Summary: Looking for a Radeon 4850 card that runs significantly cooler than ATI's stock Radeon 4850 reference design? If so, you'll want to check out MSI's R4850 512M. The card features a dual-slot cooler with quad copper heatpipes. See how the card compares to the regular Radeon 450 in today's review!
But as impressive as the Radeon 4850 is, it has one key weakness. In stock form, the card produces an extraordinary amount of heat.
Just how hot does the Radeon HD 4850 get? Some users have reported GPU temps in the 70-degree Celsius range at idle! The card itself runs just fine at these temps, but obviously no one wants to have a huge hotspot just sitting inside their PC. In addition, the effects of this over time have obviously been untested, as the Radeon HD 4850 has only been on the market for a little over a month now.
Besides dust buildup, excessive heat is one of the leading causes of most fan failures.
We saw this firsthand while benchmarking for our Radeon HD 4850/4870 Performance Preview article. We had to handle our cards with care after testing as the 4850ís copper heatsink will literally burn your finger if you touch it after a testing session. The boardís PCB gets pretty toasty as well.
Again, as we stated before, the Radeon HD 4850 seems to run fine despite these excessive temperatures. Weíve witnessed no artifacts or other graphical glitches with the card running at stock speeds over the course of our testing. But obviously there are users who would like to avoid this situation if they can. Already one user, Bretware on the Guru3D.com forums, has come up with a solution to the problem, creating a custom profile that allows you to manually adjust the fanís RPMs to any ratio youíd like, from 0-100% speed (you donít want to hear the 4850ís fan running at 100%, trust us).
The only downside to this method is that you have to manually run the profile every time you start your computer, it isnít automatic. This is a huge hassle if youíre accustomed to dealing with fan sliders, if anything is even needed at all.
But what if you donít want to deal with the hassle of adjusting fan speeds, yet you still want good GPU cooling? Thatís where MSIís R4850 512M comes in. Rather than rely on the stock ATI heatsink/fan unit, the card has its own custom cooling. As weíre about to show you, MSIís cooler is significantly better than ATIísÖ
Fundamentally MSIís R4850 512M is based on ATIís reference design of the Radeon 4850. No changes are made to the board design itself. Capacitors, resistors, and all the other circuitry on the board is the exact same as the Radeon HD 4850 reference design. MSI even opts to run the board at the stock Radeon 4850 clock speeds.
Rather than make changes to the board design, MSI instead focuses their efforts on the 4850ís cooling. The stock single-slot heatsink/fan unit designed by ATI is replaced by a dual-slot cooler that MSI originally developed for their custom GeForce 9600 GT card, the MSI N9600 GT Hybrid Freezer 1GB.
By sticking with the ATI reference board design and adopting the same cooling as their existing 9600 GT board, MSI is able to bring their card to market faster. Already this card can be found today on Newegg selling for $192.99. So what makes the cooling so special? Its heatpipes.
For maximum cooling performance, MSI uses four copper heatpipes for cooling the RV770 GPU. Based on our measurements, each heatpipe is over 8Ē in length, and 6mm thick. MSIís use of long, thicker heatpipes further improves the effectiveness of the cooler. According to MSI their use of thicker heatpipes improves cooling effectiveness by 20% in comparison to typical 5mm heatpipes.
With their copper design, the heatpipes are capable pulling quite a bit of heat off the GPU. This heat must then be dispersed in order to prevent the heatpipes themselves from becoming a hotspot on the graphics card. To accomplish this, MSI employs a dual-slot aluminum heatsink. Heat from the heatpipes is transferred to this heatsink, which is composed of nearly three dozen fins. Each fin is slightly over 7Ē long, and ĹĒ thick. Heat from the heatpipes is dispersed along the entire length of these fins. Employing such a large heatsink increases its surface area, and thus increases the effectiveness of the cooler.
Supplying the heatpipes and heatsink with fresh cool air is an 80mm fan. By using such a large fan (most case fans measure 80mm), the cooler is able to supply a large amount of air without having to resort to spinning up to high RPMs. This helps to keep noise output down to a minimum. Even under extended 3D load, you can barely hear the fan on the R4850 512M in operation.
If you recall our GeForce 9600 GT roundup, the fan on the MSI 9600 GT Hybrid Freezer card only spun up when the GPU reached a certain temperature, but this isnít the case for the R4850 512M; the fan spins at all times on this board. We consider this a good thing as the Hybrid Freezer card ran hotter than many of the other GeForce 9600 GT cards featured in our roundup as a result.
The rest of the R4850 512M is pretty standard fare as far as Radeon HD 4850 cards go. MSI includes an aluminum heatsink to cool the power circuitry on the right edge of the board, but this is a standard feature on all Radeon 4850 cards. MSI also cools the memory modules with an aluminum plate connected via thermal pad. We would have preferred the use of RAMsinks connected via thermal paste, but this is a small gripe, as most cards use similar cooling methods. As we mentioned earlier, the board runs at the stock Radeon 4850 speeds of 625MHz graphics core, and 1.0GHz memory.
To keep costs down the card doesnít ship with a game bundle, but you do get a DVI adapter, HDMI adapter, and a component video cable. Officially the card retails for an MSRP of $199.99, which is the same price tag that the bone stock Radeon HD 4850 officially retails for. On Newegg the R4850 512M sells for $8 more than MSIís stock card, so this is quite a good deal considering the superior cooling performance of MSIís cooler, which you can see on the overclocking results page.
Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9770
EVGA nForce 790i Ultra SLI motherboard (for GeForce cards)
ASUS P5E3 Premium WiFi AP Edition (for Radeon cards)
4GB OCZ DDR3 @ 1333MHz
GeForce GTX 260
GeForce 9800 GTX+
GeForce 9800 GTX
GeForce 8800 GT
MSI R4850 512M
AMD Radeon HD 4850
AMD Radeon HD 4870
300GB Western Digital Caviar SE
Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit w/Service Pack 1
Company of Heroes 1.71
Crysis High Ė Direct3D
Radeon 4850 core: With 800 stream processors running at 625MHz, the Radeon 4850 has all the shading horsepower needed for todayís latest games. The GPU also supports DirectX 10.1, giving it an advantage over NVIDIAís GeForce GTX and GeForce 9 series GPUs.
No overclocking?: With such a good cooler, some may wonder why MSI has elected not to OC the GPU on the R4850 512M. Considering the low pricing though we think this isnít a big deal. Besides, so far weíve noted that OCíing isnít one of the 4850ís strong suits, we still havenít managed to hit 700MHz with a single board weíve received.