Palit Radeon HD 4850 Sonic 512MB

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Product: Palit Radeon HD 4850 Sonic 512MB
Provided By: Palit Multimedia
Price:

Introduction:

A couple of years ago, very few people in North America had heard of Palit Multimedia.  Lately that has changed however.  Palit is a top-tier manufacturer who makes boards for other companies as well as doing extra research and development that enables them to improve upon the standard reference design PCB layout on graphics cards.  If done correctly, this extra R&D should give Palit a leg up in the business and enable them to provide consumers with hardware that will meet and exceed their expectations.  Today we are looking at the mainstream HD 4850 Sonic 512MB card to see how this card compares to an HD 4850 from HIS.  First, let's see a little more information about the company.

Palit Box
Palit Box

 

About Palit Multimedia:

Palit Multimedia Inc. provides a wide range of industry-leading graphics cards to North and Latin America with a focus on service, support and innovative products. Palit Multimedia is affiliated with Palit Microsystems, a world-leading supplier in the design, manufacture, and distribution of PC graphics accelerators which was established in 1988. Palit is well positioned to maintain an industry leadership due to the vast array of NVIDIA® and AMD’s ATi® VGA products and on-going development efforts.

Our China factory was established in 1992.As a competitive pc peripherals manufacturer; we own 21 SMT lines which daily maximum output is 8.0 million components. Our monthly maximum capacity reaches 1200K, and on-time delivery rate is over 99%. The factories currently used for mass manufacturing are all ISO 9000 qualified, as well as qualified by a number of major OEMs. We keep presenting the latest technology and full range solutions to our customers. These are the main factors that crucial to our success in such a competitive graphics environment. All products have been put through WHQL certification to ensure full compatibility.

Quality, reliability and service are the commitments that we offer to our customers. We are willing to face the challenges and make adjustments to meet our customer's requirements. Our goal is to develop a long-term business relationship with our customers by providing high quality and professional services. We are commitment to providing efficient and accurate delivery service to our customers. Flexibility is also one of our main advantages; we are willing to adjust ourselves to meet the different needs of different customers. Our commitment to the Palit brand keeps us growing and maintaining our leading position in the VGA card and Video industries.

 

First Impressions:

While many companies appear to try and seduce the buyer with an incredibly proportioned female figure, Palit chooses something a little more realistic - well maybe not very realistic but definitely different.  They use a cybernetically-enhanced frog to sell their products.  Remember this is an amphibian, not a reptile.

 Palit Bundle
Palit Bundle
 Box Specs
Box Specs

 

The included bundle and specs on the box are all a little lean and for a consumer that is trying to make an uninformed decision at the retail store, he might pass this card up for one with more details.  An informed consumer will realize that the "Sonic" series is the crème de la crème however.  Our bundle included a DVI-VGA adapter, Quick Installation Guide, 6-pin to 8-pin power cable and a driver CD.  Also included (but not pictured) is a Crossfire cable.

The specs on the box simple state that the card is DX10.1 ready, supports PCIe 2.0 and has the standard maximum resolution of 2560x1600 in 32bpp mode.  Other details are included, but nothing mentions clock speed.

 

First Look:

As we take a first look at the Palit HD 4850 Sonic, you may think that Palit has merely slapped a different HSF on this unit and turned up the clocks a wee bit.  The fact is the PCB design is different, power management system is improved and the cooling system has been tweaked to be much more efficient and quieter at the same time.

 Card Front
Card Front
Card Back
Card Back

 

Before we head on over to the next page and cover the specifications of this card, please take a moment to read some information on what makes the Palit HD 4850 different.  This is clipped from the Press Release.

Redesigned from the ground up, the Palit Radeon HD 4850 Sonic has the latest engineering and manufacturing technologies creating what overclockers have been yearning for.

