MSI R4850 Review

gotdamojo06 - 2008-07-31 09:32:50 in Video Cards
Category: Video Cards
Reviewed by: gotdamojo06   
Reviewed on: August 10, 2008
Price: $184.99


Is it about that time you begin to look for a few upgrades for your computer? Forum Wars begins in about a month - are you looking for some beneficial upgrades to get you a few extra points in your benchmarks? Well, if you are looking for a video card, the new HD4850 from ATI is going to be able to give you those points you are after. You probably know this, but are worried about the temperatures others have been getting, and you do not want to mod your video card's drivers to have the fan speed work properly. Well, MSI has you covered - they have released a new R4850, which is the HD4850 with their own special cooling solution to help with the high heat loads of the RV770 GPU. I am excited to see the first wave of cards with upgraded coolers on them from the factory; I am curious to see how it will perform, so let's get a look at the MSI R4850.  


Closer Look:  

The packaging that the MSI R4850 comes in is very similar to just about every other video card's packaging, as it is a nice large enclosure that displays all sorts of information about the card. The front of the packaging is where you are going to find a large image of a computer generated medieval warrior that is supposed to represent the absolute raw and brutal power of the HD4850 series. The top left hand corner of the front is where you are going to find MSI's logo with the ATI logo in the right hand corner. In the left-center of the package is where you are going to find the model name of this particular card - "R4850" - with the three biggest features that MSI wanted to let you know about: 512MB GDDR3 RAM, HDMI ready capabilities, and PCI-E 2.0 compatible. There is the "Game MSI" logo in the bottom left hand corner with the "Live Update" logo next to that. On the back of the package, we see our warrior again in the center; to his right is where you are going to find a lengthy features list. Below him are all of the badges that are associated with the card, such as ATI CrossFireX, Windows Vista certification, PCI-E, etc. On his left hand side, you are going to see another list of some main features in a few different languages. The two sides of the package are simple, just displaying the MSI logo, and the R4850 logo along with our warrior. Enough of what the packaging looks like, what's inside of it?












When you open up the package for the MSI R4850, you are able to see exactly how MSI decided to protect the R4850 - not only is it wrapped up in an anti-static bag to protect it from any electrical damages that could possibly occur during the shipping process, it is also kept in place nice and tight by a molded foam protector, which will absorb any force applied to the package. There is a cardboard box towards the bottom of the package that will hold all of the accessories, which not only keeps them organized, but keeps them from sliding around during the shipping process and damaging the R4850.


When you open up the white box at the bottom of the package, you are able to see all of the bundled accessories that come with the MSI R4850. These accessories are basically the standards that come with a video card - you get the R4850 user manual, as well as the Quick Users Guide to help you install the card into your system. The cables and adapters that come with the card are also pretty standard; you get a DVI to Analog dongle, as well as the DVI to HDMI dongle, an S-Video and an RCA cable converter. The CD that is contained in the packaging is a drivers/software installation CD. I was disappointed to find out that there were not any CrossFireX bridges included with the card, which is fine - as most CrossFire capable motherboards come with them; however, the cards should as well.




Now that we know what the packaging for the MSI R4850 looks like and what accessories are included with the card, I know that I'm ready to take a look at the actual video card and see what she looks like. I am especially interested to see how the custom cooling for the card works and looks, mainly because of the overheating problems many 48xx users are experiencing.

Closer Look:  


When you first take the MSI R4850 out of the packaging, you are going to see it wrapped up securely and neatly in an anti-static package to protect the card from any electromagnetic interference it may encounter during the shipping process, and when it is first pulled out of the package. Once you get the card out of the wrapping, you will be able to take your first look at the actual card, and the beautiful cooling solution that MSI has put on the card. It has aluminum heatsink fins, and four copper heatpipes connecting the base of the cooler to the fins for maximum heat distribution. There is a large fan in the middle to help keep the temperatures low. MSI has put RAM sinks on the memory at the back of the card to keep it cool as well, since the card no longer has the full coverage cooler. On the back of the card, you are able to see exactly how secure the cooling solution is - there are four screws holding the cooler down tight against the GPU, and a push-pin solution on the RAM sinks. There are three other screws holding down a bracket to help cool other parts of the card.
















Like I mentioned before, MSI has put extra cooling on parts of the card to help keep them all cool. You can see what the card looks like with the chips showing, and with them covered up by the RAM sink. The back of the card is also where you are going to be plugging in your 6-pin PCI-E power connector to power the R4850. Without this power cord connected, your system will not boot into Windows, you will receive a warning message letting you know you need to plug the power cord in.



When you get the massive heatsink/fan setup off of the card, you are able to see exactly what the card looks like naked. In the center of the card, where the RV770 GPU is located, MSI has some thermal compound on the chip itself; however, I went ahead and replaced it with some Arctic Silver 3. When cleaned up, the chip shines nice and bright.



