HIS and Sapphire Radeon HD 4850 Face Off
HIS' newest card based on the Radeon HD 4850 (their sixth overall) features the highest clock speeds as well as the latest revision of their IceQ brand of coolers, unimaginatively titled "IceQ4". Reminiscent of the Fantastic Four's logo, the number '4' is prominently featured on the front of the box along with a sticker in the upper right denoting this card as the TurboX variety - 10MHz faster than just plain "Turbo".
Although a majority of manufacturers like to slap on some graphics and call it a day, HIS takes full advantage of the opportunity to showcase their card and the changes that the IceQ4 cooler bring with, including a larger heatsink area, bi-directional air channels and an overall new design using dual heatpipes, which should improve cooling performance while removing excess weight. Contained within the box is the card itself, encased within a plastic mold, along with an S-Video cable, DVI-I to VGA and DVI to HDMI adapters, a CrossFire bridge as well as the driver CD-ROM and Installation Guide. A specially branded multi-purpose screwdriver with built-in level and light source also adds some extra value to the bundle.
At first glance, the IceQ4 cooler doesn't seem all that different from earlier versions; a dual-slot cooler using clear blue plastic to funnel air from a rear-mounted fan outside the chassis. That being said, picking up the card proved the opposite. Whereas the IceQ3 cards had some considerable heft to them, the IceQ4 based HD 4850 felt light for its size. At the core of the system, a large copper plate covers the GPU, which then rises upward as a series of fins leading outward to the bracket. Two heatpipes run directly over the core, pulling heat away from the hottest point to be cooled later on as they run back down through the finned area towards the left edge. Memory is cooled by a completely separate plate, preventing any transfer of heat from one component to the next. Additionally, a smaller plate sits over the MOSFETs at the end of the card, providing some bonus cooling and helping keep the pre-overclocked card running stable.
The majority of HD 4850s (including this one) ship with 512MB of GDDR3 memory, which is the major difference between these cards and the higher-end HD 4870. However, other than the memory change and slower speeds, the rest of the architecture including the same number of stream processing and texture units making these cards a nice investment if bleeding edge products are not necessarily in your budget.
To increase airflow, the shroud surrounding the fan is not only open in the front, but has slots along the back to let additional air in. The fan then pushes air along the plastic channel and exhausts out the back of the PC. HIS claims that the IceQ4 operates at a reduced noise level than previous models, and in our testing we didn't notice any high levels of noise output even when overclocked or under a heavy load.
Gold plated dual-link DVI ports and S-Video output are found on the double-sized bracket. We also found two CrossFire connectors on the top of the board, which can be used to connect up to four discrete boards in a CrossFireX configuration when using a compatible motherboard.