HIS HD 4850 IceQ 4 TurboX 512MB PCI-E Graphics Card Page: 1
Introduction & Specifications
 
HIS LogoWhen AMD introduced the 4800 series several months ago, everyone was hoping for a GPU that had fairly low heat output and thus wouldn't require the "leaf blower" style cooling found on most of their previous GPU's dating back to the X1950 series. Unfortunately, despite AMD's efforts to tame the lower-end HD 4850 with a copper based single-slot solution, those of us who dabble in the art of overclocking were less than impressed by its near-boiling-point load temperatures that hindered any decent increase in clock speeds. Thankfully some AIB's stepped in with their own custom cooling, HIS being one of the few.
 
Not a name that all of us will be familiar with due to their fairly low key presence in the UK market, HIS is actually one of the longest running graphics card manufacturers in the industry. Formed in 1987 with headquarters based in Hong Kong, HIS is a tier-one ATI/AMD partner with many well known products and trademarks such as IceQ, iCooler, iFan and TURBO Edition under their belt. Here's some words from the profile pages of their website:
 
HIS was established in 1987 with the mission to produce the highest quality graphic cards in the industry. Besides strong devotion to excellent products and services, HIS has been conducting business with the aim to "Glorifying God". Honesty and integrity are the two key principals of how HIS are conducted. Ethical business practice has been an everyday commitment to our clients, vendors, and investors.
 
Year 2002 marked a milestone in HIS's history, with "Excalibur" as the encore product for the company. The "HIS Excalibur Graphics Board" proved its name by passing the vigorous and stringent testing of the widely recognized media worldwide. Not only so, but has been crowned with various honors such as: Tom's Hardware, Anandtech and PC Magazine. In Sept 2003, HIS incorporated the state-of-the art Supreme Cooling Technology in the award winning HIS Excalibur 9800Pro IceQ which became the HIS IceQ, IceQ II and now the IceQ 3 Series. Since then, this product has been the limelight in the market for its outstanding performance and features over the other rivals.
 
Today we've been given the opportunity to take a look at their HD 4850 IceQ 4 TurboX card. While we don't want to spoil the surprise on exactly what this card has in store, the rather long name suggests that the card not only has a custom cooling solution (IceQ) in its fourth revision, but is also overclocked well in excess of the reference design. Let's take a look...
 
HIS introduces the HIS HD 4850 IceQ 4 TurboX 512MB (256bit) GDDR3 PCIe, featuring the 4th generation of the award-winning IceQ cooling technology. Thanks to the newly designed double-slot fans and heatsink, HIS IceQ 4 effectively dissipate the heat from the GPU, thus enabling it for high levels of performance......
 
• The World's fastest HD4850
• Powered by Radeon® HD 4850 GPU
• Innovative IceQ 4 Cooling technology
• 956 million transistors on 55nm fabrication process
• 800 stream processing units
• DirectX® 10.1
• 24x custom filter anti-aliasing (CFAA) and high performance anisotropic filtering
• ATI CrossFireX™ multi-GPU support for highly scalable performance
• Use up to four discrete cards with an AMD 790FX based motherboard
• PCI Express® 2.0 support

Memory Size (MB): 512
Memory Type: GDDR3
RAMDAC (MHz): 400
Engine CLK (MHz): 685
Memory CLK (MHz): 2200
Memory Interface (bit): 256
 
HIS claim that the IceQ 4 TurboX is "The World's fastest HD4850" and with its GPU and GDDR3 memory clocked at 685 / 2200MHz respectively we're certainly not going to disagree. Sure it might not quite be up there with the 700MHz stock clocked core of its GDDR5 based bigger brother, but with a 60MHz overclock on the core and 212MHz on the memory, the gap will certainly be less pronounced.
 
Let's move on and take a closer look at the card...


HIS HD 4850 IceQ 4 TurboX 512MB PCI-E Graphics Card Page: 2
Packaging & Appearance
 
Despite the fact that the IceQ 4 TurboX is a premium model card, HIS have kept things nice and simple by packaging the card inside a reasonable sized black cardboard box with a fairly simple blue aura style background. Taking the centre stage at the front of the box is the IceQ 4 logo along with some basic features and accessory images listed down the right-hand side.
 
