had 192 shader cores, and now it has 216) has benefited from big price cuts over the last six months. There is a huge selection of options to go with if you are thinking about a GTX 260, which further helps its popularity. 

Up to speed?

While their are some rumors that a new generation of cards isn't too far off from being launched, for now, it is hard to imagine a greater wealth of options being available as we approach the back-end of summer. Such as today's VisionTek HD 4890 OC. Let's check it out.

 

Impressions

Being the fastest single-GPU video card in ATI's line-up, the HD 4890 has inspired many companies to try to maximize performance with changes to the default design. And now VisionTek has decided likewise, with today's new OC edition. 

The VisionTek's HD 4890 OC has a custom cooler crafted by ZEROTherm -- a experienced company separate from VisionTek that has been building various circuit coolers for about a decade now. 

It's a nice looking cooler, with a black metal finish. We have four heat pipes, which bodes well -- two reach into the heat fins below the fan, two are more spread out, near the end of the fins. A 9-vane fan spins to keep the fins cool. Most of the time you will not hear the fan -- only when it kicks things into really high power mode will it become audible. 

In addition to the ZEROTherm cooler, VisionTek fixed their HD 4890 OC with a couple of well placed heatsinks. There is one covering the GDDR5 memory chips; one over the voltage regulators; and a metal brace running along the top of the card that helps cool the PCB. All of these bode well for overclocking potential, beyond the Visiontek's out-of-box overclock.

The stock HD 4890 video cards have come up against some fierce competition: from the ATI side, you have the cheaper and cheaper HD 4870's (and even cheap HD 4830 / HD 4850 / HD 4770 CrossFire pairings for the more adventurous), and from the Nvidia side of the going you have well-priced overclocked GTX 260 cards, and the GTX 275. It looks like this HD 4890 from VisionTek will be able to stay in the game -- we'll have to see how it does in the benchmarks before passing judgment.

Specifications 

Being VisionTek's 'OC' model of video card, there is of course, an overclock. The default clocks for a HD 4890 are 850 MHz for the core, and 975 MHz for the memory, while this one runs at 950 / 1050 MHz. Certainly a significant overclock that should noticely impact performance levels.

Like other members of the current generation of ATI video cards, the VisionTek HD 4890 OC support DirectX 10.1, better HD/Blu-Ray movie playback through the Unified Video Decoder engine, Shader Model 4.0, and support for CrossFireX, enabling you to connect your HD 4870 with up to 3 more if you so feel like it (and your motherboard supports this feature.)

 

 

GTX 280

GTX 260

GTX 285

 GTX 295

HD 4850

HD 4850 X2  HD 4870 HD 4870 X2  VisionTek     HD 4890 OC

Processing Cores

240

192

240

480*

800

1600* 800 1600* 800

Core Clock

602

576

648

576

625

625 750 750 950

Shader Clock

1296

1240

1476

1242

625

625 750 750 950

Memory Clock (effective) 

2214

1998 2484

1998

1986

1986 3600 3600 4200

Memory Interface

512 bit

448 bit

512 bit

896 bit*

256 bit

512 bit* 256 bit 512 bit*  256 bit

Memory Type

1024MB GDDR3

896MB GDDR3

1024MB GDDR3

1792MB GDDR3*

512MB GDDR3

2048MB GDDR3* 512MB GDDR5 2048MB GDDR5* 1024MB GDDR5

Fabrication Process

65nm

65nm

55nm 55nm

55nm

55nm 55nm 55nm 55nm

 * denotes cumulative effective efforts coming from 2 GPU's (i.e GTX 295: two GPUs with 240 cores equal 480)

Next we'll find out if we can push the VisionTek HD 4890 OC's overclock even further. 

 

 The VisionTek HD 4890 OC compared to a default-cooler HD 4890, and a 8800 GT

Box and bundle

VisionTek video cards come in fairly plain, one-size-fits-all black boxes. This doesn't bother us much though -- of course it is what is inside the box that counts.

The HD 4890 OC came with a fairly standard bundle: a molex-to-PCIE power adapter, a driver CD, a quickstart manual, a HDMI adapter, a DVI-VGA adapater, and some video cables. An average bundle, but one which include everything you need. Perhaps a CrossFire bridge would have been a nice touch though.

