Video Wars: AMD-ATI RV770 vs. Nvidia GT200

Wow. Just Wow.
Wow. Just Wow.

The video card world is one of the most extreme manifestations of what is already the Bizarro alternate dimension of high technology. Most industries are happy to settle with a three, four or even longer product cycle to allow enough market penetration to be able to amortize the research and development that went into the unit. This product cycle is sometimes longer... Honda is still marketing a 125 single and 250 twin motorcycle engine designed in the early 1960s and many current model Buick owners are not aware that their 3800 V6 engine was designed and launched in 1961. Yet in the high tech world, product cycles rarely if ever reach the one year mark and are sometimes measured in weeks. This blinding pace of model introductions which trump and effectively invalidate most of their current product lineup was recently taken to new heights by Nvidia and AMD-ATI.

Nvidia recently introduced their GT200 Graphics Processing Unit (GPU), which was incorporated in their series of high end video cards, the GeForce GTX 280 and GeForce GTX 260. When Nvidia says high end they really mean high high high end, as the GTX 280 sells for almost $700 and can be set up in a dual or triple card configuration to suit those game players who simply have to run Crysis at 87.6 zillion frames per second and won't let a paltry $2,000 video card budget get in the way.

Within a matter of a couple of weeks, AMD-ATI (whose main raison d'etre lately has been to entertain industry watchers about what lame crippled junk they could try to foist on the market), absolutely rushed to market the RV770 GPU which although not designed to go toe to toe with Nvdia's much more powerful and pricey GT200 series, came in at an extremely attractive price point. The Radeon HD 4870 and its little brother the Radeon HD 4850 were not overly remarkable from a sheer standard setting performance standpoint, but were priced well below comparable cards in the Nvidia product line.

Nvidia didn't take this sudden launch from its "going down for the third time" competitor lightly and absolutely hurled into the marketplace the 9800 GTX+, which is a 55nm die shrunk and higher clocked 9800 GTX, while chopping its prices down so hard that anyone who had just purchased a 9800 GTX will want to sue.

The Radeon HD 4870 and 4850's main feature set includes 800 stream processors, 40 texture units and 16 ROPs, with a 956,000 transistor count. The only real difference between the 4870 and the 4850 is that the core clock is slowed down to 625 MHz in the latter and that the big brother features 3600 MHz data rate GDDR5 memory as compared to the lil' guy's 1986 MHz data rate GDDR3. This setup allows for memory bandwidth of 115.2 GB/sec in the senior 4870. Compare these specs to AMD-ATI's previous high end card the Radeon HD 3870 which had a measly 320 stream processors and 16 texture units on a bandwidth of 72 GB/sec even when it was running at least at 775 MHz, and its quite evident that the 48xx series represents a massive leap forward in performance.

Nvidia maintains the performance crown however. This new GT200 architecture allows for a memory bandwidth of 111.9 GB/sec in the junior GTX 260 and a staggering and breathtaking 141.7 GB/sec in the gargantuan GTX 280! Yikes! Combine this with the 448 bit memory bus width in the GTX 260 and the 512 bit memory bus in the GTX 280, they leave the 256 bit memory bus width cards such as Nvidia's 9800 GTX and 9800 GTX+ as well as all the ATI Radeons in their dust.

AMD-ATI has decided that since it simply can't compete in the technological sweepstakes any longer, it will try to take down arch-enemy Nvidia on price point. Net street prices of $169 have already been spotted on the Radeon HD 4850 and it's likely to be seen south of $150 soon. As much as I can rail against the prospect of anyone buying a product from a company that is in such horrible financial and executive shape as AMD-ATI, even I have to begrudgingly admit that it represents the best bang for the video buck on the market today!


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Comments 15 comments

bluestar 7 years ago

sir, i was thinking of buying nvidia gtx 260 but i don't know whether it will be compatible with my pc's mobo which is M2N-MX SE plus.i know it is a very low performing mobo and not very good for gaming.can you help me out??

My pc has processor AMD athlon x2 2.2GHz and 2gb ddr2 ram.Should i also upgrade these?or upgrading my graphic card from nvidia 7300 to gtx 260 will be fine enough?i am not fan of either intel or amd but i kinda like all of your hubs(very informative).every single piece of your advice will be highly appreciated.


Hal Licino profile image

Hal Licino 7 years ago from Toronto Author

Hi, bluestar. The essential incompatibilities go beyond your motherboard. Although they all should work together, in the sense that they will POST, it would be like putting a locomotive engine in a Tata Nano. The bottlenecks created by your processor, low RAM and also your mobo, will crimp the visible performance of the card. I strongly suggest that you do not take this step, instead, use the funds to buy a lesser video card but upgrade the rest of your system.

bluestar 7 years ago

Oh thank you Sir, I got the point. I appreciate that you took a moment out of your time to reply to me and I will upgrade my PC. But if I still want to build a house(system) for GTX 260 what can you advice?


P.S. I am a student of Computer Engineering branch and I really like to read your hubs everyday.Your knowledge is so much and I really want to say you are a "Learned" person.That means a lot in India.

Hal Licino profile image

Hal Licino 7 years ago from Toronto Author

Thank you so much for the compliments. I appreciate it. My suggestion for a GTX260 would be that depending on your budget you opt for a Core i5 and go for the maximum complement of 4 GB RAM. Stick with the 32bit Operating Systems and you should find that your system provides you the best performance/price ratio.

