Breaking News

Sapphire HD 4890


Is that HD 4870 just a little bit weak? Are you wanting some more power to play your games? Well, why not try Sapphires new HD 4890!



Here we are, a fair deal after the introduction of the GTX280, and ATI has still not made a directly comparable card. I am here to say this is not the day. Looking ahead to the future, ATI has the whole 4900 series of names, if they so choose, to make even more powerful cards. As for now, ATI has settled right in the middle of the GTX280 and GTX260. This is a price point that Nvidia has no direct competitor, until now. Once Nvidia heard about the HD 4890, I am sure the idea of the GTX275 came to their minds. These two cards will battle it out in the same price point. While Nvidia cards have many tricks up their sleeves, you cant count ATI out on this one.

One thing I feel that ATI has always been lagging behind on is overclock ability. ATI follows suit of their AMD partner, but like AMD, they have improved their overclock ability with the HD 4890. Can this extra overclocking potential shoot the HD 4890 past the GTX280 in performance? There’s no use in sitting here contemplating it, let’s fire this baby up!

About Sapphire 





“Sapphire is ATI’s largest and best performing partner World Wide” Dave Orton, CEO ATI

Since ATI announced its manufacturing & distribution relationships with ODMs and AiBs in June of 2001, SAPPHIRE has been THE key ATI Graphics Boards Supplier worldwide and now stands poised and ready to capture the mainboard audience of those who seek a stable platform for their mission critical operations.

Captured within the circuitry of each of SAPPHIRE’s graphic cards and mainboards can be found the collective feedback from generations of enthusiasts in every market niche. Brought to life through performance oriented innovation and an emphasis on quality control, SAPPHIRE designs, manufactures and distributes the most complete range of ATI video boards and mainboards–from the mainstream products that afford the casual user the opportunity to enjoy enriched graphics and affordable platform solutions to the state-of-the-art technological marvels that drive fantasies to before unattainable thresholds of realism, and offer the pinnacle of stability and performance! SAPPHIRE refuses to compromise quality by cutting corners at the expense of its customers experience with their products. All ATI board designs undergo a stringent layout inspection by our staff of engineers to guarantee that they represent the usual high-quality image of ATI original boards. We also enjoy the resources of a highly innovative technical department that layout complex designs to accommodate different market niches as they arise. SAPPHIRE ATI video boards have long been the reliable choice for a great number of OEMs and large System Integrators in Europe, North America, Asia and Latin America based largely on our ability to meet a fast paced technical markets advancements as well as our means to produce large quantities of product.

All SAPPHIRE ATI video boards are manufactured under 100% ATI production criteria including QC and outgoing system. Our monthly video board production capacity can reach a lofty 1.8 million and often topples this landmark figure. Our factory has always been the major manufacturer on ATI boards for most of the top ten tier 1 OEMs worldwide. With this background, you should undoubtedly be guaranteed of the impeccable quality, production capacity and product reliability of all ATI video boards and mainboards from SAPPHIRE. Be they business oriented or something just off center of the crosshairs, Sapphire has a solution for you and we look forward to an exciting and prosperous relationship with you!

Pioneers in a new era of how data is displayed and games are played, Sapphire shepherds the performance oriented with ground-breaking solutions to an environment that remains in a constant state of flux and ultimate evolution. For over ten years Sapphire has held true to its unwavering commitment, the commitment to deliver the most feature rich and soundly engineered products. Because of Sapphire’s firm position on achieving excellence with each product that leaves out ISO9001 and ISO14001 certified factories, you can res assured that your customers will recognize YOUR commitment to selling only the highest of quality components.


Redefine HD Gaming

The ATI Radeon HD 4800 Series graphics cards boast up to 3 times the performance of the previous generation1 of GPUs and deliver a cinematic gaming experience. These graphics cards possess the same engine architecture as the award-winning ATI RadeonTM HD 4800 Series and can propel you deep into your game play with fast frame rates and high resolutions. Enhanced anti-aliasing (4X AA) and anisotropic filtering creates striking graphics with unparalleled realism so you can jack up the settings on the most demanding next-generation games. Play today while preparing for tomorrow with Microsoft DirectX® 10.1 and scalable ATI CrossFireXTM technology in dual mode.

