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Frontpage Slideshow | Copyright © 2006-2010 orks, a business unit of Nuevvo Webware Ltd.
Wednesday, 02 September 2009 15:23

PowerColor HD 4890 LcS tested

Written by Sanjin Rados

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Review: Stable and cool at 1GHz

Back in April, AMD unleashed its fastest graphics chip so far, dubbed RV790. This chip will be cemented in history thanks to the fact that it was the first GPU to break 1GHz, and many AMD partners managed to hit 1GHz even with reference air cooling. However, the reference cooler gets extremely loud while cooling GPUs at 1GHz so many partners opted on their own coolers. PowerColor is one of the few companies that took to water cooling the RV790, which as you know is the ticker within HD 4890 graphics cards. Our today’s PowerColor graphics card is named LCS HD4890 1GB GDDR5 or AX4890 1GBD5-WH if you prefer codenames. The following photo shows a nice single slot graphics card running at 900MHz, which is 50MHz more than the reference 850MHz.
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The overclock on LCS HD 4890 card isn’t particularly high compared to reference speeds. We’ve seen that PowerColor has a couple of faster, air-cooled cards in its offer, also running at 950MHz. Still, water cooling is an appealing feature when we’re talking about the RV790, as it easily gets over 90 degrees Celsius, not to mention that it will greatly help with any potential overclocking. Most RV790 cores can easily run at 1GHz, provided the cooling is adequate.

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The memory got a boost on PowerColor’s card but only by 25MHz compared to reference speeds. Since we’re talking about GDDR5, the speed is effectively 4000MHz, whereas the reference speed is 3900MHz. The card features 800 shaders and DX 10.1 which will come in handy in games such as HAWX.

Radeon LCS HD4890 comes with eight Qimonda IDGV1G-05A1F 1C-40X memory modules, where all of them are in direct contact with the water block thus allowing for stable operation and overclocking potential. The following picture shows the bare PCB, when we took the water block off. The white marks are thermal paste prints.
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PowerColor made the water block in cooperation with the famous water-block maker EK. As a certificate of quality EK’s logo proudly graces the front of the LCS HD4890’s water block.

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The card’s PCB is a reference design. It’s painted red and has two PCI-Express power connectors, eight memory modules and two CrossFireX connector’s enabling for a system with up to 4 graphics cards.

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The photo above shows the now obsolete white pin-head connector, a leftover from air cooling.

The I/O panel features a TV-out, two dual-link DVI outs with HDCP and HDMI via a dongle. In order to make the card more stable within the case, the panel is dual slot as well.
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The LCS HD 4890 1GB GDDR5’s box looks pretty nice and compact, and there is just enough space left to list the important specifications.
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Within the box you’ll find the S-Video to Composite dongle, HDTV cable, DVI-to-HDMI adapter, DVI-to-VGA adapter, CrossFire bridge connector, a short installation manual and the driver CD. Of course, since this is a water cooled graphics card you’ll also find fittings and clamps 3/8’’ and ½’’ in diameter.

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{mospagebreak titile= 2. Benchmarking, Conclusion}


TestBed

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 );
Driver:  ForceWare 190.38, Catalyst CCC 9.8
Vista 32 SP1

Futuremark tests

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3DMark06 doesn’t see PowerColor HD 4890 LCS as significantly faster than the reference card, but Vantage tests remedy that and HD4890 LCS beats the reference card by 5%. Don’t forget that LCS’s core runs at 900MHz, and since the overclock was mere 50MHz this result is pretty nice.

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Gaming

FarCry 2


FarCry 2 is famous for pushing the cards to the limit, but PowerColor HD 4890 LCS handles it pretty well. It beats the reference HD 4890 by more than 5% in average, where the greatest performance gap was 7% at 1680x1050. Although the GTX 275 was faster than PowerColor’s card in most of the tests, the HD 4890 LCS still packs enough punch for gaming at all resolutions.

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HAWX

The HD 4890 LCS scores pretty well in HAWX and beats the reference card at all resolutions by quite hefty margins.

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Left 4 Dead

Left 4 Dead sees Radeon HD 4890 as pretty powerful allowing for gaming at 2560x1600 with an impressive fps-count of almost 60fps. PowerColor’s card kept its 5% advantage over the reference HD 4890 and even did well versus the GTX 275.

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World in Conflict

The results show that PowerColor’s overclock can improve results by up to 7% and the HD 4890 LCS does pretty well.
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Overclocking, thermals and power consumption

HD 4890 LCS is a water cooled card, and this almost always means easy overclocking. In our case, we easily hit the once magic 1GHz barrier for the GPU. We overclocked the memory as well as much as the Catalyst Control Center Overdrive tool would let us. The following picture shows that we’ve milked this card for all it’s worth, in software at least, and the temperatures hit 52°C whereas idle temperatures were at 36°C.

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Unfortunately, the LCS’ memory doesn’t downclock when in idle mode resulting in higher consumption than on Geforce cards, where the memory downclocks when idle. However, the GPU will downclock on Radeon cards as well, and when the card is not in 3D mode the GPU will run at 240MHz. Our test system drew about 130W in idle mode, whereas gaming resulted in consumption of about 320W.


Conclusion


PowerColor Radeon LCS HD 4890 1GB GDDR5 is one of the best HD 4890 graphics cards we’ve tested. It comes with a water block made in cooperation with EK’s experts, and water cooling usually means great overclocking potential. The card is already overclocked by 50MHz but with cooling such as PowerColor used it’s a shame not to try and push it even further. We pounced on the chance to break the 1GHz barrier for the GPU and it went without a hitch.

The water block keeps the graphics and memory temperatures in check, and we surely appreciated the golden silence while gaming at 1GHz GPU and 1200MHz for the memory (4800MHz effectively).

The LCS HD4890 is priced at about €280 and is pretty hard to find since it’s a limited edition, making it much pricier than the reference card but silent operation and a card that stays cool at 1GHz surely makes it worthwhile. If you don’t mind the price, then treating yourself to PowerColor’s Limited Edition HD 4890 LCS 1GB GDDR5 will be a sure shot.


Last modified on Wednesday, 02 September 2009 14:47
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