Review: MSI dual slot cooler and 4+1 phase power
AMD Radeon HD 4830 is a graphics card that fills the gap between HD 4850 and HD 4670 and if you take a look at the price-performance ratio, you'll clearly see that it's a good deal. The card was initally priced a bit high and it cost almost like an HD 4850, but the price went down and you can find it now at about €90. The deal gets even sweeter when you take into account that you can comfortably play all the popular games.
One of the best HD 4830 cards is MSI’s R4830 OC Edition, which we will test today. Compared to reference HD 4830 cards, R4830 has a couple of aces up its sleeve, such as 4+1 power phase and MSI’s dual-slot cooling. Better components result in less consumption and provide better overclocking, but that’s why R4830 cards end up being priced a bit higher than reference HD 4830s. Whether some €10 is worth it, we’ll see after our testing. For starters, let’s take a look at the R4830 and review some specifications.
The first thing you notice is a large aluminum cooler with a fan in the middle. The cooler is made of one piece of aluminum and it’s tall enough to make R4830 a dual-slot card. You’ll find “seaweed-blade” fans inside, which feature specially curved fins for better airflow. MSI uses these fans for over a year now, as they provide superior cooling compared to standard fans at same RPM. R4830 is not inaudible, but although you’ll hear it from time to time it’s still not uncomfortably loud. We’d rate it at same noise levels as the reference 4830, but MSI’s iteration runs much cooler.
The cooler touches the GPU, but not the memory, which is cooled by the fan. The card comes with 512MB of GDDR3 256-bit memory.
R4830 uses sturdy solid state chokes, solid capacitors and 4+1 phase power, which results in improved stability and consumption, as well as better overclocking. MSI overclocked the card by only 10MHz compared to reference 575MHz, but potential owners will probably want more than this.
Powering the card is, just like we’re used to from mid-range models, done via one 6-pin PCI Express power connector.
Just like Radeon HD 4870 and HD 4850, Radeon HD 4830 is based on RV770 core, manufactured in 55nm and packing 965 million transistors. Crippling the core to some extent is a usual practice in manufacturing of weaker models, and HD 4830 comes without 160 stream processors. This means it features 640 stream processors compared to full RV770’s 800 stream processors.
Since its performance is rated just below HD 4850 at 625MHz, AMD used lower clocks for HD 4830 cards. The GPU runs at 575MHz with the memory at 900MHz; note that HD 4850’s memory runs at 993MHz.
MSI R4830 card comes with the OC suffix, but 585 MHz is not something we’d consider as overclocked. However, when you decide to manually overclock the card, you’ll see it’s a breeze.
For this graphics card, Catalyst Control Center allows maximum of 700MHz. Numbers in the GPU Clock field are the GPUZ readout after our overclocking.
If you use tools such as RivaTuner, the card can handle higher speeds of up to 720MHz. Maximum memory clock was 1030MHz, but we kept it at 1000MHz (2000MHz effectively).
For their Radeon cards, MSI makes a special version of CCC drivers (Catalyst Control Center), where you’ll find D.O.T. tool (Dynamic Overclocking Technology), and it enables hassle-free overclocking by simple choosing of already defined values. By choosing the “Commander” settings, we reached the R4830’s highest D.O.T.-allowed speed – 665MHz for the core and 1008MHz for the memory.
We didn’t use MSI’s CCC drivers, since we couldn’t find the latest 8.12 version on the CD or MSI’s online portal, although this version is quite important for HD 4800 and HD 4600 users. A feature you won’t find in older drivers is Avivo converter, which is used for GPU-based video conversion. This program’s main advantage over the competition is speed, and unlike many converters it doesn’t solely depend on the CPU. Until MSI brings its driver database up to speed, we recommend downloading the latest drivers from AMD’s online portal, here.
Technical differences aside, HD 4850 and HD 4830 look very much alike. Reference design of both cards uses the same PCB and single-slot cooler, whereas MSI’s R4830 is a bit different and instantly recognizable.
A large cooler on R4830’s 55nm core had no trouble keeping the temperatures in check. Compared to reference HD 4830 cards, R4830’s maximum temperatures are lower by more than 30 degrees Celsius.
Apart from lower temperatures, MSI’s R4830 has proven better in the consumption department, too (we measured total system consumption). Reference card has maximum consumption of 110W (just like HD 4850), but thanks to 4+1 phase power, MSI managed to bring consumption down significantly.
I/O panel features two dual link DVI outs with HDMI support, but note that you’ll need the DVI-to-HDMI dongle, which MSI didn’t bundle with the card for some strange reason. Between the two DVIs, you’ll the analog out providing S-Video, component and composite out via the dongle.
The card comes with two Crossfire interconnectors that enable Crossfire setups of up to 4 cards.
We know the box from before, and MSI uses it for mid-range and high-end Radeon cards. It’s tough and easy to carry as it comes with a handle. The box contains the most important info on the card, but 4+1 phase power is a bit emphasized since it’s unique among 4830 cards.
Motherboard: MSI P45D3 Platinum ( Provided by: MSI );
Processor: Intel Core 2 QX9770 Extreme edition at 3.6GHz ( Provided by: Intel );
Memory: Corsair Dominator 12800 7-7-7-24 ( Provided by: Corsair);
HDD: WD VelociRaptor 300G 10,000RPM ( Provided by: SmoothCreation );
ATI CCC 8.12
MSI R4830 runs at almost identical speeds as the reference HD 4830 so it’s natural that there’s no performance difference. Only after we overclocked the card to 700MHz (19% increase) and memory to 1000MHz (2000MHz effectively) did we manage to pull off a 17% better result.
World In Conflict
Radeon HD 4830 fights a tough battle versus the Geforce 9800 GT. It seems like Nvidia’s latest drivers improved 9800 GT performance, but it wasn’t enough to beat HD 4830 in this game. All we can say for MSI’s overclocked R4830 is that it’s better, as this dual-slot card runs up to 18% better than reference HD 4830.
Far Cry 2
At 1280x1024 and ultra-high settings, Far Cry 2 results in a frame rate good enough for glitch-free gaming. MSI shines after overclocking leaving the 9800 GT behind by up to 21%. With antialiasing on, 9800 GT closes the gap to only 5%; non-overclocked card loses by 13% and the reference HD 4830 by almost 9%.
Left 4 Dead
Unlike the previous generation, HD 4800 series is not plagued by a bad antialiasing solution. It’s evident from the following results where HD 4830 fares well versus the 9800 GT.
MSI R4830 is based on Radeon HD 4830 graphics processor, which is a crippled version of RV770 chip used on HD 4850, HD 4870 and HD 4870 X2. HD 4830’s core is named RV770 LE, but with its 640 stream processor and a 585MHz clock, it’ll be enough to play all the popular games. Just like the rest of RV770 cards, HD 4830 also supports the new Avivo converter (ATI stream computing).
MSI R4830 is special for its overclocking capabilities, which will help it in separating it from the pack. We had no trouble overclocking it by 115MHz, and temperatures were still some 30 degrees Celsius lower than on reference HD 4830 cards. Lower temperatures are a direct result of MSI’s dual-slot cooling, as well as 4+1 phase power that ensures power stability and less strain on the power components.
MSI R4830 OC Edition is one of the best HD 4830 cards around and we sincerely recommend it if you want your card to have a long life. Great cooling and power stability are prerequisites for long life, and MSI’s R4830 offers exactly that. It will set you back some €10 more than reference, but it’s €10 well spent.