Like all other high-end graphics cards out in today's market, MSI uses the new PCI-E 2.0 interface to transfer data to the motherboard; this is also the case with the R4850. Also, like most high-end cards on the market today, there is a way to connect two or more of them to receive an extra boost of raw power. On the ATI side of the market, there is CrossFireX. There are two slots where you can plug in two bridges per card, opening up two more cards to be added to your setup. The part of the card you will see when it is installed in your computer hosts two DVI ports, which are covered up by a protective plastic piece to prevent damage to the pins inside, as well as to prevent dust from getting inside of them. There also is an S-Video port between the DVI-out ports on the card for even more expandability.


The cooler is a very large one, which does allow the heat to be transferred and removed from the heatsink quickly and efficiently. There is a large fan in the center of the sink to help this happen. The base of the heatsink is made up of pure copper, and the heatpipes are made of pure copper as well. The fins of the heatsink are made up of aluminum to reduce the weight of the cooler, as well as to help transfer the heat off of the GPU more quickly.

Now that we have taken a look at the MSI R4850, let's take a look at the specifics of the card, and then get on to the benchmarks to see what it will take to get it to work properly.



The first step is getting the MSI R4850 to work properly, and we will need to place the CD in the optical drive and wait for the software to start up so that we will be able to begin installing it. The drivers that came with it are the Catalyst Control Center Version 8.503. However, there's already a more up to date version of Catalyst out, version 8.6, which are the drivers that I will be using.  


The first screen that you come to is the Welcome screen, where you are supposed to select which language you wish to install in; obviously I will be using English. When you click the next button, you are able to decide if you wish to install the drivers or uninstall them. This screen will make it easier if you need to uninstall an older version, and start over with fresh drivers. The following screen is where you are able to choose if you wish to install the drivers using the Express option or the Custom option. The Express option is the one that will install the most commonly chosen features, while with the Custom option you are able to install only the features you want. I will choose the Custom option to show you what features you can install, which are on the next screen. Check the options you wish to install and click the next button at the bottom.













There is an End User License Agreement that you must accept before you are able to begin the installation. After the installation is complete you will be prompted with the "Finished" screen.  


Now that we have the software installed on the computer, it's time to open it up and configure the system to use the R4850 properly and effectively.


The next step in configuring the MSI R4850 is to open up the Catalyst Control Center; using this application, you will be able to control just every setting that is able to be changed on the video card. When you first start it up, you will have an option to choose if you want to use the Basic view or the Advanced view of the Catalyst Control Center. I chose to use the Advanced view; this will allow you to change more settings. When you go to click the next button, a pop-up will show up, letting you know that if you want to change back to the Basic view at a later time, you will be able to do so. After you accept the pop-up, Catalyst Control Center will start up and start on the Welcome screen; this is where you are able to view useful online links that will take you to an update checker, allow you to contact customer support, join ATI's Folding At Home team, as well as other things. Under the Information Center tab, you will be able to view both hardware and software information about the graphical end of your computer. This can come in handy if you needed to know which installation of Catalyst Control Center and what drivers you currently have installed.















The next tab that I want to take a look at is the Display Manager tab; this is where you are going to be able to see how many displays you have connected to your computer, as well as what they are going to display. Not only are you able to choose what they are going to be able to display, you are able to change the resolution for each display, what the refresh rate is going to be, and if you want the color quality to be 32-bit or 16-bit. The next tab that on the agenda is the Digital Panel; the first page that I want to look at under here is the AVIVO Color page. Here you are able to change the hue, saturation and the temperature of the colors that are going to be displayed. Under the Attributes page, you are going to be able to see different information about the displays that are connected to the R4850, such as the maximum resolution the display is able to use. You are also able to enable GPU scaling and set the options for that here. The final page under the Digital Panel is called HDTV Support; this is where you are able to choose the different HD formats to use when an HDTV is connected to your R4850.


The final section of the Catalyst Control Center that I want to look at is the ATI Overdrive page. This page is locked after you first install the program and the drivers. When you unlock this page, you are unlocking the ability to overclock your video cards core and memory clock speeds. You are able to use a slider bar to select the settings you wish to use as far as clock speeds go; there is a maximum of 1200MHz for the memory and 700MHz for the core. You are also able to use an Auto Tune feature that will do the overclocking and testing for stability for you. There are two gauges on the side that show you your GPU temperature and your GPU activity.