HIS 4850 Box Front HIS 4850 Box Back
 
At the back of the box is an image of the card in all its glory with some magnified images detailing the various special features of the IceQ 4 series. Some of the more prominent features include: Isolated memory and PLL heatsinks, dual slot cooling design and a silent fan.
 
HIS 4850 Box Open HIS 4850 Box Contents
 
HIS 4850 Screwdriver thingy HIS 4850 Screwdriver & Light
 
Opening the white cardboard inner-box, we can see that HIS have gone to the trouble of placing the graphics card inside a moulded plastic shell that not only prevents the card from moving around during shipping, but also keeps it well distance from the edges of the box that could easily be damaged if dropped by a courier.
 
Everything you'd expect to find with a new graphics card is present, including:  Driver Disks, Manuals, a Crossfire Bridge, a DVI-HDMI converter, a DVI-VGA converter and a molex-PCIe adapter cable. HIS have also gone to the trouble of including a multi-function screwdriver / spirit level / torch type thingy in the box which will undoubtedly come in handy if you're trying to screw anything upright in the dark!
 
HIS HD 4850 IceQ 4 TurboX Top HIS HD 4850 IceQ 4 TurboX Back
 
HIS HD 4850 IceQ 4 TurboX Side HIS HD 4850 IceQ 4 TurboX Side
 
As graphics cards go, the HIS HD 4850 IceQ 4 TurboX looks simply awesome. Using a cooler not dissimilar in appearance to the previous generation of Arctic Cooling's 'Silencer' series, a blower fan mounted at the rear of the card pushes air through copper coloured (but most likely aluminium) fins attached to a base plate. As mentioned previously, both the Memory and PLL heatsinks are isolated from the main GPU cooler which is probably a good thing considering how hot the 4800 series cores can get.
 
HIS HD 4850 IceQ 4 TurboX Front HIS HD 4850 IceQ 4 TurboX Rear
 
At the front of the card you'll find the standard configuration of two DVI ports and an S-Video port bolted to the dual-slot blanking plate. However, HIS have seen fit to gold plate the connections on the DVI ports and also electroplate the blanking plate in a gunmetal black colour. This further improves the aesthetic appeal of the card, which combined with the custom blue PCB, makes it probably the best looking graphics card we've ever seen.


HIS HD 4850 IceQ 4 TurboX 512MB PCI-E Graphics Card Page: 3
Test Setup
 
Having already explored the performance of the HD 4850 in several of our previous GPU reviews, today we are going to be concentrating on a head-to-head comparison of the HIS HD 4850 IceQ 4 TurboX vs a stock clocked Sapphire HD 4850 512mb card also fitted with after-market cooling. While we'll be handing out no prizes to those of us who guess which card will win in terms of FPS (we hope), our focus today is going to be on whether the increase in price of a factory-overclocked card can justify the increase in performance.
 
Test Setup
 
The following list of games has also been chosen to test each of the cards on a number of popular game engines. Each game will be run at varying quality and AF settings at both low and high resolutions.
 
Quake Wars
1280x1024 / High / 4xAA
1600x1200 / High / 4xAA
1920x1200 / High / 4xAA

Unreal Tournament III
1280x1024 / DX10 / High
1600x1200 / DX10 / High
1920x1200 / DX10 / High

Call of Duty 4
1280x1024 / Max / 4xAA / 4xAF
1600x1200 / Max / 4xAA / 4xAF
1920x1200 / Max / 4xAA / 4xAF

F.E.A.R
1280x1024 / Max / 4xAA
1600x1200 / Max / 4xAA
1920x1200 / Max / 4xAA

Crysis
1280x1024 / DX10 / High / 0xAA / 0xAF
1600x1200 / DX10 / High / 0xAA / 0xAF
1920x1200 / DX10 / High / 0xAA / 0xAF

GRID
1280x1024 / DX10 / High / 4xAA
1600x1200 / DX10 / High / 4xAA
1920x1200 / DX10 / High / 4xAA
 
During the benchmarking phase, we will be using the following prices extracted from scan.co.uk on 07/10/08 to produce our CPF (Cost Per Frame) graphs. Please remember that these graphs are static and only represent a snapshot of the market at the time of this review.
  
