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Sapphire Radeon HD4850 512MB Graphics Card Review

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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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World in Conflict DX10

World in Conflict DX10



1280 X 1024





1600 X 1200





2560 X 1600




The R770 core really shows what it is made of in World in Conflict DX10 where it kicks ass and takes names at nearly every resolution. I believe this gives us a good indication of what the future has in store for these cards since DX10 and high IQ settings are what they were made for.
 
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SKYMTL

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Heat & Acoustics / Power Consumption

Temperature Testing



Unfortunately, it does not seem like the single slot heatsink is able to keep temperatures down much when compared to some other cards on the market. However, it should be noted that that the maximum temperature we reached WOULD not be passed by our card since once it hit this peak, the fan would increase speeds slightly to compensate. Even though the temperatures are well within the normal operating range of the R770 core, what concerns us most is the amount of hot air the HD4850 dumps back into your case. In an optimal situation, any hot air from the GPU should be exhausted immediately so while the single slot cooler may look nice; this is one of its major tradeoffs. We would recommend that you ensure there is sufficient air movement within your enclosure so the heat produced by this card does not make a home for itself around critical components.


Acoustical Properties


It seems that ATI was scared quite a bit by the reviews it received back a while ago with the HD2900XT release which stated that its cooler was louder than a semi downshifting on the highway. Now all of their cards feature heatsinks that happily trade off cooling power for near dead silence and the HD4850 is no different. While we love silence as much as the next guy, there is a fine balance to be struck between performance and a quiet fan but ATI seems to have it wrong here. Let’s put it very simply: the fan on the HD4850 is damn quiet but the core gets too hot for our liking. Even when the fan increases its speed about 20% to keep temperatures under control, the noise it produces will easily be drowned out by any kind of task you are doing. So, at least give us that 20% bump as a constant speed for crying out loud!!


Power Consumption


For this test we hooked up our power supply to a UPM power meter that will log the power consumption of the whole system twice every second. In order to stress the GPU as much as possible we once again use the Batch Render test in 3DMark06 and let it run for 1 hour to determine the peak power consumption while letting the card sit at a stable Windows desktop for 30 minutes to determine the peak idle power consumption.

Please note that after extensive testing, we have found that simply plugging in a power meter to a wall outlet or UPS will NOT give you accurate power consumption numbers due to slight changes in the input voltage. Thus we use a Tripp-Lite 1800W line conditioner between the 120V outlet and the UPM power meter.


Power consumption is actually quite good with this card even though it is about 10% higher than the 8800GT. That being said, the performance per watt based on our game tests is extremely good and unlike the HD4870, ATI’s PowerPlay actually seems to be working this time around.
 
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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Arctic Cooling MX-2 & S1 Rev.2 Installation

Arctic Cooling MX-2 & S1 Rev.2 Installation


By now I am sure you all know that the HD4850 and HD4870 are compatible with the same heatsinks and universal (not full coverage) water blocks that the HD38xx series were. If you don’t already know this….welcome to the dark side where voiding warranties is the norm and high temperatures are a thing of the past.

Today we have something a little different for you since we have already gone through test fittings of these coolers over in our HD4870 review which can be found here: http://www.hardwarecanucks.com/foru...radeon-hd4870-512mb-graphics-card-review.html. Instead, what we are doing here is a little review within a review where we will be testing two very popular products from Arctic Cooling : MX-2 thermal compound and their always-popular Accelero S1 Rev.2. It is important to note that the MX-2 was also applied to the base of the S1 during testing.

Well, let’s get to it!!


Big effing tube of MX-2, CHECK!!


Accelero S1 Rev.2 Installation

As some of you know, the Arctic Cooling S1 Rev.2 is one of the most popular GPU coolers on the market today. It offers the possibility of completely fanless cooling due to its massive surface area while also offering modders the option to mount a 120mm fan or installing the recommended Turbo Module. Sticking with Arctic Cooling’s philosophy of keeping prices down while offering superior performance, it is also one of the least expensive coolers on the market even though it does not come with a pre-installed fan.


After removing the stock cooler and the stock thermal compound, we can get to applying all the necessary ramsinks and VRM sinks. You can see above the NEW VRM sinks (the tall ones on the large inductors) which will be included with every S1 Rev. 2 produced after May 2008. There are 6 included in a package (I somehow lost the other ones, d’oh!!) so we are using low-profile Thermaltake heatsinks for the other VRM modules.

The only thing that Arctic Cooling still needs to work on is the thermal tape used on their ramsinks since it does not stick well at all. So, make sure to gently press all of the ramsinks down for about 30 seconds each to ensure they adhere properly to the ICs.


