It looks like ATI pulled a big coup over Nvidia with its Radeon 4890 – the card now launches two weeks ahead of its competitor, GeForce GTX 275. According to our sources, ATI decided to start second quarter of this year with a bang, and in a bid to achieve good sales results in Q2’09, the cards will be selling from the first days of April onwards.

Originally, rumors stated that the product is going to launch on April 9th, but that proved to be incorrect after ATI decided to push the launch forward, sending its partners into chaos. We spoke with several partners and the most often heard comment was "a bit of chaos". But, what’s done is done: AMD shipped around 40.000 graphics cards for the launch, which is a regular figure cited for a global launch. Usually, this would be followed by a shortage in week two or three, and second batch of cards will arrive close to the end of first month… but this time around, ATI is opening access to GPUs at launch too, so manufacturers can do their own custom designs. Incredible how a single word – "recession" – can force companies to completely change their previous policies… it seems that ATI of yesterday, company that didn’t want to release 4850 and 4870 chips to manufacturers in order to keep the sales of their own parts up – is long gone. New AMD don’t care for manufacturing, they care for market share alone. And this is what makes AMD a very dangerous player.

But both AMD and Nvidia need to raise their games, because when Intel arrives with Larrabee, the level of competition will be equal to the shift that happened in Formula 1 between 1989 and 1992. We’re entering a whole new era of competition, and this chip releasing move is a prime example.

Just like its predecessor Radeon 4870, AMD is going to offer not one, but two versions of Radeon HD 4890: vanilla and Super. Again, just like "Super RV770" we heard the name – Super RV790. This is the code name for the card that should come to market in heavily overclocked form, preferably with Vapor chamber or water-cooling. ASUS Republic of Gamers, Sapphire Toxic, and other product lines will offer these speed-binned parts. The Dual GPU option is also being explored, especially in the form of professional Fire Pro card that is set to debut next week.

All in all, it looks like ATI is going to launch around 4-6 new cards next week, from consumer to commercial space. But of course, limelight belongs to reviews of ATI Radeon HD 4890 1GB GDDR5. We wonder will the partners that love to make custom cards find time to finish the 2GB versions for the launch or not.