Re: Nvidia 260 GTX ot ATI HD 4870
I also had to make the decision between an HD4870 and a GTX 260. And all I had to go on was my own experiences with both vendors and what I heard of personal anecdotes and reviews.
What I got from "pro" reviews:
"The HD4870 runs much quieter than the GTX 260 because ATI is allowing the card to run much hotter."
One example...Tom's Hardware (everyone's favorite I know) stated that the 260 sounded like a jet was taking off outside his door but also reported that the HD4870 they tested idled at 70C.
What I summarized from personal anecdotes:
To get both cards to run at nearly the same temps, temps that I personally consider acceptable, the HD4870 would be significantly louder than the GTX 260. The key here being temps acceptable to me - that means idling somewhere in the 50s (C) and running under full load no higher than somewhere in the 70s (C) with the 80s reserved for FurMark and ATI Tool's artifact tester. But I've never had a card that actually hit the 70s while gaming. With ATI I used Zalman coolers. With my 8800GTS 512, it already had a great cooler.
The card I was just using was an 8800GTS 512. For me, not only was the card awesome, but the stock cooler was excellent as well. The last time I had an ATI cooler that didn't need to be replaced (because it sounded like a blow dryer) was my 9500Pro. I've had a X1900GT and a X1950XT.
And there you have it - all the information I had from which to make a decision. Bottom line - I was fairly certain I would be fine with the 260. Unfortunately, for the HD4870, I wasn't able to tell from the personal anecdotes whether or not its cooling abilities were up to snuff. Actually I still can't make that determination, some say its fine, others say it sucks elephant balls.
But much of that is keyed to what temps you want your card to run at. I ended up buying a BFG GTX 260 with an after MIR price of $260. As stated above (I think), if it wasn't for ATI, I would have paid closer to $400 for it - yay competition!