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Gigabyte Radeon HD 4850 1GB Passive Review

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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Passive Cooling in an Extreme Environment

Passive Cooling in an Extreme Environment


Some of you may be wondering: what is extremely passive cooling? Well, for these tests we put the card in a closed case with very little internal airflow.

The case is a GMC Toast which has horrible airflow characteristics to begin with but we kicked things up a notch by installing a pair of Zalman 80mm rear exhaust fans with resistors attached which means they are running at a mere 800RPMs. In addition, there is no front intake fan. We then let the CPU (an AMD 5200+) and GPU work at full load (Prime 95 for the CPU and 3DMark Batch Size Test for the GPU) for an hour with the side panel closed and hope to God nothing fries itself.

In the second test we installed the card into our Gigabyte Aurora 3D case which has airflow that is more typical of many other cases on the market. Basically, it has a front 120mm fan and a pair of rear 120mm fans all operating at 1200RPMs.

Edit: Many have been asking about room temperature which we forgot to include in this review. Room temperature for all testing was 22*C +/- 0.5*C. Our apologies.

GIGABYTE-HD4850-66.JPG

The test within the GMC Toast case separates the men from the boys and Gigabyte’s HD 4850 1GB clearly shows that it means business. Even with next to no airflow over its fins, it was still able to keep temperatures lower than the reference board on an open test bench. Putting it into a case with more airflow only played up the piece of engineering excellence that is the Multi-Core cooler even more. Without a doubt, this is a stellar result for Gigabyte.
 
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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
Conclusion

Conclusion


When we see people talking about video cards on our forums, the name Gigabyte is rarely mentioned. This is completely understandable considering until very recently, there really wasn’t anything to distinguish their cards from all the other reference-based models out there. As we saw last year in the 9800 GT Roundup, Gigabyte has really been striving to improve upon reference designs with their own modified versions. They have even been fighting tooth and nail to bring the prices of these custom cards down to a level where they are a viable alternative to other company’s reference versions. Knowing all of this, do we think that people should start looking a bit closer at what Gigabyte has to offer? After this review we can certainly say “YES!”

To be honest with you, this HD 4850 1GB really surprised me in the fact that it seems the additional 512MB of on-board memory does make a difference unlike what we saw with the 1GB 9800 GT. While lower-end cards are bottlenecked by their architecture rather than their memory bandwidth, Gigabyte’s card was able to take advantage of its 1GB framebuffer. In many cases we saw minor improvements when AA was turned on but the largest performance jumps came in typically memory-hogging games. In the DX10 paths of Far Cry 2, Crysis Warhead and Hawx, the difference was like night and day, especially at high resolutions which in some rare cases resulted in this card actually taking the HD 4870 512MB to the cleaner’s. This does not mean that architectural limitations are not going to happen considering we saw next to no improvement over the HD 4850 512MB in the majority of the situations. Indeed this 1GB card stays pretty much in-line with the reference 512MB version in most tests but the 1GB of memory definitely seems to be beneficial in DX10 apps.

Passive cooling a relatively high performance card has always been a tall order of business but with the aid of a cool-running 55nm core, the Gigabyte HD 4850 1GB’s Multi Core heatsink provides some jaw-dropping performance. Even under some extreme conditions with a minimum of airflow, the relatively compact passive heatsink was able to disperse heat quite quickly. This along with the integrated HDMI connector and very good efficiency makes this a prime example of a perfect HTCP card.

There are however some underlying issues with the Gigabyte HD 4850 1GB that need to be discussed as well. First of all, the fact that the memory is operating at speeds below those of the 512MB card is highly disappointing. Granted, Gigabyte tried to make up for this by slightly increasing the core speed but all that does is rub some ice on an already-black eye. GamerHUD which allows you to tweak voltages and clock speeds still refuses to work properly in Vista x64 for some reason but that is nothing new. Even though Software and clock speeds are relatively minor, pricing is what proves to be this card’s undoing. Right now it retails for $210 to $230CAD before rebates, which means it competes with some HD 4870 cards which are frankly much, much more powerful.

Regardless of the strides they have made when it comes to spicing up their lineup, Gigabyte’s usual Achilles heel is still there: warranty length. To most enthusiasts and even many gamers out there, changing out their GPU after about a year is common practice so the 3-year warranty length of this card won’t pose too much of a stumbling point. Unfortunately for Gigabyte, there are plenty of people out there who feel that a 5+ year warranty adds to the value of a product and to them this card’s warranty just won’t cut it.

With awesome passive cooling results and excellent performance despite slightly lower memory clock speeds it seems like Gigabyte has a winner Indeed, looking around various retailers, gives us the distinct impression that this may be the fastest passively cooled card available right now. As we said before; the GV-R485MC-1GI will be a godsend to HTPC or silent PC users who want a bit of gaming power in addition to completely silent operation. Unfortunately, at this point it carries with it a price which is some $40 above many other HD 4850s and is within spitting distance of the HD 4870 512MB. How does this all play out in our eyes? It’s a Dam Good product that needs some serious price cuts.



Pros:

- Good performance
- Passive cooling that really works well
- Very efficient
- Completely silent
- Integrated HDMI connector


Cons:

- Price
- 3 year warranty
- GamerHUD still doesn’t work properly in Vista x64


 
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