Asus EAH4850 MT Republic of Gamers HD 4850 Review

ajmatson - 2008-12-31 16:55:28 in Video Cards
Category: Video Cards
Reviewed by: ajmatson   
Reviewed on: January 22, 2009
Price: $185.00

Introduction:

With the explosion of GPU chipsets for video cards, manufacturers are hard at work to bring out their secret weapon that will sweep buyers off their feet and buy their video cards instead of a competitor's card. One company that has been releasing computer components and more for some time, has taken its current video cards and designed them to appeal to the gamer on a more personal level. Most gamers and enthusiasts are not happy with stock components and tend to push their hardware to the limits. One video card GPU in particular has been very overclocking friendly and now it has been taken a step further. ASUS, building off of its famous Republic of Gamers brand, has released a version of the HD 4850 video card aimed at those of us with that itch to push our hardware. This new card is the ASUS EAH4850 MT. So what is so special? Well the MT designation signifies the Matrix Series by ASUS, which uses hardware and software to allow you to push your card to the maximum potential easier and with more overall control. The HD 4850 Matrix takes the stock HD 4850 core design and expands on it, allowing it to be tweaked to higher speeds and run cooler than ever before. If I haven't gotten your interest peaked yet, how about we take a better look at the card.

 

Closer Look:

Since this is a brand new card, ASUS sent us the HD 4850 and accessories without retail packaging. At first glance you can see the massive heatsink that is attached. We will get more into that on the next page. Included with the ASUS EAH4850 MT is the Speed Setup booklet, an iTracker manual, a manual CD, drivers CD, molex to 6-pin PCI Express adapter, a component video dongle, and a DVI to HDMI adapter. It's important to note that this is subject to change, as this was not a retail package.

 

 

Since everything is already unpackaged for us, how about we take a closer look at this beauty?

Closer Look:

The EAH4850 MT uses a dual-slot cooling solution to keep the card's temperatures as low as possible, especially when overclocking. The ASUS EAH4850 MT uses the same GPU core that is used in the faster HD 4870 cards so there will hopefully be some nice overclocking potential here. ASUS used a black-colored PC board for the EAH4850 MT instead of the traditional red color that we see on a lot of ATI based cards from other manufacturers. However, what really sets this card apart from the other HD 4850's on the market is the software that ASUS uses to monitor and overclock the EAH4850 MT, which will give you an edge in gaming and benchmarking. The EAH4850 MT comes with the same clock speeds as the stock HD 4850 cards, but bumps it up with special overclocking features via the software, energy saving features, and the ASUS Hybrid Cooling system.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ASUS EAH4850 MT has enough connections that just about anyone should be comfortable with. There are two DVI ports (the yellow DVI port can be converted to an HDMI port with the included adapter) and an S-Video out port that can be converted for component video out with the included dongles. To power the EAH4850 MT you still need to provide the 6-pin PCI Express power connection as in other HD 4850 cards. On the top spine of the card you'll find the two notches for the CrossFire connectors, which allow you to combine multiple cards for a powerful multi-GPU system.

 

 

With the heatsink and fan assembly removed we can get a good look at the brains and guts of the ASUS EAH4850 MT. As I mentioned earlier, the GPU is the RV770 core, which is clocked at 625MHz. There are also 965 million transistors, 800 stream processing units and the GPU is manufactured using a 55nm fabrication process. The memory chips used on the ASUS EAH4850 MT are manufactured by Qimonda (Model #HYB18H512321BF-10), which are clocked at 993MHz. However, they are rated for 1000MHz, so we should have some room to play with while overclocking. Near the front of the PC board is a special little chip called the ASUS Super Hybrid Engine. This chip controls the interaction between the hardware and the software to control the power needed to overclock the card, as well as power saving when the card is under-clocked.

 

 

Under the main cooler, ASUS has placed a RAM heatsink to keep the memory chips cooler and aid in obtaining the highest overclocks possible. The heatsink covers the memory chips with a thermal pad and attaches to the PC board via small screws. This keeps the heatsink secure without having it "glued" to the chips, which would otherwise cause damage if removed.

 

 

 

The cooler is a hybrid dual-slot cooler that uses a combination of a copper heat plate, aluminum heat pipes, aluminum fins, and a small fan. The fan pushes cooler air over the fins and blows the warm air out the rear of the case. Using a specially designed cooler such as this will allow for lower operational temperatures and greater stable overclocks. With the heating issues that plagued the early HD 4850 cards, using an aftermarket cooler is a smart decision on a higher-end card such as this.

 

 

 

Now how about we put this card all back together and install the software?

