Graphics Cards Guide

ATI Radeon HD 4850 512MB DDR3 (Reference Card) review

Preview: Radeon HD 4850 CrossFire Performance

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ATI's Countermove

ATI's Countermove

No more than just days after NVIDIA's big-ticket entry with their 1.4-billion transistors GeForce GTX 280 GPU with an equally mind boggling price, AMD was itching to get back at NVIDIA, but not quite at the same segment. In fact, their much awaited Radeon HD 4000 series update started with the Radeon HD 4850 graphics card that's squarely targeting where it would most likely hurt NVIDIA most - their sweet-spot of with the G92-core based products. While we're aware of the official SRP of the Radeon HD 4850, it's still subjected to change (with the official launch slated late next week), but what we can safely say is that it's retailing locally for as little as S$300. In fact, if you look hard, you can even find one that's retailing for just under S$280. That's about 40% off the prices of the competition that the Radeon HD 4850 is going against; and from what we've briefly collated in our results, it seems to be the part.

NVIDIA isn't one who'll take this threat lightly and has as of today reduces its official SRP for the GeForce 9800 GTX to just US$199, while debuting a faster (overclocked version if you will), GeForce 9800 GTX+ from US$229. While it would be a little while more for the various price revisions to kick into effect, remember that the Radeon HD 4000 series don't get launched officially till next week. So there could yet be more developments brewing.

Test Setup

We managed to land a pair of Radeon HD 4850 512MB graphics cards in our labs and we gladly CrossFire'ed them on a much newer testbed that we recently set up using Windows Vista w/SP1. In terms of hardware, this new rig uses a Core 2 Exreme QX6850 (3.0GHz, quad-core) processor, Gigabyte GA-X38T-DQ6 motherboard, 2GB DDR3-1333 memory and a 200GB Seagate 7200.10 hard drive.

If you're wondering what PSU we've used to successfully CrossFire the pair of Radeon HD 4850 graphics cards, it's a Thermaltake ToughPower QFan 650W PSU. With a rated TDP of 110W per card, it doesn't really require a very powerful PSU for CrossFire needs and as a singular card, a fairly capable 450W PSU is adequate for the job.

For comparison, we've got the following cards compared in two primary benchmarks in this preview, 3DMark Vantage and Crysis:-

  • ATI Radeon HD 4850 512MB (Catalyst driver ver 8.6)
  • ATI Radeon HD 4850 512MB CrossFire (Catalyst driver ver 8.6)
  • ATI Radeon HD 3870 X2 1GB (Catalyst driver ver 8.6)
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 280 1GB (ForceWare 177.34)
  • NVIDIA GeForce 9800 GX2 1GB (ForceWare 175.16)
  • NVIDIA GeForce 9800 GTX 512MB (ForceWare 175.16)

A Quick Peek at the Results

The performance the Radeon HD 4850 in either single or CrossFireX mode was phenomenal in 3DMark Vantage. Taking the CrossFireX results, the combined cost locally is about S$600 for the pair of cards and yet it performs just as well or if not better than the brand new S$1,000 GeForce GTX 280 graphics card. The results and pricing more than speak for AMD's new performance class graphics card. In fact, a Quad-GPU configuration with two Radeon HD 3870 X2 in CrossFireX actually scores about the same or a tad slower than the dual Radeon HD 4850 graphics cards with scores of P7166, H6117 and X4282 in the respective test presets.

Closing Comments

At this juncture, the Radeon HD 4850 newcomer looks to be a very interesting card and keeps our spirits up for the forthcoming Radeon HD 4870 model, as well as the X2 edition of it later in the pipeline. While the Radeon HD 4850 is already available for consumers to lay their hands on, it's unfortunately still not officially launched and actual target segmentation and official SRP might be subjected to change. So we'll let you in on the full details later next week, including more performance analysis and GPU architecture information.