As we've already mentioned, the initial line-up of Radeon HD 4800 series cards will be comprised of the Radeon HD 4850 and Radeon HD 4870. Some time later, factory overclocked versions of these cards are due to arrive, followed by the R700.
The Sapphire Radeon HD 4850 you see pictured here has a core GPU clock speed of 625MHz with 512MB of GDDR3 memory clocked at 993MHz. The memory is connected to the GPU via a 256-bit memory bus, which offers roughly 63GB/s at default clock speeds. And as you can see, the card is cooled by a single slot, copper fansink, that remained relatively quiet during our brief testing, but man did it get hot. The drivers reported an idle temperature of around 80'C, and the card was way too hot to touch even while sitting idle at the Windows desktop. During our testing, Sapphire sent an updated BIOS for the card that was designed to alter the fan-speed profile and thus lower temperatures, but due to time constraints we were unable to test it.
Because this was a retail-ready product form Sapphire, it also included a full accessory bundle. Included with the card were a driver CD, another CD that contained a copy of 3DMark06, and final pair of discs from Cyberlink with full versions of PowerDVD and DVD Suite, a user's manual, CrossFire bridge, a DVI-to-VGA adapter, a DVI-to-HDMI adapter, a component output dongle, and a 2GB Sapphire-branded flash drive. Pricing for the card is expected to be set at $199.
Until ATI's R700 arrives, which features a pair of RV770 GPUs on a single PCB, ala the Radeon HD 3870 X2, the Radeon HD 4870 is AMD's flagship Radeon HD 4800 series card. Technically, the GPU powering the 4870 is identical to the 4850. However, its implementation on the 4870 is totally different. For one, clock speeds are higher. On the 4870, the GPU is clocked at 750MHz and it is linked to cutting edge GDDR5 DRAMs clocked at 900MHz (1.8GHz x 2 = 3.6Gbps). In this configuration, the 4870's memory offers about 115.2GB/s of peak memory bandwidth. The card is cooled by a dual-slot fansink similar to the one found on the 2900 XT, but this version is much quieter for the most part. The Sapphire Radeon HD 4870's accessory bundle was identical to the 4850's, but pricing on this more powerful card is expected to be $299.
For a comparison of how these new Radeon HD 4800 series cards stack up again the Radeon HD 3870, we present to you this simple table. As you can see, the Radeon HD 4870 and 4850 share much in common with the Radeon HD 3870 but the number of stream processors and texture units have been beefed-up significantly. Although the RV770 is comprised of roughly 45% more transistors, AMD was able to increase the SP and TU counts more than two fold, while also implementing support for more advanced memory technologies and enhancing the capabilities of the AVIVO video processing engine.
Of course, NVIDIA caught wind of the impending Radeon HD 4800 series launch and was prepping a product to rain on AMD's parade. Out of the blue, a couple of graphics cards arrived here in the lab based on a "new" GPU from NVIDIA. What you see pictured above is the upcoming GeForce 9800 GTX+.
What does the "+" designate you ask? Well, this card is based on a 55nm version of the G92 - down from 65nm on previous products. The GeForce 9800 GTX+ will arrive with an MSRP of $229, which is much lower than what current GeForce 9800 GTX cards are selling for, so expect the GTX+ to push the current GTX down into the sub-$200 price bracket in the coming weeks (think mid-July) to compete directly with the Radeon HD 4850.
The GeForce 9800 GTX+ offers a GPU clock speed of 738MHz, a shader clock of 1836MHz, and 512MB of GDDR3 Memory clocked at 1.1GHz (2.2GHz DDR). Like the current 9800 GTX, the new card will support 2- and 3-Way SLI configurations. Because this card is due to hit very soon, we've included benchmark scored in single and dual-card configurations throughout the performance segment of this article.