At the heart of each of the Radeon HD 4890 video cards here is the RV790 GPU, packed with 959 million transistors and 800 shader processors. Default specs call for an 850 MHz core clock, and 1GB of GDDR5 running at 975 MHz (3900 MHz effective). The improvements over the HD 4870 don't just stop there, however. With numerous reports of hot running HD 4870 cards, ATI has decided to add an additional heatpipe to the cooler's construction. All three of the cards we will take a look at use this same cooler, although their core GPU speeds differ.
Diamond's Radeon HD 4980 XOC is the highest clocked card out of the box, with the GPU set at 925 MHz and the memory clocked at 1050 MHz. Everything about the package screams Radeon red, from the box with a stern-looking Ruby to the PCB and HSF combo to the getting started packet within. Also included in the box is the user's manual, driver CD, Crossfire Bridge, DVI to VGA adapter, DVI to HDMI adapter, HDTV Component-out cable and S-Video adapter. Although S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Clear Sky is featured prominently on the back of the box, no game is actually included. Perhaps to make up for this, a coupon is included instead offering 50 free downloads of DRM-free songs and a free audiobook. Did we mention these were all "free"?
The translucent covering over the heatsink allowed us to peek into the innards where we could see the three heatpipes leading away from the GPU into the massive block covering the majority of the face. The heat radiates out to the fins which are then cooled by airflow from the rear-mounted fan and then warm air is expelled out of the system. As with all the cards, both Radeon and GeForce, twin connectors are found on the top of the card for CrossFireX and SLI, respectively, as well as two 6-pin power connectors at the other end.
HIS' Radeon HD 4890 Turbo was up next, and in direct irony to the aforementioned lack of included game, a sticker on the cover of the box indicates that there is, indeed, a copy of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Clear Sky bundled within. Another sticker to the right marks this model as the 'Turbo' edition - 900 MHz engine clock and 1000 MHz for the memory (effectively, an even 4Gbps). The box is thin and other than listing some of the salient points of the HD 4890 only has a green shuriken-like graphic on the cover.
Inside, HIS' take on the Radeon HD 4890 looks just like Diamond's, only with their own branded graphic placed on a blue starry background. Considering the similarity between the HD 4870 and HD 4890 coolers, we were a bit disappointed that HIS hadn't already come up with something a little more their own, such as their customized IceQ 4+ cooler that enhances performance and is also UV sensitive. We're sure that in their initial push to get a card out there they simply stuck with the reference cooler and will update the line, undoubtedly with even higher speeds.
XFX's Radeon HD 4890 Extreme Edition showed up in the stoutest package of all - it looks like there's just enough room to carry the card and the accessories and nothing else. We can actually appreciate it as it not only saves room on our shelves, but cuts down on the unnecessary waste that bigger packages create when it's time to toss the box in the trash. Red and grey metallic themes run throughout the package with minor call-outs regarding their 5-Star Support and the 1GB of GDDR5 memory. Two additional decals also point out that this card is XFX's Extreme Edition and comes with a copy of Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. in it (which we then turned around and used for benchmarking purposes).
Extreme Edition is something of a misnomer, as the speed boosts are relatively tame: 875 MHz on the core and no change on the memory over reference specs. To be fair, however, XFX does have two models with increased overclocks dubbed XXX and their new Black Edition - complete with a 1GHz GPU. The bundle that you'll get in any of those packages is the same: a