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Friday, 06 February 2009 12:05

XFX's HD 4850 XXX premiers in our lab

Written by Sanjin Rados

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Review: XFX has the best of both worlds

 

It’s the users who requested it, so XFX quenched their thirst by embarking on their ATI journey say the sources from within the company. Talking to the company’s representatives, we all heard words like: “All of us at XFX are excited for recent developments … but the most important thing is that we want to provide our users with the right choice, whether it’s Nvidia or ATI, we simply want to give them the best graphics card for the money they’re willing to invest…”. You can read the rest here.


Today, we bring you HD 4850 650M 512MB DRR3 DUAL DVI TV PCI-E XXX. Although a bit on the long side, the name gives off the XFX manufacturers on two places. 650M stands for graphics core clocks, whereas the XXX means that this is XFX’s special graphics card. Although the frequencies the card runs at don’t really deserve the XXX suffix, the card packs non-reference cooling that makes this card special. 

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We won’t be commenting on looks too much, as we really like it, but we’ll supply you all the info about how this card runs with the provided cooling. It’s clear from the picture that this is a dual-slot card, whose cooling covers the entire face of the card. The fan is located towards the end of the card, whereas the hot air exits on the opposite side, via the outlets on the I/O panel.

As you may remember, after Nvidia showed its high-end oriented products, the GTX 280 and GTX 260, ATI played its cards on the mainstream level and brought us the HD 4870 and HD 4850. Both ATI’s cards use the same RV770 graphics processor, that packs almost a billion transistors, but note that they’re running at different speeds and use different memory. The RV770 GPU is built in 55nm technology and has 800 stream processors, which is a significant improvement over the previous HD 3800 generation. The new chip packs 2.5x more stream processors and the same goes for the texture units, all 40 of them compared to only 16 on the HD 3800.

The HD 4000 series brought about numerous improvements, so many partners, which were previously loyal to Nvidia, started including ATI’s cards in their offers. XFX did it only recently and, as far as we recall, was one of the last who pounced on the chance to capitalize on Radeon’s success. We all know XFX, a company whose name has a nice ring and even nicer reputation, and we hope that they’ll keep their reputation of one of the most favorite brands around, as their offer now features something for everyone’s taste.

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While the faster HD 4870 runs at 750MHz, the Radeon HD 4850 has a noticeably slower clocks, 625MHz (XFX went a bit further and overclocked it 650MHz). As far as memory goes, both cards feature 256-bit memory interface, but on their HD 4870 ATI opted for GDDR5 memory in order to stay competitive versus Nvidia. That’s how ATI managed to increase the bandwidth without expanding the memory interface, and stand up to Nvidia’s GTX 260.

The Radeon HD 4850’s GDDR3 speeds of 1986MHz will result in a bandwidth of 63.6GB/s, whereas the HD 4870’s GDDR5 memory running at 900MHz (3600MHz effectively) results in a bandwidth of 115.2GB/s. Our XFX HD 4850 XXX card features 512MB of GDDR3 memory clocked at 1050MHz (2100MHz effectively) which results in a 67.2GB/s bandwidth.

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Reference HD 4850s use single-slot cooling which might even burn you on touch in certain scenarios, as the GPU hits up to 85 degrees Celsius when under a workload. Still, these are normal temperatures for this card and reference cooling although audible, isn’t too loud. On the other hand, XFX’s cooler does a great job and keeps the temperatures under 61 degrees Celsius.

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The cooler is made of aluminum and plastic, and you’ll find a large aluminum block inside, touching the GPU and all the memory chips. As you can see from the thermal rubber pads left on the block after we removed it, this card uses 8 memory chips to get the total of 512MB of memory.

The following photo shows the plastic hood with no block inside it, and you see that the air blows directly at the aluminum block, pushing the air towards the I/O panel outlets. The cooler is not heavy, but it will take up two slots.

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The aluminum block is quite large, but it helps when you need that heat off of your GPU and memory quick. Minutes after we turned a 3D application off, temperatures went down to 44 degrees Celsius. The fan isn’t too loud in 3D, but it’s almost inaudible in 2D mode. You can control the speed directly from Catalyst Control Center Overdrive tool.
 
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The black matte PCB looks nice combined with ATI-red DVI outs. Here we see Samsung’s memory modules surrounding the GPU. Everything looks nice and clean, except for the power component part at the back of the PCB. Just like reference cards, the XFX HD 4850 XXX requires one 6-pin power connector.

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The fan is connected to a 4-pin pinhead connector that’s unusually placed at the left side of the card.

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Samsung’s memory runs at 1000Mhz, but it can provide much more with such good cooling, still, don't push the memory too far, as XFX already overclocked it to 1050MHz.

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HD 4000 comes with UVD (Unified Video Decoder) 2.0 engine enabling dual-stream decoding and 7.1 channel audio via the HDMI. Note that the card has no HDMI outs, but you can get one using the supplied DVI-to-HDMI converter. Since everything is integrated into the GPU, there’s no need for routing the sound via a SPDIF connector, which is the case with Geforce cards. Radeon cards handle the sound via the PCI-Express slot. In order to enjoy HD content, both dual-link DVI outs are HDCP enabled.

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If you require an analog VGA port, you can use the included DVI adapter.

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At the end of the card, you'll find a 6-pin power connector. This is also one of the things that set the HD 4870 and HD 4850 apart, as the HD 4870 requires two 6-pin connectors. Maximum consumption of the HD 4850 is 110W whereas the HD 4870 will draw up to 160W.

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There's also Crossfire/CrossfireX support, meaning that if your motherboard supports it, you can chain up to 4 cards in CrossFire.

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The rear side of the card isn't particularly interesting to look at, but it does look nice in matte black. HD 4800 cards are PCI-Express 2.0 but are of course backwards compatible with PCI-Express motherboards.

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XFX completely changed their packaging design, and it now looks very different and much more interesting that others we've seen along the way. We really like it, and you can see and decide for yourself. The Geforce 285 Overclocked also got the new packaging and although it borrowed a bit from the old design, it's much smaller now.

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Last modified on Sunday, 08 February 2009 23:30
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