It is then a simple matter of applying the thermal compound, tightening the screws and making sure that the S1’s base makes good contact with the core. Basically, the fitment is flawless.


The only very minor issue we ran into was that due to the height of the ramsinks and the memory’s proximity to the core, the heatpipes will interfere with the outside ramsink. To alleviate this you either need to use a shorter ramsink or push the one supplied by Arctic Cooling back a bit so the heatpipe isn’t pressing down on it.


Just to make sure the S1 was applying sufficient pressure of the thermal compound and the core itself, we removed the heatsink to check if the TIM was evenly distributed over the GPU’s surface. As you can see above, it is absolutely perfect with the MX-2 spread perfectly to every corner of the core.

On the next page we take a look at the fan options and finally the performance that the Arctic Cooling S1 Rev.2 offers on this card.
 
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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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MX-2 & S1 Rev.2 Performance Testing

MX-2 & S1 Rev.2 Performance Testing


Unlike some heatsinks on the market, the S1 comes with several fan options for those of you who are a bit adventurous or even if you want a simple, no-nonsense solution.


In its stock form, the Accelero S1 is a passive heatsink which relies on a large surface area and your case’s natural internal airflow to cool off the GPU core. It does not come with a fan but has been proven to perform quite well in its passive form as long as the GPU’s core isn’t overclocked to insane speeds.


Arctic Cooling also offers its own fan solution in the form of the inexpensive “Turbo Module” which consists of a pair of frameless 80mm fans that clip onto S1’s fins. Retailing at under $10, this offers users increased cooling potential while minimizing the acoustical profile versus other fan solutions since the Turbo Module is very, very quite.

Another option many people gravitate towards is the installation of a single 120mm fan onto the top of the heatsink. Any 120mm fan will do and all you have to worry about is properly installing it. Want quiet cooling? Add a 1100RPM Scythe. Want extreme performance? Pop on a Delta 3000RPM dust-buster. Just be aware that faster isn’t always better since the four heatpipes on the S1 can only remove a certain amount of heat from the core no matter what speed fan you have running.


In order to attach a 120mm fan to this heatsink, you will need a pair of 6” zip ties (preferably black) which should be looped through the mounting holes on your chosen fan and then routed around the S1 itself. Make sure you don’t overly tighten them or you risk damaging the cooler.

The only issue with adding any fan to the S1 is that its overall height will naturally increase which will make installing two cards next to one another impossible on certain motherboards. If you want to run Crossfire while using the S1 with a fan installed, make sure that you have at least two PCI slots between the PCI-E slots you will be installing your cards in.


Performance Testing

So, after all of that we still have a few tests to run. We are going to go about this a bit differently this time since this cooler offers us so many options. There have also been some talk going around that replacing the stock thermal compound will yield much better temperatures on the stock cooler. I should warn you before you see these results: they WILL want to make you go out and buy an aftermarket cooler to replace that lackluster stock cooler. Warranties be damned

So, here is what we tested with:

- Application of Arctic Cooling MX-2 on stock heatsink
- Passive mode relying on case airflow for cooling
- Arctic Cooling Turbo Module installed
- Yate Loon 120mm D12BL-12 1200RPM fan installed

Please note that all tests were conducted in a closed Gigabyte Aurora 570 case with a single Noctua NF-S12 120mm fan (1200RPM) placed 6” away from the edge of the card on the hard drive bay.


Well, these are some very interesting results so let’s start off with the thermal compound change. In my opinion, replacing the stock thermal compound doesn’t give a large enough performance difference to justify voiding your warranty. At idle there is zero difference while after an hour of full load there was only a 3 degree difference in peak load values.

Passive mode offers some absolutely amazing cooling benefits considering it does so in utter and complete silence. The only caveat to this is that you have to make sure there is sufficient in-case airflow to warrant going this route. If your case does not offer properly placed front intake fan placement, there is a real danger of your GPU overheating when using the S1 without a fan.

The other two options we have listed above a naturally the best performing. Both with the Turbo Module and with the 120mm fan installed, the Arctic Cooling S1 Rev.2 was really able to shine and lowered load temperatures by a stunning39 and 44 degrees respectively. With this kind of cooling performance it is a real shame that you have to void your warranty to install any aftermarket cooler. That being said, if you are looking for a new heatsink for your HD4850, we highly recommend you take a look at the S1 Rev.2 since it offers an amazing value for your money.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Overclocking…so close yet blocked again

Overclocking…so close yet blocked again


Please note that overclocking your HD4850 will void your warranty.

