Review: Gainward-ATI take-off is a success
Gainward recently decided on working with ATI, but giving up on being loyal to just one company is nothing new, as it greatly increases profits. Radeon 4800 generation has proven to be excellent in the bang-per-buck department, so Gainward snapped up this opportunity at the right time and launched their Radeon HD 4800 offering.
We visited Gainward’s “ATI Range” section on their Web portal and found that the company offers HD 4870, HD 4850, HD 3870 and HD 3850 series cards. Among these is our today’s tested card – HD 4850 Golden Sample.
The card comes with a large cooler that looks quite nice and is in in fact smaller than it appears. The plastic with patterned details covers the entire card, whereas the cooler for the core is smaller and is hidden by the hood. We’ve seen this cooler in action on Gainward’s previous Geforce models, and it did a pretty good job of cooling Geforce G92 cores. Radeon chip is even smaller since it’s built in 55nm so the cooler will have no trouble cooling the overclocked RV770 core on Gainward’s HD 4850 GS card. Idle mode resulted in temperatures around 52 °C and workload scenario’s temperatures hit up to 67 °C.
Gainward’s card, unlike the reference design, features a dual-slot cooler, which in turn enabled easy overclocking of the core from reference 625MHz to 700+MHz.
While testing Geforce cards, we’ve learned that Gainward’s “+” means room for additional overclocking, and this tradition is now passed on to Radeon cards. You’ll have no trouble in overclocking this card, but we were hoping that the driver CD will contain ExpertTool. This tool is usually bundled with Geforce cards and provides inexperienced users with a quick and painless way to overclock their card. It would be really great if Gainward modified this tool and provided Radeon support, too.
Even if overclocking is not your game, you should know that Gainward already partially did it for you. The memory got a boost from the reference 993MHz to 1100+ (effectively 2200+MHz).
Gainward HD 4850 GS card comes with 512MB of Samsung’s 0.8ns GDDR3 memory. Although the memory isn’t running at maximum factory speed of 1200MHz (0.8ns), we were still limited by 1100MHz. Catalyst Control Center allowed for overclocking the core to 750MHz (CCC driver limitation), but we didn’t manage to push the memory by more than 10MHz.
RV770 graphics processor is built in 55nm and it comes with 800 shaders on both Radeon HD 4000. Compared to the previous HD 3800 generation that’s 2.5 times more, and the same goes for 40 texture units (16 on HD 3800).
HD 4850 reference speed is 625MHz, whereas HD 4870 is much faster and runs at 750MHz. It’s important to note that both of these cards have an identical number of shader processors, as well as other technical characteristics. The difference is in the memory used on the cards, meaning the memory bandwidth. Radeon HD 4870 uses GDDR5 memory running at 3600MHz and with 115.2GB/s bandwidth, whereas Radeon HD 4850 has GDDR3 memory at 1986MHz and 63.6GB/s bandwidth.
Lower memory bandwidth coupled with slower core speed will surely affect performance, but HD 4850 is still a great card.
Both HD 4800 use 256-bit memory bus, but HD 4870, thanks to GDDR5 memory bandwidth, handles GTX 260 quite well; although GTX 260 has 448-bit memory bus. GTX 280 card with a 512-bit memory bus has a bandwidth of 141GB/s, whereas GTX 260 has 111.9GB/s.
With their overclocked Golden Sample card, Gainward brought HD 4850 to a new level, but such level comes at a price. We checked the pricing and at press time you can find this DirectX 10.1 card at €149, which is about €25 more than Gainward’s reference single slot HD 4850.
The picture below shows the dual-slot cooler in all its glory. The fan is located in the center, whereas the two thick heatpipes route the heat from the core to the aluminum heatsink.
The cooler is quiet, even quieter than on Gainward’s 9800 GT card, which is great since it’s the same cooler. RPM is set to AUTO but you can set it manually, too. Unfortunately, Catalyst Control Center doesn’t have this option, and we found ourselves wishing for ExpertTool once again. RivaTuner will get HD 4800 support in the following couple of days, so by the time you buy this card you’ll already have an appropriate control tool.
As we said before, the plastic hood covers the cooling system. A large aluminum heatsink features a central fan that’s some 6.5cm in diameter. Since the fan is in the center, it does a job of cooling below and on the sides. As the air is blown on all sides, only a fraction of it will be pushed out of the case, but appropriate case cooling should take care of this, as the card doesn’t get too hot anyway.
HD 4850 features a newer UVD (Unified Video Decoder) 2.0 engine that enables dual-stream decoding and 7.1 channel (lossless) sound. Both dual-link DVI outs (supporting up to 2560x1600) have enabled HDCP, whereas HDMI with sound will require DVI-to-HDMI adapter that Gainward, unfortunately, didn’t bundle with this card.
The left side of the card is mostly unpopulated, all the way from the memory up to the two dual link DVI ports and standard mini-DIN port. Upper left corner has two CrossFire X connectors. CrossFire/CrossFireX is supported, meaning if your motherboard supports this feature you can chain up to 4 HD 4850 cards in CrossFireX.
Gainward HD 4850 Golden Sample card features 3+1 VRM design, and unlike the reference HD 4850 that uses a 6-pin power connector, this card comes with an 8-pin one. Additional power is here to make the card more stable and to provide better overclocking potential. After checking the consumption, we learned that this card consumes only slightly more than the reference one. 4-5 Watts more is a direct result of this card being overclocked.
If your PSU doesn’t have an 8-pin PCI Express connector, don’t worry, as Gainward will provide you with an appropriate adapter.
Gainward recently replaced their packaging boxes with smaller ones, and besides looking good, they also take up less space, which means that Gainward thought about not wasting paper and protecting the environment. The new design closely follows the color schemes of the sworn enemies – red for ATI and green for Nvidia.