Palit’s exclusive factory overclocked Radeon HD 4850 Sonic has a core frequency of 685 MHz and 2 GHz frequency for its 512 MB of GDDR3 memory making it the fastest HD 4850 on the market. For those who want to push their cards even further, Palit upgraded the power management system to 3-phases to deliver cleaner and cooler power (Vs. AMD 2-phase). Extra power phases can prolong the life of the card under normal operation and provide more stability when overclocking. Palit also increased the amount of power that can be utilized by moving from a 75 W 6-pin to a 150 W 8-pin power connector.

Palit’s dual heat-pipe cooling solution is 15% more effective than the AMD stock cooling solution. While the Palit cooling fan is 3400 RMP slower, it is 10 dBA quieter and is 20 degrees cooler at full load.

The Palit Radeon HD 4850 supports Microsoft DirectX® 10.1 Shader Model 4.1, OpenGL 2.0 and ATI AvivoTM HD Video technology. The Palit Radeon HD 4850 supports PCI-Express 2.0 and ATI CrossFireXTM Technology making the Palit Radeon HD 4850 an amazing gaming and video playback graphics card that will take you to the next level.

 



ATI Radeon HD 4800 Series - Key Features:

We kick the features and specifications section off with some information from AMD/ATI regarding the entire 4800 Series.

  • TeraScale Graphics Engine - The new TeraScale graphics engine features over one teraFLOPS, nearly one billion transistors and 800 stream processors so you can enjoy the high resolutions and fast frame rates previously only available with dual-card systems.
  • Advanced Memory - GDDR5 memory provides twice the bandwidth per pin of GDDR3.
  • Enhanced Anti-Aliasing & Anisotropic Filtering - High performance anisotropic filtering and 24x custom filter anti-aliasing (CFAA) smooth jagged edges and create true-to-life graphics, for everything from grass to facial features.
  • DirectX® 10.1 - Play today while preparing for tomorrow with state-of-the-art DirectX 10.1 graphics capabilities.
  • ATI CrossFireX™ Technology - ATI CrossFireX™ technology with up to quad GPU support offers superior scalability so your system is ready to level up when you are.
  • PCI Express 2.0 - Support for PCI Express 2.0 will prepare you for bandwidth-hungry games and 3D applications.
  • Unified Video Decoder 2 (UVD 2) - UVD 2 frees up your CPU for other tasks so you get The Ultimate Visual Experience™ for even the most processing-intensive content, including VC-1, H.264 and now MPEG-2. Also, take full advantage of Blu-ray functionality with dual-stream, picture in picture (PIP) capabilities.
  • Accelerated Video Transcoding (AVT) - AVT allows you to convert videos to H.264 and MPEG-2 formats up to 19x faster than when using a just CPU.3 Full 1080p files can be converted to H.264 and MPEG-2 up to 1.8x faster than real-time.
  • Upscale Beyond 1080p - Watch the hottest Blu-ray movies or other HD content at full 1080p display resolution and beyond.
  • Enhanced DVD Upscaling - Watch standard DVD movies in near high-definition quality with DVD upscaling. The GPU uses post processing algorithms to enhance standard and low resolution videos and movies on your HD display.
  • Dynamic Contrast - Dynamic Contrast automatically adjusts the contrast and brightness during scenes to consistently deliver a crisp, vibrant picture.
  • HDMI - Enjoy the latest audio technologies using HDMI with 7.1 digital surround sound support. Also, xvYCC support allows the user to enjoy a wider range of color when connected to a capable HDTV.
  • Dynamic Power Management - ATI Radeon HD 4800 Series graphics cards deliver high performance when needed and conserve power when the demand on the graphics processor is low.
  • More Performance Per Watt - ATI Radeon HD 4800 series delivers up to 2x the performance per watt of AMD’s previous generation GPUs. 


