|Palit Radeon HD 4870 Sonic Dual Edition|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Video Cards|
|Written by Olin Coles|
|Saturday, 20 September 2008|
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Closer Look: Palit 4870 Sonic
ATI originally designed the Radeon HD 4870 with a balanced blend of value and performance, and Palit re-issues the 4870 with an added dose to both. The Sonic Dual Edition Radeon HD 4870 video card improves on ATI's latest and greatest single-chip graphics card by adding much-needed cooling improvements and a collection of small performance tweaks. Featuring the industries first implementation of GDDR5 video frame buffer memory, the overclocked RV770 graphics processor is allowed to breathe fire without the worry of burning up video RAM.
The Palit Radeon HD 4870 Sonic Dual Edition video card (part number XAE=4870S+0452-PM9248) comes in classic ATI red and offers a double-slot sized product for the PCI-Express 2.0 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. Let's begin with overall looks.
There's no denying that Palit has improved the cooling design of the reference Radeon HD 4870. As we learned in our review of the Sapphire Radeon HD 4870, this is one extremely warm-blooded video card. Palit offers two fans to cool their Sonic Dual Edition video card: a two-pin 70mm fan which draws constant power from the PCB and runs full time, and an four-pin speed controlled 80mm fan which receives thermal feedback from the GPU. Palit says this about their design:
The dual fan cooling system on Palit Radeon HD 4870 Sonic Dual Edition is designed to provide more airflow but to work in lower RPM which allows the graphics card to remain in a quieter status. The left side PWM fan will adjust its fan speed depends on GPU temperature allows the cooling system to work more effectively; the right side fan will stay in low speed to provide sufficient airflow to cool the power area. In addition to this unique fan control design, this cooling system equipped with full cooper base and three heat pipes further increase the thermal efficiency.
A look at the Sonic Dual Edition video card from the side reveals that there very little mass beneath the fans. The reference version of this graphics card is weighed down by a large heatsink and single blower fan, however the Palit version utilizes direct-blowing fans onto a more efficient heat-pipe equipped heatsink. Three heat-pipes draw heat from the RV770 GPU, and distribute it into two upper regions and one lower region beneath the 70mm fan.
While I am a huge fan of externally-exhausting VGA coolers such as the one used on the reference Radeon HD 4870, I am not at all pleased with the exposed electronics that become exposed because of the stock cooler. On the other hand, I am also less enthusiastic about internally exhausting coolers which heat internal hardware, even if they do protect the components. Palit may have addressed my concerns however, because the duo of cooling fans seem to keep this Radeon HD 4870 well under the temperatures I experienced on the reference design.
The cooling unit on the Palit Radeon HD 4870 video card is held tight to the RV770 GPU with the use of a reinforcing bracket and eight screws. The double-height cooler does a very good job of cooling the 4870, 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 GDDR5 modules on this side of the Sonic Dual Edition Radeon HD 4870.
Palit's unique double-size active cooling solution is good, but it's not perfect. The RV770 is capable of starting a wild fire inside your computer case, and because of that I feel there are area's that could be improved to bring the cooling solution closer to 'perfect'. For example, why not have two 80mm fans? There's plenty of room, and the GPU wouldn't protest the added benefits. I also wonder if they could somehow situate the DisplayPort interface to replace one of the DVI locations, and make this into an externally exhausting unit.
The RV770 is overclocked from 625 MHz on Radeon HD 4850 to 775 MHz for this 4870, and the increase in heat output is directly obvious. At idle, the Palit Radeon HD 4870 Sonic Dual Edition recorded a cool 47°C, and under load that number raised to 70°C with an ambient room temperature of 20°C.
In our next section we detail our methodology for testing video cards. Following this we offer a cadre of benchmarks to show where the Palit Radeon HD 4870 Sonic stands against the GeForce 9800 GTX+, Radeon HD 4850, GTX 260, and an AMP!'ed GTX 280. We even test the HD 4870 Sonic Dual Edition against a set of 4850's in CrossFireX... so please read on!