Sapphire HD4650 512MB Overclock Edition Review
Reviewed by: ajmatson
Reviewed on: December 10, 2008
These days when you think video card you think high end gaming right? Well first, not everyone is a gamer and not every card is built for that purpose. Should someone who only uses their computer for media or casual internet usage spend hundreds of dollars on a blazing fast graphics card? On the other hand you want cutting edge technology available to you without the huge expense right. Well ATI has recently released their Hd 4600 line of cards aimed at just that group of people. It is targeted at the mainstream user who might game casually on not so extreme settings but like to kick back and watch a high definition movie on their down time. The HD 4650 is based off of the 55nm RV730 GPU, which is the same GPU used it it's bigger brother the HD 4670, and has 320 stream processors and 512MB of memory.
Sapphire takes their HD 4650 a step further and overclocks it to produce even more power to give you that boost you need when it is most critical. With many years of proven design Sapphire takes their knowledge in graphics cards to improve this card to the best it can be. This card comes packed with enought features to allow you to get the most out of your system while not breaking the bank to do so. With DirectX 10.1 and shader model 4.0 you will not have to upgrade this card for some time to come.
The Sapphire HD 4650 comes packaged in a nice small box so there is not a lot of bulk and extra weight. The package features a Sapphire mascot on the front with some logos of highlight features. On the back they highlight more features and include a blurb about playing the "Vista" way. Sapphire has always been good about including the system requirements and what connections are available on the card which are on the left side of the package for easy checking.
One thing I have always admired with Sapphire graphics cards is they never leave you without an accessory you need when setting up your system. Usually anything and everything is included for your setup. Included in the box with the Sapphire HD 4650 is the manual, driver CD, component video dongle, S-Video dongle, DVI to VGA adapter, and a DVI to HDMI adapter.
Now that the Sapphire HD 4650 is out of the box let's take a better look up close.
Sapphire has chosen to go with a blue colored PC Board instead of the usual red that we see on most ATI based graphics cards. This is a single slot card which makes it perfect for a media server or home theater pc. There is a single slot fan used to cool the Sapphire HD 4650 which covers about half of the card. Like I said this card is based off the RV730 GPU which has 541 million transistors and 8 ROPs. This is a smaller size card in length so you will have plenty of room to work around it installed in your system. This is a PCI Express x16 card and uses the newer 2.0 interface for increased bandwidth. The HD 4650 gets all of the power it needs from the PCI Express slot so there is no external power needed.
There are enough connections on the Sapphire HD 4650 for any situation. There are two DVI ports which support Dual Link DVI, and an S-Video port. There is also support for VGA, Component Video, and HDMI via included adapters.
Removing the heatsink lets us get a nice view of the RV730 GPU. Like I stated earlier this GPU was manufactured using a 55nm processor. It has 541 million transistors and 320 Unified Shader Pipelines. The core is factory overclocked to 650MHz from the stock of 600MHz and the memory sits at 900MHz (1800MHz effective) up from 700MHz stock. The memory is manufactured by Hynix, model #H5RS5223CFR-N0C and is rated for 1000MHz at 2.05v so it looks like we have a little more room to go. There is a total of 512MB GDDR3 memory operating on a 128-bit memory bus.
The cooler Sapphire used to cool the HD 4650 is a single slot, actively cooled, aluminum and plastic cooler. The fan pushes cooler air over the aluminum fins on the heatsink to draw heat away from the critical components and expelled into the case to be carried off by the airflow of the system.
Now that the card hase been examined closer let's install this baby and take a look at the software that runs it.
Sapphire makes the install a simple process with its install all menu. When the CD is inserted into the CD drive the auto start program takes over launching the Sapphire installation menu. There are two options: one for Windows XP and one for Windows Vista. You need to select the option for the operating system you are installing the card on. To the left there is a list of the cards supported by this driver.
Once you select the Driver Install option then the programs hands the install off to the Catalyst Control Center Installer which will actually install the ATI drivers and get you all set up. You choose the install location and the options you want included in the install and the Catalyst Control Center Installer does the rest. Once the installer is finished then you are prompted to restart the computer to finalize the install process.
Now that the drivers are installed we can get a better look at the Catalyst Control Center.
The Catalyst Control Center is where all of the settings for the Sapphire HD 4650 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: 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. 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 thie Sapphire HD 4650.
ATI Radeon HD 4650
Factory overclocked to 650MHz
|Factory overclocked to 900MHz x2|
PCI Express 2.0
|Single slot active cooler|
DVI x2, S-Video x1
Dual Link DVI Output
|Yes, via adapter|
- DirectX® 10.1 & PCI Express® 2.0 support
- 320 stream processing units, 128-bit memory interface
- 24x custom filter anti-aliasing (CFAA) and high performance anisotropic filtering
- Dual mode ATI CrossFireX™ multi-GPU support for highly scalable performance
- Dynamic geometry acceleration
- Game physics processing capability
- ATI Avivo™ HD video and display technology
- Unified Video Decoder 2 (UVD 2) for Blu-ray™and HD Video
- Accelerated Video Transcoding(AVT)
- DVD Upscaling, Dynamic Contrast, Built-in HDMI with 7.1 surround sound support
This card is geared towards mid-mainstream users and is designed to give average gaming performance while supporting other features like Vista Aero and multimedia as well without breaking the bank. So how well does it actually perform and where does it stand among the market? That is what we are here to find out. I am going to be putting the Sapphire HD 4650 through a series of video benchmarks designed to test its performance by itself and with the system as a whole. I will then be stacking it up against other cards closer to it's class and also one more powerful to give you an idea on where it sits among the rest. All hardware will be run at stock clock speeds, latencies, timings, and voltages so there are no outside interruptions or variances that might sway the numbers.