Break-through Efficiency

Save time and energy with the ATI RadeonTM HD 4800 Series graphics cards which provide optimal performance, break-through efficiency and stability. These graphics cards are a great option for business users who engage in video conferencing or use creative applications that require fast frame rates and exceptional visual quality. With platform-independent intelligent power management, the ATI RadeonTM HD 4600 Series graphics cards deliver the power needed to blaze through even the most intense applications while intuitively conserving energy at idle or when demand is low. Expand your visual workspace with multi- monitor support for advanced multi- tasking to help you get more done in less time.

Go Beyond HD Video

Add an ATI Radeon HD 4800 Series graphics card to your PC and watch the latest Blu-ray and HD movies play with incredible fidelity1 – upscale to nearly twice the display resolution of HD content.2 Take full advantage of Blu-ray functionality with dual-stream, picture in picture (PIP) capabilities. Sophisticated new features within ATI AvivoTMHD technology give you the freedom and flexibility to edit videos and convert them to H.2.64 and MPEG-2 formats. Support for the latest audio visual interconnects ensures you can take advantage of the latest display technology.

HDMI Video and Audio

A system with an ATI RadeonTM HD 4800 Series graphics card can help enhance the HD entertainment experience by providing a seamless connection to an HDTV or home theater system. With built-in 7.1 surround sound audio (AC3 / DTS ), the new GPUs and graphics cards support single cable connection directly to a compatible HDTV, projector or receiver. This single cable carries both the HD video and 8 channel audio for a clean, high definition connection. Some graphics cards will be equipped with an HDMI connector, while others will output the HDMI signal using a special ATI Radeon DVI-I to HDMI adapter. These options give consumers more options and flexibility when connecting their PCs to monitors or home theaters for maximum enjoyment of HD content. The new GPU also supports xvYCC color which can display a wider range of color when connected to capable HDTVs.

Microsoft® DirectX® 10.1 support

ATI RadeonTM HD 4800 series GPUs offer full support for the new DirectX® 10 and DirectX® 10.1 API (Application Program Interface) from Microsoft; ready to meet the demanding needs of new, next generation games. DirectX 10 is the first totally new DirectX in the last 4 years and brings important graphics innovations that can be used by game developers for the next generation of games. DirectX 10 introduces crisp, never-beforeseen detail-rich images, visual effects and game dynamics capable of accurately simulating the real world. No matter which ATI RadeonTM HD 4600 Series GPU you choose, you can be assured that games will look as good as the developer intended!

ATI CrossFireXTM Technology

New ATI CrossFireXTM multi-GPU technology takes your gaming experience to the next level with more scalability, performance and compatibility. The technology combines the awe-inspiring capabilities of multiple ATI RadeonTM graphics cards and an ATI CrossFireX ready motherboard to meet the hard-core demands of your alternate reality. New ATI RadeonTM HD graphics cards are designed with an internal ATI CrossFireXTM Bridge Interconnect system to simplify installation. Experience stunning visual realism in today’s demanding 3D games with uncompromising image quality, especially on HD displays.

Microsoft® Windows Vista®

ATI RadeonTM HD 4800 series graphics cards provide support for the Microsoft® Windows Vista® operating system and take advantage of the Windows AeroTM graphical interface. You will be amazed by the dazzling 3D visual effects and have peace of mind that the ATI CatalystTM software and drivers are designed and thoroughly tested to ensure full compatibility and stability to help keep you up and running. All these new technologies and features make the ATI Radeon HD 4800 series of GPUs the ideal solution for ultimate HD gaming and HD video entertainment with the Windows Vista OS.



HD 4850 512MB
HD 4850 1GB
HD 4870 1GB
HD 4890
GPU Frequency
625 MHz
625 MHz
750 Mhz
850 Mhz
Memory Frequency
993 MHz
993 Mhz
900 Mhz
975 Mhz
Memory Bus Width
Memory Type
# of Stream Processors
Texture Units
Bandwidth (GB/sec)


As you can see the HD 4890 is the same thing as a HD 4870, but overclocked. This can have its advantages in games, as the higher clocks allow the card to perform better in games. I am a bit surprized that ATI did not lower the die size to 45nm, as this would have made the card produce less heat, and require less voltage. Overall this would have been a nice addition.

