Articles: Graphics

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Gainward, currently a division of Palit Microsystems, used to be an exclusive partner of Nvidia’s and offered products with Nvidia’s GPUs only. But the triumphant step of the ATI Radeon HD 4800 could not go unnoticed and somewhere in the middle of the previous year Palit gave up its exclusive friendship with Nvidia in favor of ATI’s solutions, especially as ATI allows more freedom to its partners when it comes to developing nonstandard PCBs and coolers. As the result, there are more unique products for the customer to choose from, which is good for everyone.

But how can a potential customer be attracted to an RV770-based graphics card? The manufacturers solve this problem in different ways. For example, Sapphire offered an advanced dual-processor card capable of competing Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 280/285 but not as expensive as the ATI Radeon HD 4870 X2. It is called Sapphire HD 4850 X2 2G/1G GDDR3. The company endowed this device with a number of unique features (particularly it can support four monitors simultaneously), but our test revealed some drawbacks, the most important of which was the terrifically high level of noise. So, notwithstanding its high performance in games, that card was hardly any more appealing than the low-noise GeForce GTX 280/285. The developer should be given credit for correcting the problem quickly, though: the new version of the Sapphire HD 4850 X2 2G/1G GDDR3 is far less noisy.

This approach may be called an upward expansion, but it can go down as well. Despite its popularity, the Radeon HD 4850 is not free from drawbacks. Particularly, its cooler system is far from optimal. The GPU developer equipped the card with a compact single-slot cooler which can barely cope with the rather hot RV770 chip. A GPU temperature of 86-90°C is quite a normal thing for the reference version of Radeon HD 4850. On the other hand, the release of the Nvidia GeForce 9800 GTX+ with increased GPU frequencies shattered the market position of the Radeon HD 4850 whose core is clocked at 625MHz only while the Radeon HD 4870 belongs to a higher market sector and competes with the GeForce GTX 260 Core 216.

In other words, a Radeon HD 4850 with an effective but silent cooler and with an increased GPU clock rate would be an appealing offer for any customer who doesn’t have the money to buy a GeForce GTX 260 Core 216 or Radeon HD 4870. By the way, the latter has long acquired a double amount of graphics memory, so Gainward installed 1024 megabytes of GDDR3 memory on its version of Radeon HD 4850, too. The card is called Gainward HD 4850 1024MB GS.

Besides other things, the double amount of graphics memory (relative to the reference Radeon HD 4850) will give us the opportunity to see if there is any good from it in real application. Perhaps 512 megabytes is still the optimal amount and installing 1024 megabytes only makes the product unnecessarily expensive.

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