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The 4870 doubles up on RAM
AMD's answer to all of this is the card pictured below:


Pretty much looks like any old Radeon HD 4870, but the difference is simple: this one has twice as much GDDR5 memory onboard, a full gigabyte. We've been reviewing video cards with a gig of RAM for a while now and puzzling over when that much memory would really be necessary. Finally, we're starting to see cases where 512MB clearly won't suffice, and the Radeon HD 4870 GPU is powerful enough to perform well in some of those situations when given enough memory, as you'll see in the following pages. Even if having more RAM onboard is largely future-proofing for upcoming games, AMD arguably needed to match the competition, and the GTX 260 has had 896MB of RAM since its introduction—close enough to a gig for most intents and purposes and well more than the 512MB on the first 4870s.

Although our example of the 4870 1GB is a reference card from AMD, a number of Radeon board vendors are now selling these cards. Like many others, Diamond's rendition is $299.99 at Newegg, no rebate required. Trouble is, Diamond's warranty term is only a year, and even that short window of coverage becomes invalid if you don't register the product online within 30 days. So, yeah. That's as much fun as impromptu dentistry. You might do better by going with the Asus version for $289.99. Asus covers its cards for three years and—miracle of miracles!—tracks them via serial number, so no registration is required to get warranty service.

I really don't care to be talking so much about warranty terms and mail-in rebates, but these things have become bigger issues in recent years. Mail-in rebates have spread like a cancer, especially among Nvidia's partners, making video card pricing anything but straightforward. Meanwhile, board vendors have skimped on support, introducing these bogus warranty registration requirements. Both tactics rely on the same insight: inevitably, many customers won't fulfill the exact paperwork requirements, thus saving the vendor some money. In some some cases, both rebates and warranties seem to require original receipts, which are more or less non-existent when you're buying something online. So here we are, trying to help you tiptoe through a minefield. Props to Asus for doing the right thing here, and boo to Diamond for doing the exact opposite.

As one might expect, the 512MB versions of the 4870 are dropping in price as the 1GB cards arrive. Quite a few of them are available for $269.99, some with rebates attached on top of that, if you enjoy games of chance.

All of which sets us up for a renewed comparison of the Radeon HD 4870 1GB with the "reloaded" GeForce GTX 260. Both look like good options, and the real values may be in the cards they've essentially replaced and pushed down in price. As is our custom, we've included a whole raft of cards for comparison, ranging from the lowly GeForce 9500 GT to the exotic Radeon HD 4870 X2.