ATI Radeon HD 4800 Series - GPU Specifications:

  • 956 million transistors on 55nm fabrication process
  • PCI Express 2.0 x16 bus interface
  • 256-bit GDDR3/4/5 memory interface
  • Microsoft® DirectX® 10.1 support
    • Shader Model 4.1
    • 32-bit floating point texture filtering
    • Indexed cube map arrays
    • Independent blend modes per render target
    • Pixel coverage sample masking
    • Read/write multi-sample surfaces with shaders
    • Gather4 texture fetching
  • Unified Superscalar Shader Architecture
    • 800 stream processing units
      • Dynamic load balancing and resource allocation for vertex, geometry, and pixel shaders
      • Common instruction set and texture unit access supported for all types of shaders
      • Dedicated branch execution units and texture address processors
    • 128-bit floating point precision for all operations
    • Command processor for reduced CPU overhead
    • Shader instruction and constant caches
    • Up to 160 texture fetches per clock cycle
    • Up to 128 textures per pixel
    • Fully associative multi-level texture cache design
    • DXTC and 3Dc+ texture compression
    • High resolution texture support (up to 8192 x 8192)
    • Fully associative texture Z/stencil cache designs
    • Double-sided hierarchical Z/stencil buffer
    • Re-Z, and Z Range optimization
    • Lossless Z & stencil compression (up to 128:1)
    • Lossless color compression (up to 8:1)
    • Up to 8 render targets (MRTs) with anti-aliasing
    • Accelerated physics processing
  • Dynamic Geometry Acceleration
    • High performance vertex cache
    • Programmable tessellation unit
    • Accelerated geometry shader path for geometry amplification
    • Memory read/write cache for improved stream output performance
  • Anti-aliasing features
    • Multi-sample anti-aliasing (2, 4, or 8 samples per pixel)
    • Up to 24x Custom Filter Anti-Aliasing (CFAA) for improved quality
    • Adaptive super-sampling and multi-sampling
    • Gamma correct
    • Super AA (ATI CrossFireX™ configurations only)
    • All anti-aliasing features compatible with HDR rendering
  • Texture filtering features
    • 2x/4x/8x/16x high quality adaptive anisotropic filtering modes (up to 128 taps per pixel)
    • 128-bit floating point HDR texture filtering
    • sRGB filtering (gamma/degamma)
    • Percentage Closer Filtering (PCF)
    • Depth & stencil texture (DST) format support
    • Shared exponent HDR (RGBE 9:9:9:5) texture format support
  • OpenGL 2.1 support
  • ATI Avivo™ HD Video and Display Platform
    • Unified Video Decoder 2 (UVD 2) for H.264/AVC, VC-1, and MPEG-2 video formats
      • High definition (HD) playback of Blu-ray and HD DVD video
      • Dual stream (HD+SD) playback support
      • DirectX Video Acceleration 1.0 & 2.0 support
      • Support for BD-Live certified applications
    • Hardware DivX and MPEG-1 video decode acceleration
    • Accelerated video transcoding & encoding for H.264 and MPEG-2 formats
    • ATI Avivo Video Post Processor
      • Color space conversion
      • Chroma subsampling format conversion
      • Horizontal and vertical scaling
      • Gamma correction
      • Advanced vector adaptive per-pixel de-interlacing
      • De-blocking and noise reduction filtering
      • Detail enhancement
      • Color vibrance and flesh tone correction
      • Inverse telecine (2:2 and 3:2 pull-down correction)
      • Bad edit correction
      • Enhanced DVD upscaling (SD to HD)
      • Automatic dynamic contrast adjustment
    • Two independent display controllers
      • Drive two displays simultaneously with independent resolutions, refresh rates, color controls and video overlays for each display
      • Full 30-bit display processing
      • Programmable piecewise linear gamma correction, color correction, and color space conversion
      • Spatial/temporal dithering provides 30-bit color quality on 24-bit and 18-bit displays
      • High quality pre- and post-scaling engines, with underscan support for all display outputs
      • Content-adaptive de-flicker filtering for interlaced displays
      • Fast, glitch-free mode switching
      • Hardware cursor
    • Two integrated dual-link DVI display outputs
      • Each supports 18-, 24-, and 30-bit digital displays at all resolutions up to 1920x1200 (single-link DVI) or 2560x1600 (dual-link DVI)
      • Each includes a dual-link HDCP encoder with on-chip key storage for high resolution playback of protected content
    • Two integrated 400 MHz 30-bit RAMDACs
      • Each supports analog displays connected by VGA at all resolutions up to 2048x1536
    • DisplayPort output support
      • 24- and 30-bit displays at all resolutions up to 2560x1600
    • HDMI output support
      • All display resolutions up to 1920x1080
      • Integrated HD audio controller with support for stereo and multi-channel (up to 7.1) audio formats, including AC-3, AAC, DTS, DTS-HD & Dolby True-HD4, enabling a plug-and-play audio solution over HDMI
    • Integrated AMD Xilleon™ HDTV encoder
      • Provides high quality analog TV output (component/S-video/composite)
      • Supports SDTV and HDTV resolutions
      • Underscan and overscan compensation
    • Seamless integration of pixel shaders with video in real time
    • VGA mode support on all display outputs
  • ATI PowerPlay™ Technology
    • Advanced power management technology for optimal performance and power savings
    • Performance-on-Demand
      • Constantly monitors GPU activity, dynamically adjusting clocks and voltage based on user scenario
      • Clock and memory speed throttling
      • Voltage switching
      • Dynamic clock gating
      • Central thermal management – on-chip sensor monitors GPU temperature and triggers thermal actions as required
  • ATI CrossFireX™ Multi-GPU Technology
    • Scale up rendering performance and image quality with two, three, or four GPUs
    • Integrated compositing engine
    • High performance dual channel bridge interconnect

