Palit HD4850 Review

ccokeman - 2008-07-23 05:22:40 in Video Cards
Category: Video Cards
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: September 11, 2008
Price: $169.99


So many video cards, so little time to use them before the next crop comes due. ATI has a series of proven performers with the HD48XX series of video cards, having just dropped the HD4870X2 performance bomb on the world. Depending on the performance level there is a card in the ATI deck to match up with the green camp and fight them on a performance per dollar platform. The question is where do you want to spend your dollars? ATI or Nvidia? Each has its merits. The decision comes down to brand preference, manufacturer preference and feature set. Just what it can do. The problem is that with costs going up on just about everything the discretionary dollars you have available are shrinking so getting the most bang for your buck is on everyone's mind.

The Palit HD4850 is a PCI-E 16x 2.0 compliant video card built on a 55nm manufacturing process. Sporting clock speeds of 625MHz and 993MHz, respectively, on the GPU and memory the HD4850 is equipped to challenge the green camp to see just how well the performance stacks up against the competition.

Closer Look:

The packaging for the Palit HD4850 centers around the Frobot, dressed for battle and carrying that 1000 yard stare. Other mentions on the front panel include the model of the video card, the fact that the Palit HD4850 is HDCP ready, is certified for Windows Vista and can be used in a CrossfireX configuration with two or more video cards. The rear panel lists additional technical specifications not listed on the front panel such as PCI-E 2.0 compliance, full unified shaders optimized for DirectX 10 and Shader model 4.0 as well as the video formats hardware decoding is offered for. The side panels offer little in the way of information but do carry the company name, the Radeon moniker as well as a picture of our buddy, the Frobot.




Once open, the contents of the box are still hidden quite well. The HD4850 is kept in a box inside the main package with additional cardboard walls that act as both a method of securing the card in place as well as providing a place to hide the accessory bundle.



The bundle of accesories that Palit has included with the HD4850 is far more expansive than the ones I have seen with Palit's Nvidia graphics cards. Not only do you get the standard driver disc and quick start guide, you also get the DVI to HDMI adapter, a DVI to D-sub adapter, an HD-out to VGA-out adapter, a Crossfire bridge connection and 4-pin molex to 6-pin PCI-E power adapter. If you can't get connected with this bundle then you just can't get connected.



Now let's see what the Palit HD4850 looks like.


Closer Look:

The Palit HD4850 is a PCI-E 2.0 16x video card built upon the ATI RV770 GPU core. Built using a 55nm process, the HD4850 sports 800 unified shaders, 956 million transistors, 512Mb of GDDR3 running through a 256 bit bus. Clock speeds for the HD4850 GPU run at 625MHz with the 512MB of GDDR3 running at 993MHz. Additional features include support for DirectX 10.1, Shader Model 4.1, Windows Vista certification, HDCP capability, PowerPlay technology to reduce energy consumption by monitoring GPU activity and reducing the clock speeds dynamically, and last, but not least, the HD4850 is CrossfireX capable. With the appropriate motherboard just add cards until you reach the performance threshold you are after.














The front end of the Palit HD4850 has three connection points. There are two Dual Link capable DVI ports as well as the HDTV out that can be used in lieu of the DVI outputs. The rear of the HD4850 shows off the pin fin design of the heatsink that covers the power regulation circuits as well as the required 6-pin PCI-E power connection port. If one card does not offer enough performance for you there is always the option to use two or more with a CrossfireX motherboard. There are two Crossfire bridge connections to link the cards together.



The cooling solution used on the Palit HD4850 is a single slot reference design cooler that at first glance appears to be copper throughout its construction. But on closer inspection it appears to be a composite piece. The HD4850 heatsink is almost identical to the HD3850 heatsink and indeed contributes to some of the hot running cards that have been seen. Idle temperatures were in the 80 degree Celsius range at idle with this heatsink. The design of this heatsink discharges air out the front end of the card back into the chassis. If your case ventilation is not up to snuff the temps will rise even further as the heat will just be recycled. The underside of the heatsink is covered with an adhesive plastic covering to keep from shorting out any circuits on the PCB. Nice touch on that as it shows that some thought was put into that part of the design.



Since we have the heatsink off the card we may as well see what's underneath. The thermal interface material for the GPU seems to be the same peanut butter consistency type that has been plaguing the ATI cards for a while. Just removing this and applying Artic Silver 5 netted a 14 degree Celsius improvement in idle temperatures, down to 70 degrees Celsius. The load temperatures decreased by a like amount to 82 degrees Celsius, lower than the stock thermal material allowed at idle. Viewing the fan/temperature relationship with Rivatuner 10 shows that the fan speed at idle is around 1400 RPM and does not start cycling upward until the 80 degree Celsius threshold is reached. The memory power circuit components use a thermal tape to make contact with the heatsink since the gap between the components and the heatsink is greater than the same distance for the GPU core.



