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Written by Olin Coles   
Tuesday, 14 October 2008
Table of Contents: Page Index
MSI Radeon HD 4850 Video Card R4850-512M
Radeon HD 4850 Features
R4850-512M Specifications
Closer Look: MSI 4850
Video Card Testing Methodology
3DMark06 Benchmarks
Crysis Benchmark Results
Lightsmark Frame Rates
Unreal Tournament 3
World in Conflict Benchmarks
Radeon 4850 Power Consumption
Radeon 4800-Series Final Thoughts
MSI Radeon 4850 Conclusion

MSI R4850 Conclusion

MSI has been an enthusiast name for motherboards for so long, that perhaps they're hoping to gain a following in the graphics sector. Presentation is always the first summary I give in each product review conclusion, and the packaging for their latest 4800-series is not really so different from everyone else. An unnamed troll-looking character with battle armor looks mean enough, but I think it's time for a real mascot (not that this will really help sales). There's a good portion of marketing information in twenty-eight different languages at the back of the retail box, but not much in the way of specifications for the product inside. Consumers are getting smarter, and MSI should know that they're being sized up against the competition on store shelves.

Appearance is a whole other story because MSI really hit pay-dirt with their R4850 T2D512. It's a huge relief that they didn't clone the reference design, but it's even better that the upgraded cooling solution isn't covered in large plastic shrouds. The exposed electronic components to the rear of the card are protected by a heatsink for the power regulation components. Overall, the MSI Radeon HD 4850 is a welcome step up from the standard ATI design.

MSI_R4850_Splash.jpg

Construction is solid, but not without some concerns. If you've read any of my video card reviews, you'll know how much I dislike VGA coolers that exhaust back into the computer case. While MSI took the time to design their quad-heatpiped cooler to chill the red-hot RV770, they didn't refine it to the point where heated air is exhausted from the case. Even the connection header panel offers very little ventilation, which is evidence that room for improvement still exists. Aside from this small concern, the entire R4850 is very well suited for rougher environments.

I dislike the mentioning of competitor products in the article conclusion, but there are a few times when an exception is necessary. In terms of performance and functionality, the MSI Radeon HD 4850 is right on par with the GeForce 9800 GTX in many (but not all) applications and video games. Cooling performance is excellent, with over 25°C reduced from the reference design. On the downside, power consumption is much higher than I would have expected from ATI, who is revered as an efficiency-first company.

Value is always relative to supply and demand, along with whatever retailers think they can get from the consumer audience. At the time of this writing the MSI Radeon HD 4850 is being sold at NewEgg for $174.99 with a $20 mail-in rebate promotion available for a short time. I've found a few other sources selling around the same price, so it's a good idea to do some price shopping before you buy.

In summary, I can recommend the MSI Radeon HD 4850 MS-V803-285 to video game and overclocking enthusiasts because of the performance to value ratio and extremely effective cooling system. The 4850 comes close to the GeForce 9800 GTX in gaming performance, but never completely outperforms it. Taken into consideration, you have to look at price and sub-feature offerings. It's no surprise that CrossFire and CrossFireX are available on just about every single motherboard that fits an Intel or AMD process; the same is hardly true for the SLI. So then it's down to price. Since NVIDIA submitted to ATI's price point, both products are now offered at the same cost. At the end of this point, there's really no decisive victory to be handed out when comparing the two unless you consider price. The MSI Radeon HD 4850 is an outstanding product, and the performance is just as good as the alternative while costing less.

Pros:Benchmark Reviews Silver Tachometer Award for Quality Recognition

+ Very good AA/AF performance for higher-end games
+ Supports DirectX 10 and Shader Model 4.0
+ 625 MHz GPU / 993 MHz GDDR3 vRAM
+ Features ATI AVIVO Technology
+ 1080p HDMI Audio and Video supported for HDCP output
+ Quiet fan under normal operation
+ Introduces new TeraScale Graphics Engine technology
+ Heat-pipe cooling unit reduces temperatures extremely well
+ Supports CrossFireX functionality
+ 24x Custom filter anti-aliasing (CFAA)
+ 5 GBps PCI Express 2.0 graphics interface

Cons:

- Less efficient power consumption than most comparable 65 nm products
- Maximum post-processing Anti Aliasing is limited to 8x
- Cooling unit occupies second PCI expansion slot
- Fragile electronic components are exposed on PCB
- Internally exhausting VGA cooler
- Kit does not include CrossFireX bridge component

Ratings:

  • Presentation: 8.50
  • Appearance: 9.25
  • Construction: 9.25
  • Functionality: 8.75
  • Value: 8.00

Final Score: 8.75 out of 10.

Quality Recognition: Benchmark Reviews Silver Tachometer Award.

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