Powercolor ATI Radeon HD 4850 PCS+Manufacturer: Powercolor
UK Price (as reviewed): £121.17 (inc. VAT)
US Price (as reviewed):
Two years (parts and labour)
ATI/AMD’s RV770 architecture and the cards based upon it, the Radeon 4850, 4870 and 4870 X2 have significantly changed the appearance of the graphics card market since their arrival in the last few months. AMD has shrugged off the title of underdog and has produced cards that have claimed not the performance, but also the value for money crown from Nvidia.
The Radeon HD 4850 in particular has continued to impress us with its fantastic value around the £120 mark, producing very playable frame rates in most modern games and especially under high image quality settings. Replacing the renowned GeForce 8800 GT as the bang-for-buck champion, the 4850 has, unsurprisingly, proved immensely popular and prices have been stubbornly fixed at around £120 since launch.
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Now the Radeon HD 4850 has been out for a few months, availability is rapidly increasing, and the market is quickly becoming flooded by competing partner cards all out to compete for a chunk of your bank balance. Board partners have been quick to seize upon the HD 4850’s rather inefficient (i.e. – finger singeing hot) stock cooler, and already we’re starting to see more and more pre-overclocked partner cards with custom cooling solutions that vastly improve on AMD’s effort.
The Powercolor 4850 we’re looking at today is no exception, with the stock cooler replaced with a Zerotherm GX810 high end VGA cooler. If the cooler itself looks familiar, it’s because we covered it back in June when BFG fitted it to its 9600 GT OCX and 8800 GT OCX cards
The impressive looking copper cooler uses a single heatpipe design combined with one hundred and twenty small copper fins and a large radial “paddle” fan to move air outwards through the cooling fin array to significantly improve the cooling for the GPU core. The cooler was whisper quiet during all of our testing, but spins up and down depending on the GPU temperature - if it gets too warm, the cooler spins up and then slowly spins back down again once it reaches the optimum temperature. In addition, Powercolor has also fitted chunky heatsinks to the memory, which sit below the cooler’s blades, along with a third heatsink to the card’s PWMs.
Taking advantage of the improved cooling brought by using an after market cooler, Powercolor has knocked up the cards core clock from 625MHz to 665MHz, although the memory clocks are strangely unaltered and operate at the stock 993MHz/1986MHz effective. This overclock seems rather conservative given the known overclocking potential of the 4850, and we’ll certainly be looking to squeeze a lot more out of this card, especially considering how successful we were in overclocking the Sapphire Radeon HD 4850 TOXIC
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However, other than the custom cooler and improved core clock, this is still very much a stock 4850, with the exact same PCB design as the stock model of the card - you can even see the outline of the stock card’s cooler drawn onto the Powercolor 4850’s red PCB. This means you’re still only getting 512MB of GDDR3 (although 1GB versions of the 4850 are now available) and 63 GB/s of memory bandwidth in comparison to the 115 GB/s on the 4870. If you're interested in the detail of the architecture behind the 4850 and the RV770 core, check out our in depth analysis
Bundle wise Powercolor has included a decent hardware bundle, with both DVI to VGA and DVI to HDMI adapters, a CrossFire bridge, a six pin composite to component video cable and nine pin composite to YPbPr component video. There's also the usual installation guide and driver CD, but otherwise, that's it, with Powercolor trying to undercut competing board partners by skimping on (questionably attractive) bundled software. In fact, finding versions of this card with even this relatively sparse bundle is difficult, and right now we've only been able to find versions of the Powercolor Radeon HD 4850 PCS+ available with no bundle whatsoever and just the driver disc included.
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While a limited or non-existent bundle might put some off, Powercolor is obviously banking on appealing to your wallet rather than your connectivity needs with this card. While we're non disinclined to agree, those looking for extras would be well advised to look elsewhere right now.
Powercolor offers a two-year warranty covering parts and labour. During the first year in the product's life, your point of contact is the retailer where you purchased the product. If you're having problems getting hold of the retailer, or the retailer goes out of business, you should make direct contact with Powercolor. And finally, if you are having issues with the product during the second year of the warranty, your point of contact is at the manufacturer.