HIS HD 4850 IceQ 4 TurboX - £135.00
Sapphire HD 4850 (Stock) - £118.32
 
 
Overclocking
 
Using only the the ATI Overdrive™ facility built into the driver control panel, the maximum overclock we were able to obtain from the HIS HD 4850 was 690mhz on the core and 1190mhz on the memory. The Overdrive facility did actually attempt to overclock the memory higher than this using the "Auto-Tune" option, but unfortunately these settings proved to be unstable when attempting to run any benchmarking applications.
 
HIS HD 4850 IceQ 4 TurboX Stock HIS HD 4850 IceQ 4 TurboX Overclocked
Factory OC (Left) vs Custom OC (Right)
 
While only a fairly small overclock on the default 685/1100 settings, this certainly shows that HIS have pushed every ounce of performance out of the card already with the factory overclock. The IceQ 4 cooling system also did an excellent job of keeping the card cool, running at around 40c idle and 60c under heavy extended load (rthdribl).
 
 
A quick run of 3DMark Vantage with "Performance" settings shows a fairly respectable increase in score from P7612 to P7779 showing that sometimes it's even worth pushing the pre-overclocked cards just that little bit further.


HIS HD 4850 IceQ 4 TurboX 512MB PCI-E Graphics Card Page: 4
Call of Duty 4
 
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 gameplay. 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.
 
 
 
 
Crysis
 
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.
 
 


HIS HD 4850 IceQ 4 TurboX 512MB PCI-E Graphics Card Page: 5
F.E.A.R
 
F.E.A.R. is a game based on the Lithtech Jupiter EX engine. It has volumetric lighting, soft shadows, parallax mapping and particle effects. All results were recorded using F.R.A.P.S, with a total of 5 identical runs through the same area of the game. The highest and lowest results were then removed, with an average being calculated from the remaining 3 results.
 
 
 
 
Racedriver 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.
 
 


HIS HD 4850 IceQ 4 TurboX 512MB PCI-E Graphics Card Page: 6
Unreal Tournament III
 
Unreal Tournament 3 the latest game in the long running Unreal series from Epic Games and Midway. The game uses the latest UE3, 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.
 
 
 
 
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.
 
 


HIS HD 4850 IceQ 4 TurboX 512MB PCI-E Graphics Card Page: 7
Conclusion
 
HIS HD 4850 IceQ 4 TurboXMake no mistake, the HIS HD 4850 IceQ 4 TurboX is the crème de la crème of 4850 series cards. With its superb after-market cooling and fearlessly high factory overclock and nifty little touches such as a custom coloured PCB, gold-plated DVI connectors and an electroplated blanking plate, the card will look at home in even the most high-end PC despite the 4850's mid-range audience.
 
As the results over the previous pages have shown, the HIS manages to pull ahead of the stock clocked Sapphire card by around ~10fps in most games at certain resolutions with even more room for improvement if you decide to further overclock the card.
 
Of course, being a mid-range card attention needs to be paid to its value for money. With a price tage of £135 the HIS did fall slightly behind the £17 cheaper stock-clocked Sapphire card when the results were broken down to Cost Per Frame level. However, with everything taken into consideration the TurboX IS STILL great value for money if you're in the market for a HD 4850 with a little extra bite.
 
 
The Good
• IceQ 4 cooling keeps temperatures well in-check.
• Custom touches such as gold-plated DVI's and Blue PCB.
• Fearless overclock + a little room left to have some fun of your own.
• Screwdriver / Spirit Level / Flashlighty thingymabob.
 
The Mediocre
• The higher performance of the card didn't quite offset the extra cost in the CPF results.
 
The Bad
• Nothing. (Chants: bring on the HD 4870x2 IceQ 4 TurboX!!)
 
Overclock3D Performance Award
 
Thanks to HIS for providing the HD 4850 IceQ 4 TurboX for review. Discuss this review in our forums.