 

Palit Core Palit Radeon HD 4850 Specifications:

Radeon™ HD 4850 Sonic comes with Palit's innovative cooling system with two-ball bearing PWM fan, heat-pipes, and superior copper base to ensure high performance, trustworthy thermal effect. The 3-Phase PWM power circuit on Palit HD 4850 Sonic provides a more sufficient and stable energy distribution system and this power circuit further combines the 8-pin power connector which is able to support up to 150W sufficient power therefore allows a ultimate overclocking potential with stability.

  • Board Specifications
  • Bus interface: PCI Express® 2.0
  • Memory Support: 512MB GDDR3
  • Memory Interface: 256 bit
  • Memory Clock: 2000MHz (1000 x 2)
  • Core Clock: 685MHz
  • RAMDACs: 400 MHz
  • Dual Dual-link DVI outputs support 2560x1600 resolution displays
  • ATI CrossFireX™ Multi-GPU Technology
  • HDMI function via dongle (Optional)


  • GPU Specifications
  • Dynamic geometry acceleration
  • Game physics processing capability
  • ATI PowerPlay™ technology
  • ATI Avivo™ HD video and display technology
  • Full Microsoft® DirectX® 10.1 Shader Model 4.1 support
  • HDCP capable
  • Built for Microsoft® Windows Vista™

 


Closer Look:

At first glance, the Palit HD 4850 Sonic 512MB looks like a 4870 series card as it has a two-slot cooler, an 8-pin power connector and some other design features that typically belong to a higher class or performance series of card.  Don't be fooled though, Palit is not a company to simply let the reference design get them by.  When a card is released from the manufacturer, partner companies don't have any choice but to use the reference design as NVIDIA and AMD keep things locked down to reference design only standards.  After the initial launch however, some models are available for design modifications and that is where Palit wants to make a name for themselves.  They are not simply content to use the reference design if there is room for improvement.  These improvements can provide more reliable service, better thermal management and ultimately better performance and a longer life.

Before we get into our comparisons with a reference card, let's take a quick peek at some closer pictures of the Palit HD 4850 Sonic.