Fabrication Process
Graphics Clock
625 MHz
Memory Clock 993 MHz / 1985MHz effective
Memory Interface 256-bit
Memory Size
Memory Type
400 MHz
Stream Processors
HDCP Support
HDMI Support
Yes (Using DVI-to-HDMI adaptor)
Connectors 2 x dual-link DVI-I 1 x S-Video Out
Bus Technology PCI Express 2.0
Form Factor Single Slot Design
Power Connectors 1 x 6-pin





I am very interested and excited to see how the new MSI R4850 GPU from ATI will compare when it is tested using a few different video benchmarks to measure the card's performance. I will be putting the MSI R4850 up against a few different video cards that are out on the market, including the PowerColor HD4850. I am also extremely interested in seeing how the cooling solution MSI has added to their R4850 is going to handle the temperatures. All of the settings will be set at stock for all of the cards; I will also be overclocking the HD4850 to the maximum level so that I can compare the difference in performance when overclocked, and see how beneficial it is to overclock all components in your system.  


Comparison Video Cards:



Overclocked settings:

When it comes to overclocking the MSI R4850, I used a piece of software called AMD GPU Clock Tool. The MSI R4850 was an extremely easy card to overclock; I was able to get it up to 700MHz stable on the core very quickly, and was able to jump around 15MHz every increment. I was able to get it all the way up to 725MHz, however it was unstable and unable to run 3DMark06 all the way though. I feel that if I were to perform a voltmod to the card, I would be able to achieve a higher overclock - maybe near 750MHz. During the overclocking process, the temperatures did not go up more than a few degrees; however, after those few degrees, the final temperature was between 62 to 64 degrees Celsius under a full load.  



  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. 3DMark 06 Professional


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





















The MSI R4850 was able to keep up with the other performers when it came down to it in the Crysis benchmark. I was very surprised to see that when the MSI R4850 was overclocked, it was able to outperform the XFX GTX 280 by just a few frames per second in the mid-range resolutions.


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:

















It seems that the HD4850 seemed to cap out at 48 FPS. The MSI R4850 did very well when it was compared to the other cards - so much that at the 1920x1200 resolution, it took first place when it was overclocked, and tied for first place at stock settings. The Sapphire HD4850 and the MSI R4850 at stock speeds tied at every resolution.


BioShock is one of the creepier games out in the wild, chronicling 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 Daddies" 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:


















When it came down to it in the BioShock benchmarking test, the MSI R4850 was unable to reclaim its crown as the top of the heap. It was beaten out by a few cards, however it did do just about the same as the Sapphire HD4850 and the PowerColor HD4850.


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 MSI R4850 was unable to perform as well as the GTX 280 in the Call of Duty 4 benchmarking run. However, it was able to beat out just about every other card that it was put up against.


World in Conflict is a newly released DX10, 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.


Video Settings:



















I was disappointed that the MSI R4850 was beaten by a few cards when it came to this benchmark; it did, however, run extremely close with the other HD4850 cards.


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 MSI R4850 once again was able to hold its own and stay very close to the XFX GTX 280, and once again the MSI R4850 was able to tie the other two HD4850 cards it was put up against.


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. Play as the British or Germans. This Real Time Strategy game is brought to us by Relic Entertainment.


Video Settings:



















In the Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts benchmarking, it was a close race between the GTX 280 and the R4850 at first. But, when the resolutions kept increasing, the Sapphire HD4850 seemed to fall behind.


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.





















When it came down to it in the 3DMark06 benchmark, the MSI R4850 was able to keep up with the big dogs such as the 9800 GTX and the GTX 280. The Sapphire HD4850 and the MSI R4850 were able to stay neck and neck during the testing, however the R4850 was able to beat out the HD4850 at higher resolutions by a small margin.


The MSI R4850...what is there to say about this video card - except that it rocked! The MSI R4850 was not only able to overclock higher than the Sapphire HD4850 that I recently tested, but the MSI card was also able to stay cooler under a full load than the Sapphire by about 20°C! I was very surprised when I saw that this card was competitively priced with the other HD4850 cards that have the stock cooling solution, which adds an extra value to the card. The performance of the R4850 surpassed the Sapphire HD4850 - not by much - however, in the benchmark world, every point makes a difference and adds even more value to the card. The only complaint that I have about this card is the fact that it only has 512MB of video RAM, adding another 512MB to the card would have made it a beast! In this day and age, everyone is looking for HD video and audio and great looking graphics; with the HDTV connectivity of the card, this will whet many peoples' taste buds. The technology that comes with this card, such as 55nm manufacturing technology allowing for higher clock speeds, and CrossFireX support allows for extra performance to be obtained if you are patient and take your time. I still cannot get over the cooling that was added to this card; when it was overclocked higher than the Sapphire HD4850 was, I still got 20°C lower core temps during a full load! If you are searching for a great looking card that will allow you get higher 3DMark scores, you have found your card. If you want to overclock your video card, you have found your card. If you are looking for the price for performance leader from ATI, you again have found your card! I would recommend this card to anyone who is looking to upgrade their current VGA configuration.