And the Best Buy is...Putting the Radeon HD 4890 and GeForce GTX 275 head to head ended up being an interesting matchup. But before we move to draw some conclusions you should keep in mind what were the games we tested with and the quality settings used.
In a few cases we found that reducing the AA/AF levels would give an edge to one card or the other, so we just stuck to our usual method of testing high-end graphics cards, and that is maximizing the image quality to its highest possible setting.
The overall balance favored the GeForce GTX 275. Of a total of twelve games tested, only three were dominated by the Radeon HD 4890. Also, at 2560x1600 the GeForce GTX 275 was over 20% faster in four of these games. The GeForce GTX 275 was most dominant in Call of Duty, Company of Heroes, Crysis Warhead, and Left 4 Dead. It was also 10% faster in Supreme Commander and 17% faster in Far Cry 2.
It should be noted that the GeForce GTX 275 performed better in Crysis Warhead when compared to the original Crysis, because we tested it with AA/AF disabled. Using mild anti-aliasing levels in Crysis had both graphics cards delivering the same level of performance.
The Radeon HD 4890 performed best in three titles, namely Tom Clancys H.A.W.X, Fallout 3, and Enemy Territory Quake Wars. The Radeon HD 4890 was particularly devastating in H.A.W.X delivering an astonishing 64% more performance at 2560x1600. The Fallout 3 results were also very favorable as the Radeon HD 4890 was 55% faster.
Although the Radeon HD 4890 showed strong gains in a few select games, it was the GeForce GTX 275 that consistently delivered excellent performance.
Looking back to our testing results we see that the GeForce GTX 275 slots in between the GTX 260 and GTX 285 graphics cards. In fact, a number of tests saw the GeForce GTX 275 performing closer to the GTX 285. Meanwhile, the old GeForce GTX 260 was able to rub shoulders with the new Radeon HD 4890 in a number of tests.
Even when taking overclocking into account, we don't feel the HD 4890 is worth the price premium over the Radeon HD 4870. For now we feel the Radeon HD 4870 ($185) and GeForce GTX 260 ($180) are far better value alternatives, while the GeForce GTX 275 is the best graphics card $250 can get you.