We like to check our GPU’s clocks wih the application GPUz before we start testing to ensure that the manufacturer didnt include higher clocks than on the box. This explains if a certain card that a manufacturer states is stock clocked is actualy overclocked to boost ahead of other GPUs of the same type. As you can see the clocks are bone stock.


Inside box

I think it is pretty obvious that this is not standard packaging. Since I received this before the release of the card I suspect that Sapphire was putting the finishing touches on their box design. Judging from past experiences with Sapphire, I can guarantee that the card will be packaged very nicely, so you can be sure that no harm will come to the card. I suspect that the plastic anti static bag will be the same, as I have received the same style from my last two Sapphire cards. Other than that, there was a plastic holder which, with some help from a couple of foam pieces, held the card in place.


If you have ever bought any other high end card from Sapphire lately this will look familiar. The bundle includes an Advanced key for 3DMark Vantage and some DVD software. This is the only time I have ever used the driver CD included with the card. I suggest you do the same since these drivers are a bit more optimized for the HD 4890 than Catalyst 9.3. Hopefully, Cat 9.4 will be out soon, which should bring higher scores for the card. One thing that puzzles me is the inclusion of two Molex to PCIE power connectors. I would not use one of these, let alone two of them, on the same card. I highly recommend you buy a new PSU if it does not include two PCIE power connectors. Also included is a manual which will help newcomers, along with adapters to use the card on RCA, Component, VGA, or HDMI devices.

Top of card

The top of the card looks remarkably similar to the HD 4870 reference design. Sapphire has chosen to not include their own design on the card this time around, most likely due to their rush to produce the cards and get them on store shelves. I would have liked to see Sapphire use their special heat sink that my HD 4870 uses. I feel that it would have been better able to control the heat of this card, along with being quieter. I will say though that the fan was superb, moving an incredible amount of air in my opinion.

Rear of card

As you can see, like the HD 4870, the HD 4890 uses two 6-pin PCIE power connectors. I was a little surprised at this, as I was expecting one 6-pin and one 8-pin connector. This really shows that ATI has been able to increase the power of the card without a huge raise in your power bill. I wish that ATI would have built the cooler a bit better. I feel that there is not enough metal in there and if there was some more, then temperatures would be lower, so I wouldn’t have to run the fan so high. So far, this is the only bad thing I can find with the card.

Front of card

As with every other high end card made, there are holes for rear exhaust. This allows the card to suck in cooler air and exhaust the hot air out of the case so there is no build up of heat. This can impact CPU and GPU temps by a fair margin. Also, a standard is the middle S-video connector. This connector has the ability to either run Composite, RCA, or S-video to your monitor or TV. Twin DVI connectors round out the deal and make this a pretty standard high end card.

Size comparison

I grabbed a couple of my extra Sapphire cards laying around to give you an idea on the size of the HD 4890. It happens to be the same exact length as the HD 4870, and longer than the HD 4650. The Sapphire HD 4850 Dual Slot Heatsink falls in between the size of the HD 4890 and HD 4650. A standard HD 4850 is the same length as the HD 4890. In future revisions, Sapphire should learn from their past and include the same heat sink that is on the HD 4870 on the HD 4890.

Testing & Methodology

To test the HD 4890, I used Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit. I went through each test three times to ensure that I had very accurate data. Doing the test multiple times ensures that an out layer is not in the data, thus skewing the final results. All of the graphics cards where tested on the same machine to make sure that there are no added benefits to one card. I have included a table with my full system specs.

