Latest Sapphire 4850 X2 BIOS goes some way to silencing noise issues

Written by Tim Smalley

January 31, 2009 | 00:27

Tags: #fan-noise #fan-speed #hardware

At several points during the Sapphire ATI Radeon HD 4850 X2 review we published a week or so ago, we complained quite vocally about the amount of noise the card produced when it was sitting idle. Although not quite as loudly as the card itself.

It was so loud that we unanimously decided that the card wouldn't go anywhere near one of our own home PCs - I'm probably the most tolerant to noise in the bit-tech office and it was even far too loud for me.

Following the review, Sapphire admitted that it was "aware that [the 4850 X2] had some issues with noise on the first pass of these boards." At least we weren't alone.
However, the company's representatives revealed that the production cards have been flashed with a newer BIOS that reduces the fan speed during both 2D and 3D modes so that it is "not so offensive." Sapphire seeded us with these new BIOS files, complete with the simple instructions for flashing our card with ATI WinFlash.

After flashing the new BIOS onto our card, we found that while it wasn't anywhere near as offensive as it was with the original BIOS flashed onto the card, it wasn't exactly what we would call quiet. The new BIOS increases idle temperatures from 41°C to 45°C, which means there's still plenty of headroom to reduce the fan speed further - most of today's high-end graphics cards idle at around the 60°C mark and that's a perfectly healthy idle operating temperature.

For what it's worth, I'd certainly trade perceived silence and higher - but still very safe - idle temperatures for the noise this card gives off even with the new BIOS installed. What it is important to convey here though is that the card is no longer so loud that I wouldn't install it in my own system, but it's not as quiet as a stock cooled Radeon HD 4870 or GeForce GTX 280/285 for example. Therefore, those that aren't quite as tolerant to noise as I am may find that the noise this card gives off is still less than acceptable.

That raises an interesting question - would you trade higher temperatures for perceived silence when the GPUs are idling or are you happy to install a graphics card that is audible above background system noise when idling? Of course, the fan would still spin up during gaming - when noise isn't quite as important - so that you can achieve maximum performance when it matters, but it'd be quiet when that is of utmost importance.

Our other major gripe with the Radeon HD 4850 X2 - official driver support from AMD - has been fixed, so someone is listening to our concerns and taking them seriously. I'm still pushing Sapphire to offer a BIOS with an even lower idle fan speed and I'll let you know if I get anywhere - frankly, I don't think it's a lot to ask as it would help to make the Sapphire Radeon HD 4850 X2 a much better product and one that we'd recommend with open arms now that the driver support appears to be a bit more solid.
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