Closer Look:

Part of what makes the ASUS EAH4850 MT different from other HD 4850 cards in its class is the software designed to interact between the card and the user, allowing you to get the most out of your experience. To get started, you need to install the drivers for your card and the utilities that make it do its magic. Pop the drivers CD into your drive and a menu will appear on your screen. This menu has three options for you. First is to install the VGA drivers. This will install the ATI drivers and the Catalyst Control panel for you. The next option installs the utilities that will be used to monitor and overclock the ASUS EAH4850 MT. One thing I really liked about the ASUS installer is that everything was installed seamlessly and at once, without the need for installing each driver or utility separately and wasting time. The last option is the contact info for ASUS, should you need support for your new product.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are several useful utilities included to help you get the most out of your card. The first one is the Gamer OSD, which will allow you to capture video from your games (something you'd typically need a program like Fraps to do), for replay later or to show off to your friends.

 

 

The second utility, which is the most important for the ASUS EAH4850 MT, is iTracker. iTracker allows you to overclock your card easily and also has the ability to set overclocking profiles for quick switching when needed. Once you start iTracker there are four main profiles and one where you can set custom profiles. There is an Optimized profile, a Gamer profile, a Default profile and a Power Saving Profile. The Optimized profile will slightly overclock your card while the Power Saving profile will down-clock it to save on the energy consumed during 2D playback. In addition to profiles, you can monitor your hardware for everything from fan speeds to voltages.

 

 

 

For the overclocking profiles here are GPU-Z screenshots of the Default profile (625MHz on the core and 993MHz on the memory) and Optimized profile (core increased to 660MHz). This is only a mild overclock, however you can be more agressive with the custom profiles to suit your taste.

 

 

Now that everything is installed let's take a look at the Catalyst Control Center.

Closer Look:

The Catalyst Control Center is where all the settings for the ASUS EAH4850 MT are available. There are plenty of options and settings available depending on the capabilities that you choose to use. Each group of settings can be adjusted to your specific viewing and image quality preferences.

Information Center: In the Information Center you can view extensive hardware information, as well as driver, CCC and DirectX versions.

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Digital Panel: In the Digital Panel you can set and view display information, such as GPU scaling, DVI settings, and color correction.

 

 

3D: In the 3D tab you can adjust general image quality settings, as well as Anti-Aliasing, Anisotropic Filtering and color schemes. There are also a few settings for DirectX and OpenGL.

 

 

AVIVO Video & ATI Overdrive: AVIVO settings allow you to alter the color settings for better viewing, while ATI Overdrive gives the user control of the GPU and memory frequencies. For novice users there is an automated clock configuration utility that will find the best overclock for your system settings.

 

 

Now how about we get some testing going on the ASUS EAH4850 MT?

 

Specifications:

 

Graphics Engine
ATI Radeon HD 4850
Video Memory
512MB GDDR3
Engine Clock
625MHz
Memory Clock
993MHz x2
Memory Interface
256-bit
DirectX Support
10.1
BUS Speed
PCI Express 2.0
Cooling
Dual-slot active cooler
Outputs
DVI x2, S-Video x1
DVI Output
DVI-I
HDMI Support
Yes, via adapter
HDCP Support
Yes

 

Features:

 

 

All information on this page courtesy of Asus @ http://www.asus.com/products.aspx?l1=2&l2=8&l3=725&l4=0&model=2667&modelmenu=1

Testing:

The ASUS EAH4850 MT will be put through the paces using a series of gaming and video benchmarks designed to push the card to its maximum. Once the tests are run on the EAH4850 MT, it will be compared to several other cards, both new and older generation, to give you an idea of the performance it puts out compared to others on the market. To keep any outside variables from interfering with the scores, all hardware, unless otherwise noted, will be run at their stock speeds, timings, and voltages.

 

 

Comparison Video Cards:

 

Overclocking:

Overclocked Settings:

Overclocking the ASUS EAH4850 was nice since the Catalyst Control Center was not as restricted as it is with some cards; it gave me a lot of room to play with. I started off with overclocking the GPU core 5MHz at a time, pushing it until I could no longer run stable. Once I maxed out the GPU speed, I started on the memory frequency, pushing it the same as I did for the GPU. I was able to get quite far on the ASUS EAH4850MT, farther than I expected. This card took everything I threw at it and begged for more. The final overclock was 730MHz on the GPU and 1098MHz on the memory. The other HD 4850 that was compared in this review topped out at 675/1075MHz, so the ASUS EAH4850 MT definitely has some juice to put out.

 

 
 

 

Benchmarks:

  1. Crysis
  2. Knights of the Sea
  3. BioShock
  4. Call of Duty 4
  5. World in Conflict
  6. Call of Juarez
  7. Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts
  8. 3DMark06 Professional
  9. 3DMark Vantage

Testing:

Crysis has been out for quite some time now. In that time, there has yet to be a single or multi GPU setup that can fully showcase the graphics performance of the game. Will the Asus EAH4850 MT be that card? The Crysis single player demo includes both CPU and GPU benchmarks to test the performance of your processor and video card.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ASUS EAH4850 MT was right on par with the other HD 4850 card.