Test Rig
Case Type Cooler Master Storm Scout
CPU Intel I7 920 @ 3.7
Motherboard Intel SmackOver X58
Ram (2×3) Mushkin HP3-12800 @ 1480, 9-9-9-24
CPU Cooler Cooler Master V10
Hard Drives WD SE16 640 GB
WD SE16 750 GB
Optical Lite-On DVD R/W

Sapphire HD 4890 1GB
Sapphire HD 4870 1GB
HIS HD 4850 1GB

Case Fans

One Top 140mm Exhaust
One Front 120mm Intake
One Rear 120mm Exhaust

Testing PSU

Corsair HX1000W

In 3DMark06, the default settings where used on a resolution of 1280×1024. For 3DMark Vantage I used the Performance preset. For Company of Heroes I used the maximum settings, including the Model Detail slider all the way to the right. For Crysis, I used the highest settings. I used the Ultra Detail setting in World in Conflict, along with 4xAA and 4XAF. I used the highest settings in Far Cry 2; along with the DX10 renderer. In Clear Sky I used the maximum settings and used the automatic tester to ensure that all the test runs where the same.

For Crossfire, the 512MB Crossfire was tested with a 512MB 4850, and a 1GB 4850. I then tested the 4870 1GB with the 1 GB 4850, and the 4870 with the 4890. As you will see this is a very comprehensive graph for high end ATI GPU’s, and will help immensely in showing how the HD 4890 stacks up against other ATI cards.

Synthetic Benchmarks & Games
3DMark 06
3DMark Vantage
Company of Heroes
World in Conflict
FarCry 2
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Clear Sky

3DMark 06

3DMark06 developed by Futuremark, is a synthetic benchmark used for universal testing of all graphics solutions. 3DMark06 features HDR rendering, complex HDR post processing, dynamic soft shadows for all objects, water shader with HDR refraction, HDR reflection, depth fog and Gerstner wave functions, realistic sky model with cloud blending, and approximately 5.4 million triangles and 8.8 million vertices; to name just a few. The measurement unit “3DMark” is intended to give a normalized mean for comparing different GPU/VPUs. It has been accepted as both a standard and a mandatory benchmark throughout the gaming world for measuring performance.

The HD 4890 gets off to a great start, landing right in between the HD 4870 and Crossfire HD 4850’s. I feel that this is exactly where ATI wanted to place the HD 4890. This card fills a gap in ATI cards that should net them some profits.

3DMark Vantage

For complete information on 3DMark Vantage Please follow this Link:

The newest video benchmark from the gang at Futuremark. This utility is still a synthetic benchmark, but one that more closely reflects real world gaming performance. While it is not a perfect replacement for actual game benchmarks, it has its uses. We tested our cards at the ‘Performance’ setting.

Currently, there is a lot of controversy surrounding NVIDIA’s use of a PhysX driver for its 9800 GTX and GTX 200 series cards, thereby putting the ATI brand at a disadvantage. Whereby installing the PyhsX driver, 3DMark Vantage uses the GPU to perform PhysX calculations during a CPU test, and this is where things get a bit gray. If you look at the Driver Approval Policy for 3DMark Vantage it states; “Based on the specification and design of the CPU tests, GPU make, type or driver version may not have a significant effect on the results of either of the CPU tests as indicated in Section 7.3 of the 3DMark Vantage specification and white paper.” Did NVIDIA cheat by having the GPU handle the PhysX calculations or are they perfectly within their right since they own Ageia and all their IP? I think this point will quickly become moot once Futuremark releases an update to the test.

Once again, the HD 4890 holds its place right between the HD 4870 and Crossfire HD 4850’s. This time it’s closer to the HD 4870 rather than in the middle.

Company of Heroes

Company of Heroes(COH) is a Real Time Strategy(RTS) game for the PC, announced on April, 2005. It is developed by the Canadian based company Relic Entertainment and published by THQ. COH is an excellent game that is incredibly demanding on system resources thus making it an excellent benchmark. Like F.E.A.R., the game contains an integrated performance test that can be run to determine your system’s performance based on the graphical options you have chosen. Letting the games benchmark handle the chore takes the human factor out of the equation and ensures that each run of the test is exactly the same producing more reliable results.

The HD 4890 really gets off the a great start in COH. It bests Crossfre 4850’s, not an easy accomplishment.

The HD 4890 loses the lead once again to Crossfire 4850. This puts it in its targeted price segment.

The HD 4890 stays in the same relative place as it did before. Maybe the ever demanding Crysis will change that.


Crysis is the most highly anticipated game to hit the market in the last several years. Crysis is based on the CryENGINE™ 2 developed by Crytek. The CryENGINE™ 2 offers real time editing, bump mapping, dynamic lights, network system, integrated physics system, shaders, shadows, and a dynamic music system, just to name a few of the state-of-the-art features that are incorporated into Crysis. As one might expect with this number of features, the game is extremely demanding of system resources, especially the GPU. We expect Crysis to be a primary gaming benchmark for many years to come.

The HD 4890 loses a bit of ground to Crossfire HD 4850 in Crysis. The HD 4890 still manages to stay ahead of the HD 4870.

The HD 4890 stays in the same relative spot when the resolution is increased.

The HD 4890 loses a bit of ground to the 4850 Crossfire when the resolution is further increased. Looks like Crysis was not the best showing of the HD 4890.

World in Conflict

World in Conflict is a real-time tactical video game developed by the Swedish video game company Massive Entertainment, and published by Sierra Entertainment for Windows PC. The game was released in September of 2007. The game is set in 1989 during the social, political, and economic collapse of the Soviet Union. However, the title postulates an alternate history scenario where the Soviet Union pursued a course of war to remain in power. World in Conflict has superb graphics, is extremely GPU intensive, and has built-in benchmarks. Sounds like benchmark material to us!

The results here look pretty similar to the Crysis results, but the minimum frame rate is much closer here.

When the resolution is increased the HD 4890 loses ground to HD 4850 Crossfire.

Now, this is better! The HD 4890 clearly came back and alomost matched HD 4850 Crossfire.

Far Cry 2

Far Cry 2, released in October 2008 by Ubisoft, was one of the most anticipated titles of the year. It’s an engaging state-of-the-art First Person Shooter set in an un-named African country. Caught between two rival factions, you’re sent to take out “The Jackal”. Far Cry2 ships with a full featured benchmark utility and it is one of the most well designed, well thought out game benchmarks we’ve ever seen. One big difference between this benchmark and others is that it leaves the game’s AI (Artificial Intelligence ) running while the benchmark is being performed.

Unfortunatly, the HD 4890 could not keep up the great showing in Far Cry 2.

With a resolution increase the HD 4890 goes down a bit, more closer to the HD 4870.

Seems like in the extrememly high resolutions the HD 4890 is able to catch up to HD 4850 Crossfire. Let’s see if the HD 4890 continues this trend.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Clear Sky

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Clear Sky is the latest game from the Ukrainian developer, GSC Game World. The game is a prologue to the award winning S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernoble, and expands on the idea of a thinking man’s shooter. There are many ways you can accomplish your mission, but each requires a meticulous plan, and some thinking on your feet if that plan makes a turn for the worst. S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is a game that will challenge you with intelligent AI, and reward you for beating those challenges. Recently GSC Game World has made an automatic tester for the game, making it easier than ever to obtain an accurate benchmark of Clear Skie’s performance.

With the first round of tests we see that S.T.A.L.K.E.R. has very good scaleing with multiple GPU’s.

When the resolution is increased S.T.A.L.K.E.R. still scales just as well.

This game is amazing with scaleing! No other game has had this great of scaleing, as for the HD 4890, it falls right in between the HD 4850 Xfire and HD 4870.

Crysis Warhead

Crysis Warhead is the much anticipated sequel of Crysis, featuring an updated CryENGINE™ 2 with better optimization. The primary reason for this game was to put out a better image for Crysis, as the first game needed huge resources to run. While Warhead is more optimized, the current technology has not advanced enough to play the game at higher settings. It was one of the most anticipated titles of 2008.

Once again the HD 4890 comes right between the HD 4870 and HD 4850 Xfire. The HD 4890 was able to match the minimum frame rate of the HD 4850 Xfire.

When the resolution is increased, the HD 4890 lags behind a bit, letting the HD 4870 catch it in the minimum frame rate.

The HD 4890 gains back some ground, once again mathing the minimum frame rate of the HD 4850 Xfire. It still falls short of matching the HD 4850 Xfire.


ATI has really made a loud fan on the HD 4890. Even at as little as 50% the fan was louder than many people can bear. This however did not stop me from turning it up. To obtain the idle temperature, I let the computer sit and idle for about an hour before taking the temperature. For the load temperature, I booted up Furmark 1.6.5 and let it work for about another hour and then took down the highest temperature. I left the fan on auto control, so the average user’s temperatures would be recorded.

Idle Load
52°C 82°C

When the fan speed was brought up to 50%, the load temperature of the GPU then dropped to 70°C. This is a pretty big temperature drop, but the card is a bit on the loud size with 50% fan. In fact, this is probably the loudest card I have ever owned. I leave mine set to 50%, which is loud, but not overly so. When the fan is set to 50%, the highest temperature I saw was 65°C, far cooler than the auto fan. This is enough to put the card well into the green zone as far as temperatures go.


For overclocking, I kept on raising the core speed of the card until it became unstable and then preceded to increase the RAM. Once the card artifacted I backed down the clocks a bit to ensure stability. For overclocking I used the built in overclocking function in Catalyst v.(?). I then tested the card’s overclock with a hour or so of playing Crysis to ensure that the card’s overclock was completley stable.


I was able to get 950MHz core and 1100MHz memory stable. That’s not a bad result. In fact, it’s far better on air than any other HD 4800 series card. The card was a little toasty at 75°C with 50% fan, but that’s nothing to really be worried about.


Overclocking really helps the HD 4890 gain some serious ground on HD 4850 Crossfire. I was able to run Vantage all the way up to 1000 MHz on the core, which gave me a GPU score of about 12.1k. That puts this card just a tad behind HD 4850 Crossfire. With the right cooling I am sure 1000 MHz is possible to run 24/7.


Many of you will say, “All the HD 4890 is, is an overclocked HD 4870”. In some regards you are right. But who honestly runs 850MHz core on an HD 4870 without extreme cooling? Not even my non reference HD 4870 can get through a round of Vantage, let alone, being stable. Even if you somehow manage to reach 850MHz core, no HD 4870 will be stable at 950MHz core without a serious voltage modification. When you put the HD 4890 into perspective, you can really see the value of this card.

Not only is the card on the heels of HD 4850 Crossfire, it directly competes with the new Nvidia GTX275. The real test of the HD 4890 is if it can keep up with the advances Nvidia has brought to the graphics card market. With ATI set to introduce coding which takes the physics caclulations away from the CPU, ATI might just have enough to hold off the big N. Also, take in mind the HD 4890 has two other things the GTX275 does not have, Shader model 4.1 and DirectX 10.1. Both of these can dramatically improve game performance providing the game supports them.

The HD 4890 does all that ATI promised it would. zit fills a gap in ATI’s lineup, competes with the new GTX275, and puts ATI on the map for high graphics overclocking. The price is also great. At only $250 USD this is a great deal. It happens to be tied for the cheapest HD 4890 and on Newegg you can get a $20 MIR, making the card just $230! All said, the HD 4890 is a terrific piece to the ATI puzzle, and is worthy of the title of the most powerful single GPU from ATI.


We are trying out a new addition to our scoring system to provide additional feedback beyond a flat score. Please note that the final score isn’t an aggregate average of the new rating system.

  • Performance 10
  • Value 10
  • Quality 10
  • Warranty 8
  • Features 9
  • Innovation 7


+  Powerful
+  Quad Crossfire Ready
+  Just $250 USD


  No Cool Sticker
  Reference Heat Sink A Little Lacking

With a final score of 9 out of 10 the Sapphire HD 4890 receives the Bjorn3D Golden Bear Award.




Check Also

Fifine Ampligame A6T

Introduction Much like the webcam, the USB microphone has become a rather indispensable tool in …

Cooler Master Hyper 622 Halo

Introduction The liquid cooling is the go to cooler for the PC enthusiasts who want …

Leave a Reply

instagram default popup image round
Follow Me
502k 100k 3 month ago