 DVI and Vents
DVI and Vents
8-Pin Power
8-Pin Power
HSF Mouting
HSF Mouting

 

Like almost every other card on the market the 4850 Sonic has two DVI ports and a connector for S-Video/Composite Video output.  Unlike other 4850 cards this one packs in an 8-pin connector though.  What worries me a bit is the 2GHz DDR3 that doesn't have a heatsink on it though.  While the fan will certainly blow air on the GDDR3 chips, small ramsinks might improve cooling - we'll see when it comes to testing though.

HSF Removed
HSF Removed

 

Palit has used a copper base in their cooling solution with a couple of heatpipes that whisk the heat away from the GPU core and provide better cooling that single-slot versions of this card as we'll see in a bit.

 

 

HIS vs Palit - 4850:

I do realize that HIS has a custom IceQ series card that has faster clocks than the reference card we have on our bench, but the point of this comparison is to compare a reference card with Palit's tweaked Sonic.

  Reference 4850 HIS 4850 Palit 4850 Sonic
Memory 512MB GDDR3 512MB GDDR3 512MB GDDR3
Memory Clock Speed 2000 MHz 1986 MHz 2000 MHz
Memory Bandwidth 64 GB/s 62.1 GB/s 64 GB/s
Core Clock Speed 625 MHz 625 MHz 685 MHz
Stream Processors
800 800 800
Memory Interface 256-bit 256-bit 256-bit
Fabrication Process 55 nm 55 nm 55 nm

 

Side By Side
Side By Side

 

Take a look at the differences in these cards as we cover some key points on them before we jump into testing.

 Palit Power Regulation
Palit Power Regulation
HIS Power Regulation
HIS Power Regulation
   
 Palit Core
Palit Core
HIS Core
HIS Core
   
 Palit DDR
Palit DDR
 HIS DDR
HIS DDR

 

As mentioned earlier, Palit uses 3-Phase power regulation in order to provide cleaner, more stable power to the GPU core.  Reference design calls for 2-Phase.  The GPU Core on the Palit is marked 0824 - NG9817.00 and the HIS core is marked 0819 - NG9693.00.  This doesn't mean much of course, but the Palit GPU seems to be from a later batch.  Palit also uses Samsung 825 K4J52324QE-BJ1A GDDR3 which is rated to run at 1.9v at a speed of 1000MHz (2GHz DDR).  HIS opts for Qimonda 0810 HYB18H512321BF-10 which is also rated at 1.9v at 1000MHz (2GHz DDR) clock speeds.


Test System & Info:

To try and keep things as CPU happy as possible we have upgraded our ATI/AMD test setup with a Phenom X4 9950 Black Edition Processor.  This processor runs at 2.6GHz with 4MB of L2+L3 Cache and supports some pretty decent overclocking capabilities (for an X4 Phenom anyhow).  Our recent motherboard review - the ASRock A770 Crossfire - featured the HIS 4850 processor used in this comparison against the Palit HD 4850 Sonic, but the performance numbers are not comparable as we used a 5000+ BE processor in that review.

To keep things fresh, we'll keep all of our comparison numbers between the two cards - and throw in some CrossfireX on one benchmark just for fun.

 

Let The Benchmarks Begin:

We are going to run through the benchmarks alphabetically and won't do a lot of explaining along the way.  Graphs should be pretty self-explanatory.

Chart - 3DMark

3DMark Vantage was the only benchmark that CrossfireX numbers are shown.  The point of this review is to compare the Palit Sonic to the HIS/reference design and when using CrossfireX, the cards automatically scale to the performance of the slowest card.  As you can see, the Palit card wins when compared to the HIS card in all tests - except the CrossfireX test of course.  We ran at Entry, Performance and High settings.

 

Chart - CoD4

Call of Duty also shows the Palit card in the lead.

 

 Chart - CoH

For some reason, Company of Heroes favored the slower clocked HIS card.  The results in question were tested and retested and have been confirmed.

