Gigabyte 4850 1GB Page: 1
Introduction

The attention within the graphics industry is often placed upon the top end cards: which one gives the most eye candy and which one batters through Crysis best. Therefore, it's easy to forgot those cards that sit further down the price scale, but often punch well above their weight. Today we will be looking at one such card, the 4850.

Although it's not a new GPU, we've only looked at the 512MB version so far. This model is different because it comes with 1GB of graphics memory, which should prevent the core from being starved of memory, providing much smoother frame rates. It should also handle larger resolutions and the bigger textures that go along with this, moving it more and more into high end card territory.

The Gigabyte card we will be looking at today runs at stock clocks, and comes with a Zalman cooler pre-fitted. Here are the full specifications:

- ATI Radeon HD 4850 GPU @ 625MHz
- 1024MB GDDR3 Memory @ 1986MHz
- 24x custom filter anti-aliasing (CFAA) and high performance anisotropic filtering
- PCI Express 2.0 support
- 256-bit GDDR3 memory interface
- ATI CrossFireX Multi-GPU Technology
- Microsoft DirectX 10.1 support
- Shader Model 4.1
- ATI Avivo HD video and display technology
- Unified Video Decoder 2 (UVD) for Blu-ray and HD Video
- Built-in HDMI with 5.1 surround sound support
- On-chip HDCP

Whilst there is nothing particularly new on the list, the specifications are all good and it should net some pretty good performance, especially for the market point which the 4850 is pitched at. Take a look at the card itself on the next page.


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Packaging and Up Close

Gigabyte have always supplied good packaging on their products, and the 4850 was no exception. The card came in perfect condition, and the packaging was all in tact.

Gigabyte 4850 1gb Box Gigabyte 4850 1gb inner box

The box comes with a simple two colour scheme, with a CGI character on the front. The box has a few key features of the card, but not too many, which is refreshingly clean. Inside the outer box is a white box which has a large flap to reveal the card inside. The hole at the back is used for lifting another flap, which conceals the included bundle.
 
 Gigabyte 4850 1gb bundle

Included inside we have: Quick start guide, User manual, Driver disk, HDMI adapter, DVI to D-sub adapter, PCI-e to molex power adapter, TV connection adapter and a Crossfire bridge. This is a fairly good bundle, with the HDMI adapter probably the most useful inclusion; the rest is pretty standard.

Gigabyte 4850 1gb card Gigabyte 4850 1gb back

The card itself isn't particularly 'busy'. Unlike a lot of cards it isn't dominated by an overly large cooler. The card is also fairly compact, and should fit into all but the smallest of cases. The card uses a 6pin power connector, which means it will run on a low spec PSU and shouldn't harm your wallet too much with the electricity bill.
 
Gigabyte 4850 1gb Cooler Gigabyte 4850 1gb Cooler

The cooler itself is manufactured my Zalman. It uses a pair of heatpipes to conduct the heat away into the fins and fan. Unfortunately the cooler doesn't provide any cooling for the memory, and with 1024MB of it, it may get a bit toasty. The cooler itself is tall enough to take up two slots, which seems a bit of a shame; it would have been far more practical for the end user to have a longer but single slot cooler.

Gigabyte 4850 1gb Covers Gigabyte 4850 1gb covers

Something we don't usually see is the little rubber covers over all the connectors. Gigabyte have even covered the two crossfire connectors (for Crossfire X). We're not sure if the covers are a good or a bad thing, it does help to prevent dust and other foreign objects the ports, but doesn't really offer any other benefits. As they don't match the PCB for colour, they also look a bit out of place. Nice idea but not really needed.


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Test Setup

Testing was run on what we would consider a good mid range rig, the sort of rig we can see this card living within. The CPU was overclocked  to alleviate bottlenecking and we used the same system to test all the cards on test today.

CPU
Intel Core2Quad Q6600 2.4Ghz @ 3.6 Ghz

Motherboard
ASUS P5Q Deluxe (P45)

Memory
Cellshock DDR2 PC-2 6400 5-5-5-18 @ 800mhz

Power Supply
Tuniq Ensemble 1200w

Graphics Drivers

Nvidia Forceware 180.48
ATI Catalyst 8.12.72276

Operating System

Windows Vista 64bit SP1

The tests were run using our standard selection of test games, which gives readers a good perspective of how the card performs in a selection of games. We also test at a variety of resolutions, to give you an idea of how well the card scales and which one would suit you best.

3DMark05
1024x768 / 0xAA
1680x1050 / 4xAA
1920x1200 / 4xAA

3DMark06

1280x1024 / 0xAA
1680x1050 / 4xAA
1920x1200 / 4xAA

3DMark Vantage

Performance Mode
High Mode
Extreme Mode

ET:Quake Wars
1440x900 / High / 4xAA
1680x1050 / High / 4xAA
1920x1200 / High / 4xAA

Unreal Tournament III

1440x900 / DX10
1680x1050 / DX10
1920x1200 / DX10

Call of Duty 4
1440x900 / Max / 4xAA
1680x1050 / Max / 4xAA
1920x1200 / Max / 4xAA

Farcry 2
1440x900 / Max / 4xAA
1680x1050 / Max / 4xAA
1920x1200 / Max / 4xAA

Racedriver GRID

1440x900 / High / 4xAA
1680x1050 / High / 4xAA
1920x1200 / High / 4xAA

Crysis
1440x900 / DX10 / High / 4xAA
1680x1050 / DX10 / High / 4xAA
1920x1200 / DX10 / High / 4xAA

So, how does it perform.....


