Welcome to Part 2 of our Diamond HD4890-XOC complete examination. Karan did a great job with the preview and now we continue with the benchmarks. We are testing with Catalyst 9-4 which you can directly compare to the HD4870 and the HD4870-X2 to Catalyst 9-3 from our last article to judge the progress ATi is making with their drivers. We have also updated Nvidia’s drivers since last article’s 182.08 where we explored the question whether gamers should upgrade to a 64-bit operating system, or if Vista 64 is necessary or even better than Vista 32-bit, or not.
This review benches HD4890-XOC against last generation’s HD4870 as well as AMD’s fastest card HD4870-X2, and our standard GTX280. Our readers need to realize that our change to Vista 64-bit was not for gaming, but rather for having the ability to use more system RAM effectively. We determined that we are not losing anything – even though 32-bit applications have to run in a sort of “emulation layer” in the 64-bit version of Vista. From our testing, a couple of the 13 games that we regularly test are actually coded to run faster than 32-bit on Vista 64 and the ones that ran faster in Vista 32 did not make any practical difference or advantage. We did notice very little difference overall between using both operating systems with 4GB of system RAM.
This month, we also tested our Q9550S to finally answer the question: “Is a quad core CPU necessary to get the best out of today’s modern PC games, even paired with a powerful video card?” We learned that quad core is indeed very important to frame rates in games that utilize more than 2 cores. We did that review with Catalyst 9-2 and GeForce 180.08 and you will be able to follow the progress of both sets of vendor’s drivers from there into this review as we updated to Catalyst 9-3 and GeForce 180.20; and we are now testing with Catalyst 9-4 and GeForce 182.50 in this one featuring Diamond HD4890-XOC. You can actually follow this series of reviews all the way back to August 2008′s drivers from both vendors to see the progress they have made with drivers in relation to themselves and to each others performance.
We are continuing to consistently test at two of the most popular demanding wide-screen resolutions, 1680×1050 and 1920×1200, 4xAA plus 16xAF and with maximum DX10 details whenever it is available and with our Q9550S overclocked to 4.0 GHz. We are particularly going to pay attention to HD4890-XOC compared to the older HD4870 and we will even overclock further than the already factory overclocked Diamond version (925/1050 to 960/1055) and see how it scales in games.
Unfortunately, we did not get a good overclock on our HD4890′s vRAM. Fortunately, its core overclocked from Diamond’s 925 MHz to 960 MHz and will give you a good idea of how even further overclocked HD4890s will perform. We could have got more but the fan speed is annoying over 55% and we also did not want to volt mod. Generally, from our earlier reviews, we found that increasing the core speed – as long as it is matched well to memory speeds – is the most important part of the equation for increasing frame rates. We will also explore further HD4890 testing in CrossFire and also paired with HD4870 and HD4870-X2 with Catalyst 9-5 in our next review, and as always you can track driver progress from each vendor.