In addition, we strongly recommend you NOT overclock your card when using the stock cooler on this card. In this case we used the Arctic Cooling S1 Rev.2 with a 120mm fan installed in all the overclocking tests which resulted in suitably controlled temperatures.

After looking at what the Catalyst Control Center had to offer, I must say that I was not overly impressed with the overclocking options it presented. The memory could be overclocked to a suitably high level if I chose to go that route but the core had a maximum speed pegged at 700Mhz which is 75Mhz over stock values. Let’s see what we finally ended up with.

Core: 700Mhz
Memory: 2252Mhz (DDR)

Well, that is surprising isn’t it? The core topped out at 700Mhz and wouldn’t budge one Mhz further due to the limitation in the Catalyst Overdrive panel but the memory really shone. Even though I wasn’t expecting much from it, the GDDR3 on this card really surprised me with a top overclock of 2252Mhz DDR which represents a 266Mhz overclock. We are looking forward to applications which will help increase the speeds past what the Catalyst Control allows. Unfortunately, there is no way we would encourage users into BIOS flashing the card itself so that route has been ruled out by us automatically.

All in all, you can see that this resulted in an approximately 1600 point increase in 3DMark06:

 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Joined
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Messages
13,264
Location
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Conclusion

Conclusion


A few months ago the world of graphics cards was a pretty dull place with numerous rehashes of the same architecture again and again from a company that seemed like it was trying to saturate nearly every portion of the market. While the price we paid for performance had slowly decreased to the point where a $300 graphics card could play literally any game on the market, ATI was somewhat left out in the cold with their HD3800-series lacking the performance needed to be truly competitive. The HD3870X2 was a breath of fresh air but it relied on sometimes flaky Crossfire support to really shine. Truth be told, ATI has been silently biding their time and has now delivered a swift kick to the nuts of the graphics card industry with the release of their HD4800-series. They were trying to shake things up and have accomplished this in leaps and bounds.

With the HD4850, they have brought a part to the market which costs about $200 with all the performance bangs and whistles to challenge cards that were previously retailing for upwards of $300. The card we are referring to is the 9800GTX which was caught with its pants down to the point of Nvidia having to reduce its price by a full hundred bucks so it could compete with the HD4850. Indeed, even with this newly reduced price the 9800GTX seems ready to compete directly with the HD4850 in the $200 market but even in the best of instances in can only narrowly eke a win over the ATI card. As Nvidia struggles to push out the paper-launched 980GTX “+”, ATI seems to be running away with the market as their new cards are literally flying off the shelves.

As we saw in the tests, the Sapphire HD4850 excels in high texture, high AA situations, DX10 applications and higher resolutions. It is here that this new ATI core can really stretch its legs over the competition while keeping power consumption to a minimum. The new ATI is all about performance per watt and they have really held onto that mantra with this card since in this area as well it has run like a lightning bolt through the industry. There isn’t a single application where we see the HD4850 coming up short and this is on beta drivers. I think this driver situation in itself is extremely interesting since ATI has shown in the past that they can unlock some pretty significant performance gains through driver updates.

Unfortunately, while the future looks bright in terms of drivers we have to fault ATI a bit in the one area we also praise: driver development. It has now been nearly a full two weeks since the release of the HD4850 and we are still waiting for WHQL certified drivers. Having customers use their beta (*cough* hotfix *cough*) drivers only goes so far and even though the 8.6 drivers support the R770 cards, their performance is anything but stable. C’mon ATI, we’re waiting here.

Even though there are plenty of competitors on the market, Sapphire has delivered a HD4850 which they should be proud of. They are able to stand above other ATI board partners by offering an extremely complete package with everything from DVD viewing & creation software to game demos to a copy of 3DMark06. The only thing they are missing is a full game but as we mentioned before, it is better to not include a game than to include a title no one is interested in. Even though their warranty isn’t the best around at a paltry two years, in the past I personally have had nothing but quick, concise responses from Sapphire’s customer service department. All in all, they have made a great card even better with their take on the HD4850.
It has been a long, bitter, uphill struggle for ATI to reach competitiveness once again but with both the HD4870 and the HD4850 they are looking poised to take back their rightful place in the discreet graphics card market. The HD4850 offers users the best bang for their buck at this point in time and ATI should be proud of themselves for keeping costs down while bringing some amazing performance to the table. Thus, we are proud to present the Sapphire HD4850 512MB with our Dam Good Value Award.


Pro:

- Amazing price
- Great performance in nearly ever game
- Low power consumption vs competition
- Complete accessory & software package
- Quiet


Cons:

- Runs a bit hot
- 2-year warranty




Thanks to Sapphire and ATI for making this review possible
 
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