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Update: AMD vs. Nvidia: High-end 3D card head-to-head

Reviews of AMD and Nvidia's latest high-end 3D graphics cards

On Wednesday, we wrote that we'd published reviews of two high-end PC graphics cards: Nvidia's GeForce GTX 295, and what we thought at the time was the Asus EAHD4870X2 TOP, an overclocked card using ATI's Radeon HD 4870X2 dual-chip design. We learned Thursday morning that the Asus card we thought we had is actually something else.

As found on the Asus Web site, here is a picture of the standard clocked edition of its $479 EAHD4870X2 graphics card:


Also on that same site, a picture of the $550 overclocked version:


Finally, here's what showed up in our lab:


Turns out, despite all outward appearances, the card we received was not, in fact, overclocked. Instead, it's the standard edition, at 750MHz clock speed per core. AMD says it sent us the Asus-branded, ready-for-retail packaged version, but we're unclear as to why the fan and heatsink assembly is so different than what Asus has on display. If you've purchased the standard clocked edition yourself, we'd be interested to know what came in your box.

The reviews (Asus now here, competing GeForce GTX 295 here) have since been corrected, although our assessment stays the same. We still recommend the Nvidia GeForce GTX 295 card over the Asus card, or any other with ATI's Radeon HD4870 X2 design. The standard version may be $479, down from the $550 overclocked model, but it's still slower and more power-hungry than the GTX 295, which costs just $20 more. You can also bet we'll be running GPU-Z on all 3D cards from here on to confirm their clock speeds.

Original post:

It's been about six months since we've looked at a 3D graphics card here at CNET, so we thought we'd take a look at the market across multiple price ranges to see what we've missed. We have cards at the $300 and $150 price levels still in the lab, but with reviews of both AMD's and Nvidia's flagship cards posted, we thought we'd clue you in to what we've found so far.

Don't let the plain look of the GeForce GTX 295 fool you. CNET

Round one: Nvidia's GeForce GTX 295 vs. AMD's ATI Radeon HD 4870 X2 (overclocked)

We've seen reviews showing that Nvidia's $500 dual-chip GeForce GTX 295 card is faster than the former king of the hill, the ATI Radeon HD 4870 X2, but we wondered how an overclocked version of AMD's best-of-breed card would stack up. We especially wondered this when we realized that the stock card we requested from AMD (and generally prefer to test) turned out to be the overclocked $550 Asus EAHD4870X2 TOP.

You'd be wise to resist this Asus card's charms. CNET

You can refer to the respective reviews (Nvidia's card here, the Asus card here) for the complete test results and specs, but the short version is that the even against an overclocked competitor, Nvidia's new card is almost universally faster on every game and at every resolution we tested. Add in the facts that the Nvidia card will be less expensive at retail, and that it uses less power, and your choice is easy.

With luck and smooth testing, we should have our $300 and $150 price-range reviews up soon, so stay tuned for those in the next week or so.