Last, but not least, we have what makes the HD4850 tick. The Rv770 GPU. The GDDR3 memory is manufactured by Qimonda and is rated at 1000MHz. I'll have to see if there is left anything for the enthusiast with these memory modules. The power regulation circuits are toward the rear of the PCB and are covered with the full coverage heatsink used by ATI.



Let's get this card installed and see what it's got under the heatsink!


Closer Look:

To get things started, once the Palit HD4850 is installed you have to install the drivers to make the card perform as intended. To do this slip the supplied disc into an available optical drive and allow the installation window to open. Choose the setup option and the installation GUI will open up. The options are pretty simple here. There is the option to install the drivers, browse the disc for a manual install or you can view the user's guide.











When you click the ATI Easy Install option, the Catalyst Control Center installation will begin. This process installs all of the necessary drivers needed to make the Palit HD4850 able to stand on its own. After finishing the installation, the customary reboot is required.




Closer Look:

The Catalyst Control Center is where all of the settings for the Palit HD4850 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 preferences and image quality.

Information Center: The Information Center is where you can view everything about the hardware and software associated with the video card, such as driver versions and hardware specifications.











Digital Panel: The Digital Panel is where you can set and view monitor information, HDTV settings, ATI's AVIVO color settings, and LCD Overdrive to apply LCD settings that override the monitor's settings.




3D: The 3D tab is where you can modify your visual settings for performance or quality, including Anti-Aliasing, Anisotropic Filtering, color schemes and more.



VIVO Video & ATI Overdrive: AVIVO settings allow you to alter the color settings for better viewing. ATI Overdrive is where you can push the HD4850 to the limits with overclocking settings. There are controls for the advanced user, or you can use Auto-Tune for automatic overclocking.



Fabrication Process
Graphics Clock
625 MHz
Memory Clock 993 MHz / 1886MHz 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



Redefine HD Gaming

Go Beyond HD Video

Break-through Efficiency

System Requirements

–PCI Express® based PC is required with one X16 lane graphics slot available on the motherboard

–450 Watt or greater power supply with 75 Watt 6-pin PCI Express® power connector recommended (550 Watt and two 6-pin connectors for ATI CrossFireX™ technology in dual mode)

–Certified power supplies are recommended. Refer to a list of Certified products

–1GB of system memory

–Installation software requires CD-ROM drive

–DVD playback requires DVD drive

–Blu-ray™ / HD DVD playback requires Blu-ray / HD DVD drive

–For a complete ATI CrossFireX™ system, a second ATI Radeon™ HD 4850 graphics card, an ATI CrossFireX Ready motherboard and one ATI CrossFireX Bridge Interconnect cable per board (included) are required.



At, we use a set of benchmarks to stress the graphics card. We will use a series of newer gaming benchmarks, as well as some that are more seasoned, to show how well the Palit HD4850 compares to some of the other enthusiast video cards on the market. We'll be using single GPU models exclusively to show just how much the Palit HD4850 brings to the table. All driver settings and clock speeds will be left at factory defaults for both the CPU and GPU in an effort to minimize or eliminate any variables that could impact the results. The test system used in this review is listed below. After testing the card at stock speeds, I'll overclock it to see what kind of performance can be gained. All testing is done with the default settings in the respective control panels, as well as default settings in the BIOS of the motherboard used in this test. For this round of testing, our drivers have been updated to the 177.79 for the Nvidia cards and the Catalyst 8.8 for the ATI video cards used in this review.


Comparison Video Cards:



Overclocked settings:

After seeing the results that the custom cooled MSI HD4850 delivered on the overclocking front I was eager to see if I could duplicate that same success on a reference card. The answer is no I could not, but I came close. After all the time spent searching for that ideal mix betweeen GPU core clock speed and the memory clock speed I was stopped at 675MHz on the GPU core and 1075MHz on the memory. Not massive clock speed increases but enough to go to the mat for it. With these increases came the corresponding increase in performance. Seen mostly at the higher end of the gaming benchmarks. By comparison, the clock speeds for the MSI card were 25MHz higher on the core and 1187MHz on the memory. Close, but no cigar on beating those clock speeds. To get the clock speeds of 675MHz on the GPU core and 1075MHz on the memory I used a software application called AMD GPU Overclock Tool to make changes outside the range available in the Catalyst Control Center.