- Processor: Intel Core2 Quad Q9450
- Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-X48-DQ6
- Memory: Mushkin XP2 Redline 8000 2 x 2GB 5-5-5-12
- Video Card: Sapphire HD 4650
- Power Supply: Mushkin 800w Modular Power Supply
- Hard Drive: Seagate 750GB SATA
- Optical Drive: LG DVD-RW
- OS: Windows Vista Ultimate
Comparison Video Cards:
- Powercolor HD4670 PCS
- Palit HD4850
- Gigabyte 9800GT
- Asus 8800GT
- Asus EN9800 GTX
- Palit GTX260
- Asus HD4870
- Sapphire HD 4650 690/1000
To overclock the Sapphire HD 4650 I chose to use the ATI Catalyst Control Center's Overdrive Utility. I started off raising the GPU clocks 5MHz at a time until the system became unstable and then backed down 1MHz at a time until stability returned. I did the same thing for the memory speeds to achieve optimum results. I was able to push the GPU to 690MHz stable which might not seem very high for an overclock but remember this card is pre-clocked from the factory already so this is about where it is expected to be. The memory maxed out at the rated 1000MHz for the type of Hynix memory used. One thing of note I want to mention is I was able to push the memory beyond 1000MHz using ATI tool however it was not stable and caused artifacting during testing. For my overclocked numbers the final speeds will be 690MHz on the GPU and 1000MHz on the 512MB GDDR3 memory.
- Knights of the Sea
- Call of Duty 4
- World in Conflict
- Call of Juarez
- Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts
- 3DMark 06 Professional
- 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.
- Anti-Aliasing: x2
- Advanced settings to High
This Sapphire HD 4650 was the slowest but came very close to the HD 4670, it's bigger brother.
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.
- Anti-Aliasing: x0
- Image Quality: High
- DirectX Version: 10
- All resolutions: 60Hz
Again the HD 4650 was the slowest as expected but gave the HD 4670 a run for its money.
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 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 story line will wrap you up for hours on end.
- All settings to maximum
- V-Sync: Off
The HD 4650 came in last again but held on without giving up. Even with the maximum settings the frame rate is still considered playable. Reduce the visual quality and its right there able to deliver a smoother game.
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.
- Anti-Aliasing: x4
- Anisotropic Filtering: Max
- Texture Quality: Extra
- All settings max
Here we see that the HD 4650 was slightly slower than the HD 4670 clocked much higher.
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..
- Anti-Aliasing: x4
- Anisotropic Filtering: x16
- Graphic Detail: Very High
The frame rates delivered by the HD4650 are unplayable at the settings we test with. Again reducing the visual quality will increase the frame rates.
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.
- Details: High
- Shadowmap Size: 2048x2048
- Shadow Quality: Normal
- Anti-Aliasing: MSAA x4
Call of Juarez really put a hurt on this GPU even overclocked at 1920 it could not pull any more juice.
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.
- Anti-Aliasing: x8
- All other settings to maximum
Again not very playable frame rates at the higher resolutions.
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.
- SM2.0 Graphics Tests: GT1- Return to Proxycon, GT2- Firefly Forest
- CPU Tests: Cpu1- Red Valley, CPU2- Red Valley
- HDR/SM3.0 Graphics Tests: HDR1- Canyon Flight, HDR2- Deep Freeze
While still slower the HD 4650 is not far behind the HD 4670.
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.
- All default settings in each preset level
- Entry 1024x768
- Performance 1280x1024
- High 1680x1050
- Extreme 1920x1200
Man at the highest resolution the HD 4650 was less than 100 points behind the HD 4670 .
While the Sapphire HD 4650 is not meant to be a high end gaming card it did score well at lower resolutions when running our benchmarks which are mostly on medium to high settings. Most games had given decent playable frame rates of 30+ when run at 1024x768 which is fine for the casual gamer wanting to break the everyday monotony. During many of the tests the HD 4650 scored very closely to the HD 4670 which uses the same RV730 GPU clocked 100MHz higher. Given the slot size and price tag this card would be ideal for anyone putting together a media server, home theater PC, or even a workstation for casual computer use and light gaming. The performance per price factor makes the Sapphire HD 4650 a steal.
Since this card is overclocked by the factory I did not expect much headroom however I was able to push the memory to its limit overclocked another 100MHz and the GPU an additional 40MHz for slightly less than 100MHz of the stock version of the HD 4650 GPU. While the scores through out the review were the lowest it still gave the HD 4670 a run for its money which costs more. During operation the card stayed quite cool even when overclocked. Not once did I hear a wind tunnel coming from my computer. The HD 4650 also helps the environment, reducing power consumption by not requiring additional power supplies other than what it gets from the PCI Express slot. Overall this is a very nice card and will give you performance you need without hurting your finances in this tough economy.
- Factory overclocked
- CrossFireX capable
- Well priced
- Not much additional overclocking headroom