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3DMark is a popular synthetic gaming benchmark used by many gamers and overclockers to gauge the performance of their PC's. All 3DMark runs were performed a total of 5 times, with the highest and lowest results being removed and an average calculated from the remaining 3 results.






Results analysis


As expected the HIS 4870 and Zotac GTX260 take the lead in most of the tests, with the 4850 around 10% behind. This is by no means a bad result, as the 4850 costs a fair amount less than the other cards, but still manages to keep in touch. It's only in the Vantage tests where the 4850 really drops behing the other cards, and it is around 35% slower than the GTX260 when running the performance benchmark. However, all these tests are purely synthetic, lets find out how it performs in real world tests.


Gigabyte 4850 1GB Page: 5
 
Unreal Tournament 3 is the highly anticipated game from Epic Games and Midway. The game uses the latest Unreal engine, which combines fast gameplay along with high quality textures and lighting effects. All benchmarks were performed using UTbench with a fly-by of the DM-BioHazard map. As usual, all benchmarks were performed 5 times, with the highest and lowest results being removed and an average calculated from the remaining three.
 


 

GRID
 
Race Driver: Grid is a visually taxing game that presents a challenge to any graphics system. Results were recorded using FRAPS to log the average FPS over a 2 minute race. To ensure consistency, the same track, car and general path of travel was used in each of the 5 benchmark runs for each graphics card, with an average FPS being calculated from the median three results.
 



 
 
 
 
Call of Duty 4 is a stunning DirectX 9.0c based game that really looks awesome and has a very full feature set. With lots of advanced lighting, smoke and water effects, the game has excellent explosions along with fast game play. Using the in-built Call Of Duty features, a 10-minute long game play demo was recorded and replayed on each of the GPU's using the /timedemo command a total of 5 times. The highest and lowest FPS results were then removed, with an average being calculated from the remaining 3 results.
 



Results Analysis

Courtesy of the Cost Per Frame graphs a very different picture is painted here. Not only does the 4850 show up the GTX260, but the crossfire 4670's and 4870 make it look silly in a lot of games. The 4850 1GB and Crossfire 4670's swap top (or bottom depending on how you see it) position, with the 4670's score varying with how well the game supports crossfire. Grid is particularly impressive, with the 4670 and 4850 setups costing almost half the amount the GTX260 does per frame.


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Crysis is without doubt one of the most visually stunning and hardware-challenging games to date. By using CrysisBench - a tool developed independently of Crysis - we performed a total of 5 timedemo benchmarks using a GPU-intensive pre-recorded demo. To ensure the most accurate results, the highest and lowest benchmark scores were then removed and an average calculated from the remaining three.
 


 



Ubisoft has developed a new engine specifically for Far Cry 2, called Dunia, meaning "world", "earth" or "living" in Parsi. The engine takes advantage of multi-core processors as well as multiple processors and supports DirectX 9 as well as DirectX 10. Running the Far Cry 2 benchmark tool the test was run 5 times with the highest and lowest scores being omitted and the average calculated from the remaining 3.




ET:Quake Wars

ET:Quake Wars is a follow-up game to Wolfenstein:Enemy Territory developed by Splash Technology. Using a modified version of id Software's Doom 3 engine along with Mega rendering technology, the game promises high resolution textures, fast gameplay and plenty of explosions. Using the built-in recordNetDemo and timeNetDemo commands, we recorded a 5 minute online gaming session and played it back a total of 5 times at each resolution, calculating the average FPS from the median three results.




Results Analysis
 
Once again the 4670 and 4850 run rings around the 260 and 4870 where cost per frame is concerned. Performance is also far from unacceptable, with the 4850 matching the 260 in Crysis, which is simple fantastic for a card that costs £50 less. Far Cry 2 is the only game where the 4850 looks a bit weak, with a frame count quite  a lot lower. However, looking at the CPF shows this is still a good result, as the card still provides far more bang per buck than the GTX260.



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Conclusion

Whilst the initial results for the 4850 1GB were good, it was only when we put them in our Cost Per Frame spreadsheet that the results came alive. It didn't just beat the 4870 and GTX260, it walked all over them. Whilst it is worth bearing in mind that you do pay a premium for top end performance, the difference between the 4850 1GB and GTX260 is just phenomenal.

For gamers that aren't too worried about running Crysis maxed out at high resolutions, this card offers an excellent deal. It was able to cope with all the other test games and resolution combo's and produced perfectly acceptable frame rates.

Unfortunately we couldn't find the exact model tested today available from any reputable UK retailers, but for £143.69 from Scan.co.uk you can get the passively cooled version of this card. Whilst were not sure how well the cooler will perform, it should perform identically, whilst emitting no noise. The fact the card exhibits performance that's in GTX260 and 4870 territory, yet costs under £150, means it is a superb deal and I am extremely confident in recommending the card to others.

The Good


+ Extremely low cost per frame
+ Performance not too far behind cards at a much higher price point
+ Quiet Cooler
+ Produced playable frame rates in all our test games apart from Crysis.

The Mediocre
* Exact model tested couldn't be sourced in the UK.
* Bundle doesn't include any games or free applications.

The Bad
- Zilch



Overclock3D would like to thank Gigabyte for providing todays review sample. Discuss in the forums here.