Review: An overclocked card with non-reference cooling
Radeon HD 4850 is a graphics card which kept a large chunk of its popularity ever since it's been launched back in June 2008. "The bang per buck" factor has been and still is excellent, and AMD followed up with the stronger HD4870. Some of you remember that many partners who've been exclusive to Nvidia have decided to include these cards in their offer as well. Mushkin, the company we know for their excellent memory, has recently joined the AMD graphics bandwagon and offers overclocked HD 4850 cards with non-reference cooling.
Radeon HD 4850 runs at reference 625MHz, with 512MB of 256-bit GDDR3 memory running at 993MHz. In order to make this card stand out a bit, Mushkin overclocked its Ultimate FX HD 4850 cards to 700MHz and 1100MHz memory. Furthermore, Mushkin decided to get rid of reference cooling, replacing it with quiet and efficient Arctic Cooling L2 Pro.
The 55nm RV770 GPU, which is the HD 4850 ticker, packs 800 stream processors and supports DirectX 10.1 with Shader Model 4.1. Compared to the previous generation, the RV770 brought 2.5x the number of stream processors, and the same goes for the 40 texture units (HD 3800 has 16).
The power hiding behind modern GPUs promises serious acceleration and application in parallel computing, and the number of stream units is an important piece of that puzzle. This is one of the main reasons why AMD doubled the number of stream processors on the new Evergreen generation.
Radeon HD 4850 uses all the stream processors RV770 has, and the only differences between it and the faster Radeon HD 5870 are the clocks and the memory used. While HD 4870 uses GDDR5 memory at 3600MHz and scores a bandwidth of 115.2GB/s, the HD 4850's GDDR3 memory at 1986MHz (effectively) will give only 63.6GB of bandwidth.
When it launched, the HD 4850 was priced between €150 and €180 in the EU whereas today you'll easily find it priced below €100. This card's performance will surely do the trick for anyone who plays games at resolutions up to 1680x1050 with maximum detail setting, or at 1920x1200 with lower detail settings.
Reference HD 4850 comes with single-slot cooling that's pretty quiet, but it might burn you if you touch it as the GPU hits up to 85 °C under a workload. Mushkin's dual-slot cooling, or Arctic Cooling L2 Pro to be precise, keeps the GPU temperatures below 60°C. The cooler is made of aluminum and plastic. Within the plastic hood, you'll find a large black fan almost 9cm in diameter. The fan speed can be controlled via the Catalyst Control Center Overdrive panel.
The cooler itself isn't in direct contact with the memory, so the memory is air-cooled only. THe memory in question is Hynix H5RS5223CFR N0C 1ns memory rated at 1GHz.
Musking did a serious PCB redesign, as the PCB is 4cm shorter, comes with non-reference Arctic Cooling L2 Pro cooling and the HDMI out, which isn't found on the reference HD 4850. If the cooler didn't feature dual-slot width, Mushkin's HD 4850 OC card would've been an HTPC-builder's dream.
Apart from the aforementioned HDMI, the card features one dual-link DVI and one VGA out, unlike on the reference card where you'll find two dual-link DVIs and one VGA out. HD 4000 comes with UVD 2.0 (Unified Video Decoder) engine which enables dual-stream decoding as well as 7.1 channel (lossless) audio.
Mushkin HD 4850 OC is powered via one 6-pin power connector, but if your PSU lacks one, you can use the adapter provided in the box. HD 4850's maximum consumption is 110W.
The card comes with Crossfire/CrossfireX support, so if your motherboard permits, you can chain up to four cards in Crossfire. The back of the card, as you can see, isn't particularly interesting. HD 4800 series cards are PCI-Express 2.0, but are of course backwards compatible with PCI-Express motherboards.
Mushkin's card comes in a beautiful wooden box, which can be put to good use elsewhere - something we can't say for cardboard boxes.