Testing:

PT Boats: Knights of the Sea is a new DX10 title that features its own proprietary graphics engine currently in development. The game is a combination of real-time strategy and simulation. You have the ability to control the entire crew or just a single member. Play as the German, Russian or Allied navies, and prove your mettle on the open seas.

 

Video Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ASUS EAH4850 MT was slightly below the Palit HD 4850 in this test.

Testing:

BioShock is one of the creepier games out in the wild. The building of a perfect Utopian society undersea gone horribly wrong. Its inhabitants driven mad with the introduction of tonics and genetic modifications. Now Rapture is just a shadow of its former glory with little girls looting the dead of what little they have left, while being shadowed by guardians known as "Big Daddy's". It is a demanding game that will make your hardware scream for mercy. This first-person shooter allows for an infinite number of weapons and modifications to provide a unique experience each time it is played. The environment, as well as the storyline, will wrap you up for hours on end.

 

Video Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Again, right on par with its twin.

Testing:

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is the successor to the Call of Duty crown. This iteration of the game is fought in many of the world's hot spots with modern armaments and firepower. You can play as either a US Marine or British SAS trooper. Since this game does not feature an in-game test, I will run through a section of the game and measure average FPS using Fraps 2.9.3.

 

Video Settings:

   

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

The ASUS offering was slightly faster than its brother.

Testing:

World in Conflict Released last year, World in Conflict is a real-time strategy game that simulates the all-out war the world hopes never comes. The difference in this RTS game is that it is not the typical "generate wealth and build" type of game. Instead, you advance by conquering your foe with limited opportunities to replenish your troops.

 

Video Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

  

 

 

 

 

 

Again, right in line where it should be.

Testing:

Call of Juarez is a DX10, first-person shooter set in the Wild West of the late 1800's. The game is inspired, in part, by the movies of the Wild West genre of the seventies and eighties. The game can be played in both single player and multiplayer modes. The game focuses on realistic graphics and gameplay designed to take advantage of the latest video cards on the market.

 

Video Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ASUS EAH4850 MT was a little faster than the Palit HD 4850 in Call of Juarez.

Testing:

Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts is the latest chapter in the Company of Heroes series. The scene is WWII. The mission is Operation Market Garden, the first Allied attempt to break into the Third Reich, and you can play as the British or Germans. This real-time strategy game is brought to us by Relic Entertainment.

 

Video Settings:

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

Again, about the same as the other HD 4850.

Testing:

3DMark06 is one of those benchmarks that always comes up when a bragging contest breaks out. 3DMark06 presents a severe test for many of today's hardware components. Let's see how this setup fares. The settings we will use are listed below.

 

Settings:

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Both HD 4850 cards were running neck and neck and almost the same as the 9800GTX.

Testing:

Featuring all-new game tests, this benchmark is for use with Vista based systems. "There are two all-new CPU tests that have been designed around a new 'Physics and Artificial Intelligence-related computation.' CPU test two offers support for physics related hardware." There are four preset levels that correspond to specific resolutions. 'Entry' is 1024x768 progressing to 'Extreme' at 1920x1200. Of course, each preset can be modified to arrange any number of user designed testing. For our testing, I will use the four presets at all default settings.

 Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ASUS EAH4850 MT again tied up with the Palit HD 4850 and it even blew past the 9800GTX card in 3DMark Vantage.

Conclusion:

The ASUS EAH4850 MT Matrix card is definitely one of a kind. The power is there when it is needed and you can conserve that energy when it is not. I have used a lot of HD 4850 series cards and while the stock performance is even with other cards of its kind, the overclocking performance was out of this world. The Palit HD 4850 compared in this review achieved an overclock of 675/1075. The ASUS EAH4850 MT using the ASUS software was able to be pushed to 730/1098 by tweaking the options available in the iTracker. Using the iTracker program is like child's play with the EAH4850 MT card. The hybrid cooler keeps your card at optimum temperatures while pushing it to its limits. During stock testing, the card idled at 41C and reached 68C load. While overclocked, the card never went over 73C degrees, which is low considering the speeds that the overclocked tests were running at.

The card is hard to find on the market, however NCIXUS.com has it for sale for $187.50, which is more than other HD 4850 cards with similar specifications, including the ASUS EAH4850 TOP that is already pre-overclocked. The stock performance was average for an HD 4850 so it would have been nice to see the EAH4850 Matrix card pre-overclocked as well since it is a special edition card. There are a lot of features available with the ASUS EAH4850 MT, starting from the unique cooling solution down to the way it handles power when not being used to its fullest. The use of the Super Hybrid Engine chip on board works similarly to the ASUS EPU on motherboards. Overall this is a great video card and with the overclocking potential makes it even better than ever. You get what you pay for and with this card you get a nice performing GPU at the stock speeds and when you are ready to rock and roll the additional power is there.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: