While MSI could have taken the easy and cheaper route and played it safe by sticking with ATI’s 4830 reference board design, which is actually a carbon copy of the Radeon 4850 design, they didn’t. In fact they’ve come up with the most robust 4830 board design that’s been released to date.
MSI starts with the board’s power subsystem. Whereas the reference board design for the 4850 and 4830 utilize 2-phase power, MSI ups the ante by integrating a 4-phase power design for their R4830-T2D512 OC.
With double the number of power phases, the GPU gets a cleaner power signal. This is particularly important as you go beyond the stock clock speeds and begin to OC the GPU. With more phases, less stress is placed on the individual power phases. This in turn helps to reduce temperature and extend the life of the components, as they’re under less stress than a 2-phase power system.
One additional power phase is devoted exclusively for the GDDR3 memory. This is why MSI refers to their power subsystem as a 4+1 power design.
The memory MSI uses is top notch. Unlike many of the other Radeon 4830 manufacturers who use 1.0GHz GDDR3 memory modules manufactured by Qimonda, MSI has sourced 1.0GHz Samsung memory modules for their R4830-T2D512 OC card. As any OC’er will tell you, Samsung graphics memory is preferred over all other memory manufacturers. This is because Samsung modules tend to scale further than other companies.
For cooling the GPU MSI has developed their own custom cooling solution. The heatsink itself is dual-slot and made entirely from aluminum. It features an egg-like shape we’ve never seen before.
Interestingly enough, the heatsinks fins are varying lengths, we assume MSI did this to address hotspots uniquely to the RV770 chip. The fins on the midsection of the heatsink are longer than the rest of the cooler. As you can see, the fins on the bottom of the cooler are tiny; we measured them and they’re just under five millimeters in length. In comparison the largest fins are nearly forty millimeters long.
Many of the fins are also curved. This allows MSI to cram more long fins into the same amount of space, helping to increase the effectiveness of the heatsink.
MSI uses what they call a seaweed-blade fan. The fan has uniquely shaped fan blades that are curved at the edges like an airplane with a scimitar propeller. According to MSI, this design allows the fan to create more air flow without resorting to higher RPMs.
In operation, MSI’s cooler does an incredible job of keeping the RV770 GPU cool – we observed idle temps below 40 degrees Celsius! The only downside is that the fan’s motor has a slightly higher pitched whine than other Radeon cards we’ve tested; this is reflected in our noise testing later in this review. Don’t get us wrong, the MSI R4830-T2D512 OC still runs quietly, but we wouldn’t characterize it as a near-silent graphics card.
To keep the price as low as possible, MSI ships their R4830-T2D512 OC board without a game bundle. Instead the board’s accessories consist of a DVI adapter, component video cable, S-Video cable and a combo cable with S-Video and composite outputs.
Strangely enough, MSI omits the CrossFire connector cable from the R4830-T2D512 OC’s packaging. We were under the impression this was a requirement in order for a Radeon card to receive CrossFire certification from ATI, as the company has told us in the past that all Radeon cards that are CrossFire-capable are supposed to ship with CrossFire cables (instead of the motherboard).
If CrossFire is an important feature for you, this is important to keep in mind, as you will have to buy a CrossFire interconnect cable if you plan on purchasing a R4830-T2D512 OC card.