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 191.07, Catalyst CCC 9.9 Vista 32 SP1
Synthetic Futuremark tests seem to like Mushkin's overclock on the HD 4850 OC. Mushkin's higher clocks have helped the card to the higher scores and it beats the reference HD 4850 by 11%. Furthermore, although the HD 5750 has been introduced a few weeks ago in the new 5000 generation and is supposed to succeed the HD 4850, Mushkin manages to outrun it by up to 8%. Of course, such a comparison isn't telling the whole story as the new generation of cards comes with DX11.
Far Cry 2
Far Cry 2 requires plenty of memory and bandwidth, which is evident from the following tables. The HD 5750 with 1GB of GDDR5 memory performs much better than HD 4850 cards with 512MB of GDDR3 memory. Mushkin's card outran the reference HD 4850 by about 5%.
HAWX shows the benefits of HD 5750's additional memory only at the highest resolution, which matters little because the result is only 29 fps. Mushkin's overclocked HD 4850 OC wins in this test, leaving the reference HD 4850 behind by up to 8%.
Left 4 Dead
XFX HD 5750 runs nice but lags behind the HD 4850 512MB by a few frames throughout the test. Mushkin's HD 4850 OC runs up to 8% faster than the reference card and up to 15% faster than the HD 5750, although occasional scenarios resulted in more than 15% difference.
World in Conflict
Similarly to the previous games, Mushkin HD 4850 OC outruns the reference card as well as the HD 5750, which loses by up to 8%. This game sees very little difference between the reference HD 4850 and the HD 5750.
Mushkin opted on dual-slot Arctic Cooling L2 Pro cooling, which performs much better than the single-slot, reference cooling. Mushkin's card goes up to 60°C, which is much better than the 85°C we measured on the reference HD 4850. Idle temperature further drives the point home, as the reference card hits up to 77°C. In comparison, Mushkin's card is more than two times cooler, as it hits up to 31°C.
Mushkin HD 4850 OC card runs quiet when idle, but it tends to be a bit louder than the reference card in 3D apps. Of course, you can regulate fan speeds via the Catalyst Control Center Overdrive panel, meaning that you can sacrifice a couple of degrees Celsius to achieve silence.
Thanks to PowerPlay technology, Mushkin HD 4850 card consumes little in idle mode - our system (without the monitor) consumed up to 90W in idle mode. PowerPlay technology dynamically regulates the core's and the memory's operating clocks as well as voltages. It seems Mushkin has managed to implement much better power regulation by altering the PCB design, so their card consumes up to 15W less compared to the reference HD 4850.
Our test-rig consumed up to 233W with Mushkin's HD 4850 OC card, whereas with the reference HD 4850 consumption was up to 239W.
As far as overclocking goes, Mushkin already did a good job and overclocked the card from reference 625MHz to 700MHz. Our attempt at further overclocking of the GPU hasn't been successful.
Mushkin, the famous memory manufacturer has recently re-entered the graphics card market introducing the HD 4850 OC - its first Radeon graphics card. Radeon HD 4850 needs no introduction among the gamers, but this card will soon leave the market, making space for the new Evergreen series cards with DirectX 11 support. Let us remind you that the HD 4850 is based on the RV770 GPU with DirectX 10.1 support.
The company made sure the card stands out of the crowd by overclocking the card from reference 625MHz to 700MHz and the memory from 993MHz to 1010MHz. The much-criticized single-slot reference cooling was replaced and Arctic Cooling L2 Pro mounted instead. This cooler performs much better, but note that it's dual-slot width.
The HD 4850's bang-per-buck ration has been, and still is excellent. Mushkin's HD 4850 OC is a bit more expensive and will set you back over 95 Euro, whereas the reference cards can be found at about 80 euro.
Mushkin's faster clocks will yield about 8% better results that the reference card is capable, and Arctic Cooling's L2 Pro cooling will do a much better job than reference one. Furthermore, although Mushkin HD 4850 OC is an overclocked card, it still consumes less than the reference HD 4850.
Although we'd rather see Mushkin's version of some of the new Evergreen DirectX 11 cards, we must admit that this DX10.1 card shows that the company has got a serious gaming touch. We are looking forward to Mushkin's overclocked cards in the future, and if you're looking a card for a 22'' monitor, and don't intend to buy DX11 hardware, Mushkin's HD 4850 OC is a sure shot.