Overclocking

As mentioned, the VisionTek HD 4890 OC already benefits from a very healthy overclock, but judging from efficient the cooling mechanism is, and how capable the memory heatsinks appeared, we thought there might be even more room for improvement.

With the fan running at 100%, we settled upon a max overclock of 1015 MHz for the core, and 1135 MHz for the memory. This compares quite well to the factory overclock of 950 and 1050 (core / memory). While this doesn't beat our in-house HD 4890 OC record (which we achieved with the Sapphire HD 4890 Atomic), this is still a great overclock.

While this video card has a capable cooler, we do not recommend running your HD 4890 over 1000 for the core, or 1100 for the memory, for any extended period of time however. You don't want to damage such a game-killer of a GPU, do you?

 

Hardware

Video cards used in the benchmarks include a Palit 9600 GT Sonic, a Palit 9800 GTX, a Gigabyte GTS 250 OC, a Leadtek GTX 260 Extreme+, an ATI HD 4670, a VisionTek HD 4870, and a ATI HD 4830.

Software

For the drivers, all the ATI cards used the Catalyst 9.6 drivers, and all the Nvidia cards used Forceware 186.18 drivers.

Here is our current line-up of benchmarking programs:

3DMark06 and 3DMark Vantage: These popular synthetic benchmarking programs were used at a resolution of 1280x1024. Vantage was run in 'Performance' mode, and only the two GPU tests were used.

Bioshock: For this benchmark, all of the Detail settings were set to 'High'. All of the graphic option switches were set to 'On', with the exception of the following three settings: Vsync, Windowed mode, and Force Global Lighting. We used FRAPS to measure frame rate performance. The FRAPS run was 138 seconds, triggered from pulling the switch in the sub at game's beginning. The sub's dive involves many big models moving around, which should strain the GPUs and be a good measure of the game's engine.

Crysis: Warhead: Games don't get much more demanding than Crysis. We used the 'Gamer' pre-set level of details, which is the middle level setting out of 5 options. We ran the benchmark on the 'avalanche' map, using the FrameBuffer Crysis benchmarking tool, version 0.29, in DX10 mode.

Devil May Cry 4: This Capcom action game runs well on most systems; but at 'Super High' detail settings, even the fastest systems get taxed. This is built-in benchmark.

Enemy Territory: Quake Wars: We use this id FPS benchmark to test out higher resolutions. We used the highest possible detail settings. We tested the resolutions at 4x AA as well as at 8x AA. 16x AF was also used.  

Far Cry 2: This open-world FPS is great looking game that really puts the strain on a gaming rig. We used the built-in benchmarking tool, and the overall 'Very High' quality setting was used.

Furmark: This intensive, synthetic benchmark models a ring of fur. We benched at 1680x1050.

Street Fighter IV: You have probably heard of this famous fighting game. It has 3D graphics, but generally does not require much GPU horsepower to run well. We used Capcom's stand-alone PC benchmarking tool for our tests, and ran everything at its highest possible settings, using 4xAA, and the 'Watercolor' setting.

Unreal Tournament 3: We tested the game using a fly-through of the vehicle capture-the-flag map 'Suspense.'ShangriLa (map) running for 90 seconds. Details were set to 'High', and a AF setting of 16x was used.

World In Conflict: We used the built-in benchmark of the demo version of this game. We ran the benchmark in DX9 rendering mode, with a 'High' level of quality. For the AA testing, we used a setting of 4x, and a setting of 16x for AF.

If you would like any further information about our benchmark settings, feel free to ask us in the forums.

For the overall synthetic appraisal from Futuremark's Vantage, the VisionTek HD 4890 OC scores quite close to Nvidia's discontinued GTX 280 -- a video card that was selling for over $600 USD less than a year ago. It never surprises how fast hardware prices fall !

For the rest of the scores, the HD 4890 is all over the map: sometimes coming first, sometimes coming in further down the list. The architecture differences between Nvidia and ATI right now contribute to some comparable video cards excelling in some games, and not in others.

