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ATI Radeon HD 4890 & NVIDIA GeForce GTX 275
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by Rob Williams on April 3, 2009 in AMD-Based GPU, NVIDIA-Based GPU

It’s not often we get to take two brand-new GPUs and pit them against each other in one launch article, but that’s what we’re doing with ATI’s HD 4890 and NVIDIA’s GTX 275. Both cards are priced at $249, and both also happen to offer great performance and insane overclocking-ability. So coupled with those and other factors, who comes out on top?

Mirror’s Edge

What was the last first-person game on the PC to truly blow you away, or offer some unique gameplay experience? New first-person shooters come out quite often, and while some show off some new features and gameplay twists, few of them truly regenerate the genre like we’d hope. Mirror’s Edge is a title that strived to do just that, and for the most part, I’d have to say they’ve done a great job.

First and foremost, Mirror’s Edge isn’t so much a first-person shooter as it is a first-person adventure game, because for the most part, combat isn’t the main focus. Throughout some of the few levels I played through, at times there could be a full ten-minute span without even seeing a single person, which is actually somewhat refreshing. The game focuses on figuring out the best way to get from point A to point B, heavily utilizing the parkour style of travel.

Most levels in Mirror’s Edge offers a similar level of system-intensity, so I based our choice on one that was fun to play through, and one that allowed an easily-replicable run-through. It takes place in chapter six, “Pirandello Kruger”, and Checkpoint A. We begin in a large building, behind a window, looking out at the city. Our run-through takes us outside of this building, down to the street and up to the top of the building shown to the right in the above screenshot.

Thanks in part to NVIDIA’s optimizations for this title, and the apparent speed differences over the HD 4890, it comes out on top again, in all of the resolutions. Both cards happen to perform quite well though, and the 47 FPS the HD 4890 sees at 2560×1600 proved almost as smooth as the gameplay that the GTX 275 offered.

Mirror’s Edge – PhysX Testing

If there’s one title that’s been burned in editor’s brains over the course of the past few months, it’s this one. NVIDIA has been quite proactive in making sure we know how great the game is, and with its heavy use of PhysX, it’s not hard to understand why they believe that. Luckily though, as I mentioned above, the game is actually quite fun, and unique, so I think it deserves to be pushed a little bit.

Since Mirror’s Edge is really the first commercial game to feature PhysX use throughout, I thought it’d be appropriate to test each card with the technology enabled, since it’s generally going to be something that people would want. Bear in mind, though, that ATI cards are automatic losers, simply because they are unable to accelerate PhysX on the GPU like NVIDIA’s cards can. For that reason, their cards are going to be unable to handle PhysX computation reliably at any resolution, regardless of the CPU. Using the old-school PhysX dedicated card would rid this problem, however.

These results are quite impressive, to be honest. Taking a look at the 2560×1600 chart, we can see that the GTX 275 surpassed the performance of the GTX 285, which I’m assuming is thanks to some tweaks in some recent drivers. Either way, the GTX 285 is looking sillier with each graph.

Graphics Card
Best Playable
Avg. FPS
NVIDIA GTX 295 1792MB x 2
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 8xAA
118.680 FPS
NVIDIA GTX 285 1GB x 2
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 8xAA
88.346 FPS
Zotac GTX 295 1792MB
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 8xAA
70.562 FPS
NVIDIA GTX 275 896MB
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 8xAA
54.090 FPS
NVIDIA GTX 285 1GB
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 8xAA
48.385 FPS
Palit GTX 280 1GB
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 8xAA
44.806 FPS
Sapphire HD 4890 1GB
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 8xAA
44.531 FPS
Diamond HD 4870 1GB
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 8xAA
41.452 FPS
XFX GTX 260/216 896MB
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 8xAA
38.122 FPS
Palit HD 4870 X2 2GB
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 8xAA
35.297 FPS
NVIDIA GeForce GTS 250 1GB
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA
35.756 FPS
Sapphire HD 4830 512MB
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA
32.589 FPS
ASUS GeForce 9800 GTX+ 512MB
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 0xAA
46.250 FPS
Sapphire HD 4670 512MB
1920×1200 – Max Detail, 0xAA
39.204 FPS

In the end, both cards offered great performance at 4xAA and 8xAA, and the latter didn’t show too much of an overall performance drop. I should note that if PhysX is desired, at 2560×1600 4xAA, the game is fully playable on the GTX 275.