Hal Licino profile image

Hal Licino 7 years ago from Toronto Author

Hey, you little dork from proxied IP: Maddie Ruud's been tipped off to you and your account should vanish soon. Now bug off.

bluestar 7 years ago

Of course this is a great guide.

Okay one last question on this topic...

What would you prefer?

Nvidia 9600(2GB) OR Nvidia 9800(512Mb)?

More ram is better or the number?

As 9800 comes only with 512 Mb(if i am not wrong)

This is really confusing.

Thank you for every bit of help you provided me.

Hal Licino profile image

Hal Licino 7 years ago from Toronto Author

Never mind that one comment before. It's some moron who has used a variation of my name and set up several Hub accounts. He'll be squashed like the little bug he is soon. :)

The GeForce 9800 has three separate versions, the GT, GTX, and the GX2 which is a dual GPU configuration. Let's leave that one aside as it's generally an overkill card. The GT is essentially an 8800 and I had one once and absolutely loved it. It's available in 512MB and 1GB and I would strongly recommend the larger VRAM. The GTX and the GTX+ (minor variant) are only available in 512MB. However, this is straight from factory specs. Having said that, there are endless variations on these cards, and there are many manufacturers who OC them and add lots more RAM so the performance is all over the map. I have a preference for factory stock as I tend to believe that they are more reliable in the long run. Jetway, for example, has a 9600 2GB card that actually runs quite well so big upgrades can be done successfully. Not so much in the OC dept., but that's another story. Unless you're really running some outrageous games or have incredibly high requirements for 3D resolution and rendering, I'd say that 1GB is the sweet spot right now. For the vast majority of uses anyone is likely to confront, I'd say 9800 1GB is the way to go. Thanks!

Bluestar 7 years ago

sir, i built up my cpu like this

processor- core i5

Ram- 2 GB

Motherboard- DP55WB

Graphic card- GTX 260

PSU- 600 watts

HDD-500 Gb

i got it around 920 USD(42000 INR)

now i have a huge problem.i updated all the drivers yet whenever i run a game it crashes after sometime(either bluescreen appears or the graphics go very bad ending the game in non-responding mode) Now i dont know what is this problem.i just got my new cpu yesterday. It is very sad.


Hal Licino profile image

Hal Licino 7 years ago from Toronto Author

The configuration looks good, and the motherboard is Intel so it's solid. BSODs can be next to impossible to diagnose remotely, especially without knowing the OS, game, antivirus running, etc. Also, downloaded software is often corrupted. You should never run anything on your computer that isn't original.

Back up and uninstall everything. Reformat and reinstall the OS from original disk (no TinyXPs, etc). Install the game first. Run it for a while. If it doesn't BSOD, then start adding software one at a time, while always testing. When it BSODs, you may have found your software culprit.

If that doesn't do it, now start checking the hardware. Run a CPU temp utility and check that the Load and Idle heat is within normal operating range. Take off all peripherals and try the game. Take out the RAM, change its position, and reseat, then try the game. You're going to have to run through all your hardware as some component may be defective.

It's important to do the steps one by one otherwise you'll never figure out what is doing what. It takes time. I've often spent an entire weekend to find the source of a problem. But you always DO find it if you're patient! :)

Bluestar 7 years ago

OS- Windows 7 ultimate

antivirus- avast pro

and many other softwares like nero 9, ms office 2007 etc.

up to date windows 7.

now a new problem has occured my nvidia drivers(lATEST) stop working and then they restart.

i have checked gpu temp,it is within limits

now i have to look again into the cpu(its so ....)

well anyways thanx for the advice(you are always handy)

thank you sir.

Bluestar- Punjab(India)

Hal Licino profile image

Hal Licino 7 years ago from Toronto Author

First of all uninstall the antivirus. Those types of programs cause more trouble than any other type. Are the NVidia drivers the very latest from their website? How is your CPU temp? Let me know. Thanks!

Bluestar 7 years ago


What is the recommended PSU for GTX 260?

my dealer says the recommended PSU for GTX 260 is 650 watts

My graphic card failed due to low power supply and now i have sent it for replacement. I don't understand now. My friend says that the dealer is extracting extra money from my pocket.

But the dealer says if the card again failed due to low PSU he wont be responsible.

What do you suggest?

BLuestar- Punjab(India)

bluestar 7 years ago

okay I solved my problem. I think I irritated you a lot by my constant trivial questions. Sometimes I become too much dependent on a single person but whatever help you gave to me I really appreciate it. Keep up the good work.

thanks again


Hal Licino profile image

Hal Licino 7 years ago from Toronto Author

Hi, you didn't irritate me at all. I've been gone for the holidays. I certainly appreciate assisting any of my readers. The GTX260 needs a bare minimum of 500 W PSU but a REAL 500 W from a name brand manufacturer. The card itself tops out at a 183 W draw so it all depends on what else you have in the case drawing juice. You can buy a 650 W PSU from a junk manufacturer that won't do the job a good 300 W PSU will do. It all depends on the brand. What brand was yours? The dealer may very well be fully within his rights. Let me know how you're coming along. Thanks!

Bluestar 7 years ago

I finally got my computer working now. I installed 650 PSU of brand "Cooler Master-Extreme Power Plus".Now my Pc is working very fine. I asked the administrators of XFX on their site. They said Gtx 260(Non-Sli) requires minimum of 630 PSU and previously i had installed 600 PSU(a low quality brand).

And playing games on 260 gtx is just so wonderful. Thank you sir for your every help and suggestion. Actually i had to replace my GTX 260 because due to low power it malfunctioned and it broke down.

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