  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
  9. 3DMark Vantage



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 GTX 280 be that card? The Crysis single player demo includes both CPU and GPU benchmarks to test the performance of your processor and video card.















The Palit HD4850 falls right where it should on the performance ladder against the comparison video cards. Above the 9800GTX and below the GTX260 and HD4870 at the higher resolutions. It still delivered better than 20 FPS at 1920x1200, although the limit of playability has been reached at 1680x1050.



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 HD4850 makes a poor showing in this game. The performance differential between the HD4850 and the 8800GT and 9800GT falls to two frames per second but it is still a long way from being close to the 9800GTX and GTX260. The Performance of the HD4850 did eclipse that of the HD4870 at the 1024x768 resolution.



BioShock is one of the creepier games out 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 Daddys" 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 story line will wrap you up for hours on end.


Video Settings:












As disappointing as the results in Knights of the Sea were, the opposite is true in Bioshock. The little HD4850 has basically equal performance to the GTX260 in three of the four resolutions.


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:












Performance in COD4 is equivalent to that of the 9800GTX. In this game the HD4850 just does not have the muscle to compete with the higher performing video cards, namely the GTX260 and HD4870. It does however run about on par with the 9800GTX.



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:











The only two cards the Palit HD4850 did not beat were the GTX260 and HD4870. By overclocking the HD4850, performance did increase slightly and reduced the performance gap.


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:












Performance in this benchmark shows that the ATI cards work better than the Nvidia cards. The HD4850 is slightly ahead of the GTX 260 in all four resolutions.


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:












The HD4850 stays ahead of the 9800GTX through the middle resolutions but falls to it at the top and bottom of the scale. Performance is close to that of the GTX260 and HD4870 all the way up to 1920x1200.


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.














Performance wise 3DMark06 is not the strongest suite of the 4850. It beat the 8800 and 9800GT at the higher resolutions but not any of the other cards in this comparison.


Just added to the OverclockersClub suite of benchmarks is the newest from Futuremark, 3DMark Vantage. 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.












In 3DMark Vantage the HD4850 has a field day with the G92 based cards, the 8800gt, 9800GTand 9800GTX, at all four resolutions and finishes third out of the six cards tested.


The Palit HD4850 performed consistently just below the performance of the GTX260 and HD4870. However, it did beat out the G92 based 9800 and 8800GT cards in most of the testing. Against the 9800GTX it did not fare as well, only pulling ahead of the GTX in 20 of the 36 benchmarks. At the stock clock speeds the HD4850 falls where it should on the performance ladder. To gain additional performance the Palit HD4850 can be overclocked. I was able to gain an additional 50MHz on the GPU core and 83MHz on the Qimonda memory used on this card. The GDDR3 memory is rated to perform at up to 1000MHz so this was a pretty substantial increase. The two increases helped to boost performance at all but two resolutions. Since ATI makes the fan speed uncontrollable through its own means, an additional program or two can be used to overclock the GPU and memory on this card as well as adjust the fan speeds. Yes, the fan speeds. At idle this card ran at a toasty 84 degrees Celsius with the fan speed at 1500 RPM. Once the fan speed ramped up over 3000 RPM the temperatures started a downward trend. The new version of Rivatuner makes controlling the fan speed much easier than setting up a profile in the CCC and manually setting the fan speed in the profile XML file. By manually adjusting the fan profile in the XML file the temperatures can be managed effectively if you choose not use another application. Some cards come with an overclocking utility but not this one. There is performance as well as longevity gained by bumping the fan speed.

So you want to use the Palit HD4850 in the nice HTPC you just built but you are not sure it can do the job? Well it can. The Palit HD4850 also allows for HDCP protected content to be played through your multimedia computer. Palit has included two different means of connecting the HD4850 to your high definition system. You can use the component out dongle or the DVI to HDMI adapter. If you just need more performance, the HD4850 can be paired with another in a CrossfireX configuration. In fact, up to four cards can be connected together, with the supporting CrossfireX motherboard of course. Last, but not least, is the pricing. Palit has been pretty agressive with the pricing of its video cards lately and for around $170 the Palit HD4850 can be yours. Since power, or more correctly energy costs, are still ratcheting higher everyday, the HD4850 can help reduce the cost of running your computer. When you are in a non-3D environment, the clock speeds are reduced on the memory and GPU core, thereby using less energy. If that's not a reason to upgrade, I don't know what is. "Hey honey, it costs less for me to run my computer." If you don't need a top-of-the-line video card but need one that plays games at decent quality settings, can play all of your digital content and can reduce your carbon footprint all in one shot, then the Palit HD4850 is the card for you.