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ATI Radeon HD 4850 X2 vs. Nvidia GeForce GTX 280

ATI unveiled the opponent to the GeForce GTX 280 from the beginning: the cheaper and less advanced Radeon HD 4850 X2 was announced along with the Radeon HD 4870 X2. It uses GDDR3 memory instead of the latter’s super-fast and expensive GDDR5.

Unfortunately, the new card didn’t make its market debut quickly. Announced on August 12, 2008, together with the 4870 X2, it only came to market in November. Graphics card makers delayed with launching it into mass production (see this story for details). This delay may have been due to the apprehensions that the new card might have low performance if only one of its GPUs was active. This can happen to a homogeneous multi-GPU system if it lacks support on the side of the driver or gaming application. Anyway, the Radeon HD 4850 X2 is being manufactured now. And since the recommended price of the new card is $350-399, Nvidia has got a reason to worry because the GeForce GTX 280 seems to have exhausted every means for reducing the manufacturing cost.

In this review we will compare the top-performance solutions from ATI and Nvidia belonging to the same price category to give the final answer to the question whose development strategy is the optimal and winning one. The two camps are represented by a dual-core Sapphire HD 4850 X2 2G/1G GDDR3 and a Leadtek WinFast GTX 280. Sapphire’s card has lower GPU frequencies and GDDR3 memory but will the Leadtek make use of these weaknesses to gain advantage? The fight is going to be the more interesting because our testbed has been modified to meet today’s requirements.

 
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