|MSI Radeon HD 4850 Video Card R4850-512M|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Video Cards|
|Written by Olin Coles|
|Tuesday, 14 October 2008|
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Closer Look: MSI 4850
The MSI HD 4850 delivers a new level of performance to the mainstream user with its 512MB of GDDR3 memory, and nominal clock speeds of 625MHz (core) and 993MHz (memory). The 4850uses the PCI-Express Gen2 interface, and features dual connectors for CrossFireX cables, allowing two or more cards to be used together on a CrossFireX compatible mainboard for even higher graphics performance.
All MSI graphics cards in the HD 4800 series incorporate the latest ATI Avivo HD Technology for enhanced Video display and feature a new generation built in hardware UVD (Unified Video Decoder) considerably reducing CPU load and delivering smooth decoding of Blu-ray and HD DVD content for both VC-1 and H.264 codecs, as well as Mpeg files. In addition to two, dual-link DVI outputs, and TV-Out, a dedicated HDMI adaptor delivers both audio and video output on a single cable for direct connection to an HDMI ready display.
The MSI Radeon HD 4850 video card (model R4850-512M / SKU: MS-V803-285) comes in classic ATI red and offers a double-slot sized graphics solution for the PCI-Express bus. There are a few small details that seem to stand out as either interesting or unique, and I'll make sure to discuss each at length. First and foremost is the cooling.
Unlike the reference Radeon HD 4850 design, MSI emphasizes enthusiast cooling on their R4850-512M. As a result the single-height profile is replaced with a quad-heatpiped double-height cooling solution. Beyond the active cooling improvements, MSI has also given the power regulation components some attention with passive cooling heatsinks to ensure stable game play.
Cost is key. There's no question that the AMD-ATI merger has trickled down into a serious economy-of-design state of mind. Since the US economy has recently eroded like a mudslide, the financial recession has placed chipmakers on a more even playing field. This is exactly the opportunity ATI needed prove that they can still produce some of the best video cards money can buy.
The reference Radeon HD 4850 used a streamlined construction to reduce manufacturing costs. The cooling unit, for example, used a copper-embedded single-height unit. While copper is considerably expensive, the design translates into less material overall because of increased thermal conductance.
MSI adds some value to the stock Radeon design with their own custom heat-pipe filled double-decker cooling solution. This innovation may force a device from it's home on the motherboard, but I assure you that the Radeon RV770 needs every cool breeze it can get. The ATI Radeon HD 4850 reference design we tested idled over 50°C, while MSI's R4850 was a cool 35°C. Once performance supplied a full load to the RV770 GPU, the reference design simmered to nearly 83°C while the MSI 4850 barely warmed to 60°C. Overclockers know that electronics work better when they're not red-hot; and MSI knows how to keep the overclockers happy.
The cooling unit on the MSI Radeon HD 4850 video card is held tight to the RV770 GPU with the use of a reinforcing bracket and about a dozen screws. The double-height cooler does a very good job of cooling the R4850, but there is still a tremendous amount of heat that builds up on the PCB. If you're an overclocker, there isn't very much that can be done to help cool the unit from the reverse side of the circuit board, especially since there are no surface-mounted GDDR3 modules on this side of the Radeon HD 4850.
In our next section we detail our methodology for testing video cards. Following this we offer a cadre of benchmarks to show where the MSI Radeon HD 4850 stands against the GeForce 9800 GTX. 9800 GX2. and a couple GTX 280's. We even test the HD 4850 in a CrossFireX set... so please read on!