Recently I wrote about Nvidia's new GPU series, the GTX 260/280 cards. These beasts cut a swath through the current video cards, handily stomping anything that had come before, but they did so at a high price, $400 and $650, respectively. Gamers appreciate these cards, but often it is hard for anyone to justify so much money on a single component when an entire computer can be purchased for the same amount.
Now, various sites have released benchmarks of the AMD 4850, and it has me happily surprised.
I spent a large enough word count getting into GPU specifics last time, so I'll just outline the major points of this card. First, it performs very much like an Nvidia 9800GTX, which (before today) ran a hefty $300. That should stop most people right there, a 200 dollar card offering the same (or better) performance as a 300 dollar card. Well, in an attempt to rain on AMD's parade, Nvidia has drastically cut the price of the 9800GTX down to $200! So really, considering the prices, the real fight is between the AMD 4850 and the Nvidia 9800GTX. They trade blows in most benchmarks, in some Nvidia pulls ahead and in others AMD is the champ, but in most cases performance differs by a small margin (10% or less). That said, the 4850 runs slightly cooler and requires slightly less wattage than the 9800GTX. It also only requires 1 six pin power supply connector, while the 9800GTX requires 2.
To the right, you can get a taste of how well the 4850 performs on the GPU-eating game we call Crysis (at various resolutions). Take a look at how well the 4850 performs not only against the 9800GTX but also against its fairly successful predecessor, the 3870.
Soon the 4870 will be released, offering MUCH faster memory and higher clock speeds. Some (highly excitable) reviewers have estimated as much as a 40% performance increase compared to the 4850. Soon after that will come the 4870X2, fusing two 4850 cores into a single piece of PCB board, and possibly beating the GTX280 to a pulp. Still, the price wont be quite as sweet, most estimations of the 4870 price range between $250 and $300. This will make for an interesting show in the coming months.
AMD/ATI has really blown the lid off this generation's GPU battle. They have a competitive GPU at a competitive price with competitive features, and it is smaller, cooler, and slightly quieter and more power efficient than the 9800GTX. We haven't seen this level of competition for almost 2 years now, and I'm glad it has returned.