 

Chart - Crysis

 

At the start of the benchmarking process, Crysis Warhead was not available so we used the ATI-hating Crysis v1.21 for comparison testing.  All detail was set to medium with no AA or AF.  Palit wins here by 2-4FPS.

On the next page we'll continue benchmarking and wrap up with some final thoughts.


Benchmarking Continued:

As we carry on benchmarking we'll take a look at Devil May Cry 4, Half-Life 2: Episode 2, Track Mania Nations Forever and lastly UT3.  In DMC4, HL2:EP2 and UT3 all settings were set to maximum with TMNF set to High and Very High at 1680x1050 and 1920x1200 respectively.  It's very impressive to see how a sub $200 card can handle games at decent resolutions like 1680x1050 and higher.  I have no doubt that the card would struggle at 2560x1600, but no one buys a $200 card and expects it to render games at native resolution on a $1200 LCD.

 Chart - DMC4  Chart - HL2: EP2

In DMC4, the Palit HD 4850 Sonic 512MB takes the cake at 1280x720 and 1600x1000.  It chaps me that DMC4 is not able to run a "real" resolution above 1600x1000, but even with different drivers, 1680x1050 or 1920x1200 was not available on my system.  We used the odd-ball resolution posted above - which at least is 16:10 aspect ratio.

In HL2:EP2, the Palit trails by a couple of FPS for some reason even though it is clocked faster.  We tested and found the results to be accurate.

Track Mania Nations Forever is a free game that can be yours via the Steam network.  It is a fun single player racing game based on completing challenges against a clock and it has a very decent multi-player mode as well.  It looks great and can bring a system to its knees with all the details turned up.

 Chart - TMNF
 Chart - UT3

TMNF is pretty much a tie and is too close to call with less than a FPS separating the winner from the loser.  UT3 favor the Palit card though at a mere 2FPS.  You wouldn't notice this in a game at all.

 

 

Final Thoughts:

One thing we haven't touched on is overclocking and temperatures and the overclocking left me a bit disappointed.  Using the Overdrive feature of the Catalyst drivers, the card was able to reach an overclock of 725/1040; a very nice boost up from the stock speed - at least on the core.  However, part-way through testing, the system suddenly rebooted.  I lowered the clocks and set off to test again - same thing.  I could get a stable 695/1010 out of the card, but this yielded so little performance increase that I didn't bother to include the benchmark results in this review.  It seems that the core of the GPU is holding things back as the memory could be increased without artifacting, but any major increase to the core rendered the system unstable.

With that in mind, the cooling Palit used on this card is much better than the single-slot cooling solution from HIS.  The HIS card idled in Windows at 72C and topped out right around 100C.  You could boil water on the back of this card.  The Palit card however idled around 40C and topped out at 64C during testing.  This is much more manageable and not nearly as scary.  My only beef with the cooling though is that even though the PCI slot bracket is slotted, the fan doesn't exhaust hot air outside the case.  All of the toasty warm air from this card is left inside the case to be exhausted by the case ventilation.

All-in-all the Palit HD 4850 Sonic 512MB card is a very solid card.  It has a decent cooling solution, better power regulation and is much quieter than a stock card at full-load.  The performance is typically above a reference card (as it should be with higher clock speeds). This is our first Palit card on the bench and I can clearly see their dedication to quality, performance and their ability to engineer a card built better than a reference card.  This dedication to R&D will make them a name to watch as they release more of their own tweaked products.

Pros:

  • Dual-slot cooler provides significantly lower temps and quieter cooling
  • 3-phase power is more stable and should provide longer life (less RMA)
  • Pre-overclocked without voiding warranty

 

Cons:

  • Dual-slot cooler doesn't exhaust hot air from the system
  • Sample didn't overclock well

 

 BCCRating

Top Pick

 

I'd like to thank Palit for sending over this card for us to review.  If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to post them in the forum at the "Comments" link below.