AMD Radeon HD 4890 On Linux

Written by Michael Larabel in Graphics Cards on 2 April 2009. Page 12 of 12. 28 Comments

The RV770 graphics processor was -- and continues to be -- great, but AMD has really outdone themselves and raised the bar with the introduction of the RV790. It was not uncommon during our Linux testing to find the Radeon HD 4890 1GB graphics card running 15 to 20% faster than the Radeon HD 4870. This boost is largely achieved by the elevated core and memory frequencies, but those frequencies can be pushed even higher! With the ASUS Radeon HD 4890 (and likely the graphics cards from the other AIBs as well), the overclocking potential was great and we had no problems pushing this card to 1000/1200MHz. The only factor preventing us from pushing this graphics card even further was OverDrive itself with the upper threshold having been reached on both the core and video memory. The ASUS HD 4890 also supports tweaking the core voltage, but this feature is inaccessible from Linux.

When it comes to the Linux support, the Radeon HD 4890 is already supported as of last month's Catalyst 9.3 release. As we shared, this support is initial and will be refined in the forthcoming releases. We experienced the best results when using a Catalyst 9.5 release candidate, which sadly will not be released publicly to end-users until next month. This though is still a step-up from what Linux customers experienced with the pre-R700 generations.

We only had one Radeon HD 4890 for testing, but using two (not four, due to limitations with the Linux driver) of these graphics cards should also work fine for CrossFire support on Linux. Even if you are running two graphics cards, the reference cooling system is very quiet yet effective so noise should be of no concern. For those concerned about open-source support, by the time you are reading this article there should be support in both of the DDX drivers for mode-setting support, while the OpenGL support will likely arrive at some point this summer.

One complaint we have is that the RV790 continues to support the Unified Video Decoder 2 (UVD2) for enhancing the video playback experience, but this technology remains useless to Linux users. AMD has developed the X-Video Bitstream Acceleration (XvBA) architecture to fix this problem, but they have been dragging their feet in providing support or documentation so that multimedia programs can begin to use this API. Without anything using the XvBA library, UVD2 on Linux is rendered useless, but hopefully that will change quite soon.

At $250 USD, the ATI Radeon HD 4890 1GB graphics card comes at a great value. Additionally, a $20 USD mail-in rebate begins today on the standard SKUs to lower the prices even further. This is quite the bargain for a graphics card that can be overclocked well and provide a significant boost in graphics performance, even over the Radeon HD 4870 series. Stay tuned for more information on the Radeon HD 4890 and Linux as we publish more benchmarks and look at other graphics cards in the coming weeks.

For pricing information on ATI graphics cards, visit

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Michael Larabel

Michael Larabel is the principal author of and founded the site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience. Michael has written more than 20,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter, LinkedIn, or contacted via