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A first look at the Radeon HD 4850

Stone-cold GeForce killer?

The battle between AMD and Nvidia for the hearts, minds, and disposable income of PC enthusiasts is starting to get scrappy. First, AMD scheduled a press event to distract folks from Nvidia's GeForce GTX 200 series launch, which Nvidia subsequently pulled forward. Perhaps in retaliation, the green team then divulged plans to unleash a faster version of its GeForce 9800 GTX. This GeForce 9800 GTX+ will sell for only $229, dropping the vanilla 9800 to $199—conveniently stepping on the price point of AMD's next-gen Radeon HD 4850 graphics card. Lest it be outmaneuvered, and because cards are actually available for sale already, AMD has decided to lift the curtains on the 4850 a little early. Keep reading for our first look at AMD's new mid-range Radeon.

The Radeon HD 4850 revealed, sort of
While we're limited in what we can say about the Radeon HD 4850 and its shiny new graphics processor, the card itself is fair game. And here she is:

This particular card comes from Sapphire, which provides a sticker for the reference design's cooling shroud. As you can see, the card is a single-slot design, just like the Radeon HD 3850 that came before it. Thanks to its svelte cooler, the 4850 won't cannibalize adjacent expansion slots. The slim design should also make it easier for users to assemble three- and four-way CrossFire configurations.

The Radeon HD 4850 has only a single six-pin PCI Express power connector, which bodes well for the card's power consumption. For what it's worth, the GeForce 9800 GTX and GTX+ each have a pair of PCIe power plugs.

The 4850 features a core clock speed of 625MHz, and it's equipped with 512MB of GDDR3 memory running at nearly 1GHz. AMD's Catalyst Control Center software reports 59GB/s of memory bandwidth, as well. With a little reverse math and memory running at 993MHz, it looks like the 4850's path to memory is 256 bits wide.