GeForce GTX 275 and Radeon HD 4890 Round-Up

Performance Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary: As you may have already surmised, there is no clear winner here based solely on performance, as the cards traded victories in our benchmarks.  NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 275 romped the Radeon HD 4890 in the synthetic benchmarks, we saw huge wins in ET: Quake Wars, and lesser victories in Left 4 Dead, although the deltas increased as the resolution was raised.  Conversely, the HD 4890 was an ace in H.A.W.X.--at least when using DirectX 10.1--and had a slight lead in our Crysis testing. Far Cry 2 was a dead heat, with the top overclocked models finishing almost completely on par with each other.


With the victor varying from game engine to game engine, we turn our eyes next to the extra details.  Both series of cards are priced competitively and make multiple card configurations a very realistic option for more users.  In this category, we would have to lean in the direction of the GeForce GTX 275.  3DMark Vantage results are somewhat skewed in that the overall performance scores heavily favored for the GTX 275, but when we break down the performance increases in multi-GPU configurations as a percentage we see that the cards are scaling on similar levels, with the HD 4890 dropping off just a bit in CrossFireX.  Real world testing paints an entirely different picture, however.  Dual and 3-Way SLI combinations work best with Crysis, completely overcoming any advantage the Radeons might have had during single GPU testing.  A quick look at our results actually has three Radeon HD 4890s running closer to two GTX 275s in SLI.

Of course, not everybody will be going down the multi-GPU path.  So, we must factor in the power and temperature results to get a better picture of everyday operation.  At idle, browsing the web, checking your e-mail, or simply writing up your homework, etc., the GTX 275 consumes far less power than the HD 4890.  In most cases the difference is about 40W or more; much lower than the Radeons.  The GTX 275 also tends to run cooler at idle as well.  Cards like these are more geared for gamers, though, and load conditions are a better indicator of what they will be used for.  Here, under load, the Radeons are running not only cooler, but consuming slightly less power.  The exception to this rule is the MSI NGTX275 Twin Frozr OC, which is ALWAYS running cooler than the others, at idle or under load.  It also uses up the most power, due to the addition of the second fan and its higher clocks, but not exorbitantly so.

As we finally reach the conclusion of this article, we realize that with no clear cut winner emerging from the two camps in terms of performance alone, the final choice of what to buy will probably come down to price, overall value, and, of course, brand preference.  Price-wise, the cards are almost all within a few dollars of $250 with the exception of the 1792MB version from EVGA, which commands a premium for the additional memory at just over $300.  In our experience, that's money not spent wisely as we saw little in return to justify the higher price point.

MSI N275GTX Twin Frozr OC


Based on all the information that we've gathered, our opinion is that MSI's NGTX275 Twin Frozr OC is the stand-out card from this group.  The card is factory-overclocked, performance was very strong, and its cooler did a much better job than any of the reference models. Temperatures might not have been quite as low as advertised, but they were still lower than any of the other cards that we tested, and the speeds adjust properly to keep noise output low when full power is not a necessity.  Although already running at higher speeds from the factory, we also managed to obtain the highest GPU, Shader, and Memory speeds during our overclocking tests, most likely due in part to that extra cooling.  And somehow, checking the prices, the MSI NGTX275 manages to find itself as one of the best GTX 275 deals out there - currently retailing for ~$245 (after rebate).  All around a fine job by MSI.

  • Twin Frozr keeps temps cool
  • Comes pre-overclocked
  • Best overclocker overall
  • Lowest priced GTX 275 of our group


  • High power consumption while gaming
  • No games in the bundle
  • No DX 10.1 support


Our runner-up, if you will, comes from the red team in the form of HIS' Radeon HD 4890 Turbo.  No, it doesn't come with the highest clock speeds out of the gate - that title is held by Diamond - but with the word out on how well the RV790 overclocks, it's a no-brainer that many would-be buyers will want to overclock their own cards.  HIS' card had plenty of headroom to play with, moving up far beyond the final stable overclock that we achieved with the Diamond HD 4890, with the enhanced performance one might expect.  The current discounted price of this card also makes it one of the least expensive HD 4890's out there to boot (~$215). 

HIS Radeon HD 4890 Turbo


  • Comes overclocked out of the box
  • Lot of headroom for more overclocking
  • Currently one of the least expensive HD 4890s out there


  • No custom cooler such as HIS' own IceQ4
  • Not the fastest specs
  • Runs hotter and consumes more power than GTX 275 at idle


The Rest of The Pack:
So, where does that leave the rest of the cards? With prices for the majority of the cards each hovering around the mid-250s, and nothing else truly differentiating them performance or otherwise, we'd firmly group them all together as "HotHardware Approved".  Either camp's card will give you the performance you're looking for at a good price. The GeForce GTX 275 and Radeon HD 4890 are both very strong products in their price-range and gamers would be well served by either.  The rest of the equation comes down to cost, features, and your own personal usage model.  Either way, you almost can't go wrong...almost.  

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