Furmark is one of the programs that runs better on ATI cards. Here the VisionTek HD 4890 excels two very hard-fought frames-per-second over the other HD 4890 in the mix, thanks to the healthy overclock. (The PowerColor Plus! HD 4890 is factory overclocked to 900 MHz, while the VisionTek HD 4890 OC runs at 950 MHz. )

If you play a lot of Bioshock, or plan to play much of the sequel, an Nvidia card might be your better bet here. The heavily overclocked VisionTek HD 4890 OC ties with the mildly overclocked LeadTek GTX 260 Extreme+ here. 

Wow. This might be one of our closest benchmarks ever. The GTX 275 beats out the VisionTek HD 4890 OC here, at top resolution, by a mere 0.02 frames. Not something you are liable to notice in a gaming sessions!

The GTX 285, while doing very well (as it should) at lower resolutions, inexplicably slows down at the highest res here.

The VisionTek HD 4890 OC, with AA enabled, runs with the pack of top-dogs here, putting it some fine numbers.

The VisionTek HD 4890 OC keeps up with Nvidia's big boys here, but the GTX 275, and the well overclocked GTX 260, take the slight edge.

The VisionTek HD 4890 OC has enough horsepower to keep things moving along smoothly in Far Cry 2.

Street Fighter IV looks great at around a 100 FPS maxed out. The VisionTek HD 4890 OC proves capable of getting you there.

 

While not pushing through the stratosphere like the GTX 285, the VisionTek HD 4890 can keep up with the GTX 275, and puts in another good performance here.

Temperature

To measure core GPU temperature, we used the hardware monitoring program in RivaTuner 2.24. The idle temperature was taken after leaving nothing running, on Vista's desktop, for a minute. The load temperature was taken after a 100,000ms run of Furmark at 1680x1050 with no AA.

ZEROTherm proves to be a great partner to work with for VisionTek, as their cooler is able to keep things a full 9° cooler than the PowerColor HD 4890 in the line-up, which sports a default design cooler. Considering the ZEROTherm doesn't make much noise either, and it is definitely a winner. 

Power Usage

To measure power usage, we used a Kill A Watt P4400 power meter. Note that the above numbers represent the power drain for the entire benchmarking system, not just the video cards themselves. For the 'idle' readings we measured the power drain from the desktop, with no applications running; for the 'load' situation, we took the sustained peak power drain readings at the end of 200,000ms run of Furmark at the maximum resolution.

Whoa! If the VisionTek HD 4890 OC proves to be a good seller, North America might have to build another couple of dams and nuclear reactors.

A whopping 444 Watts at load is a score we haven't seen in a while now. The VisionTek HD 4890 OC has the extra capacity for overclocking, but keeping that GPU well supplied with juice comes at a cost of big-time power use.

You'll want at least a well-made, non-bargain-price 500W power supply to power this beast. But something over 600W would be preferred.

Conclusion

There have been rumors and rumblings recently, throughout the tech press, that VisionTek has been suffering some financial hardships, and was in danger of going of business. These has been proven untrue -- the company has secured new funding, and is investing in a new building. And furthermore, when they make solid products such as today's HD 4890 OC, you can imagine that they will continue to be  in sound financial shape. 

The VisionTek HD 4890 OC is a nice piece of work. Two particular things that it has going for it are that the OC actually stands for something, and is a big overclock; and the ZEROtherm cooler. While we have seen some good home-grown custom coolers appear on VisionTek's products before, from the ones we have reviewed in the past (such as this one on a HD 3870 X2), have never thoroughly impressed us. Today's ZEROtherm cooler is quiet and cool (temperature wise) -- and hey, that's all we ask. Its good.

Other pro's for this card include high-end overclocking potential, VisionTek's Limited Lifetime warranty, and a price that is on the good side of average (currently this video card is a bit hard too find; we only located it for sale in the U.S at Best Buy, for $229.)

Marks off for the VisionTek HD 4890 OC could be taken for the excessive power requirements, and perhaps the fairly plain bundle.

It's cut-throat in the world of video cards at the moment. Whether to go with one model or another almost changes on a week-by-week basis now, as prices plummet. All-in-all though, if you are looking for a HD 4890, VisionTek's OC model is a good choice. 

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