ASUS Matrix & Sapphire Toxic Radeon HD 4870, 4850

Article Index

Performance Summary & Conclusion

Performance Summary: All three video cards evaluated in this article performed well. Except for a few anomalies, the two Matrix cards and the Toxic all performed better than their stock reference counterparts. The 4850 does not receive a factory overclock, however the included iTracker application allows it to overclock by a few MHz, which is enough to give it a noticeable lead over the stock reference card. Both the Matrix 4870 and the Toxic 4870 sport ample factory overclocks and this showed in the benchmarks. Both cards performed well with respect to the stock 4870. The Sapphire Toxic seems to be the faster of the two 4870s, but it benefits from a slightly beefier overclock and 1GB of memory while the Matrix 4870 only has 512MB.


 


ASUS ROG EAH4850 Matrix: The ROG 4850 Matrix has some interesting features. The primary feature that distinguishes the Matrix series of video cards is the inclusion of ASUS' Super Hybrid Engine (SHE), a dedicated onboard chip which handles hardware monitoring and adjustments. The SHE chip feeds the data it collects to the included iTracker software application which displays it in a series of tabbed windows. The iTracker application also allows adjustments to be made to the card, such as the fan speed, clock speeds and even the voltage; a feature rarely available on video cards.

Perhaps the best part of the iTracker application is its profile manager. It can manage a large number of performance profiles, each with their own performance and cooling settings. The iTracker application also allows for separate settings to be made for 2D and 3D use; switching between the two depending on the applications which are currently running. One of the neatest results of this configurability is the ability to set the card to automatically downclock for lower-power, quiet computing while using 2D applications on the desktop, then automatically and instantly switch to an overclocked mode when a 3D application like a game is launched. The best part is the switch between 2D to 3D modes is automated and once the profile is set up, no further tinkering is required from the user.

The ROG 4850 Matrix also has the advantage of a rather beefy non-reference cooler which both performed well and is relatively quiet. During testing we found the cooler to be much quieter and generally more efficient than the reference cooler. The only disadvantage is the cooler has a dual-slot design, rather than the single-slot design of the reference cooler. However, in return for an extra slot, you receive very good thermal characteristics and low noise.

As you might expect, these extra features come at a price premium and the ASUS ROG 4850 Matrix can be found for around $185, although there is a $30 mail in rebate running until February 28. Compare that to $145 for a reference-clone 4850 or $165 (minis $30 MIR) for ASUS' own highly overclocked TOP series model. So is the price premium worth it? Perhaps, but not if you're primarily interested in top performance, in which case ASUS' own 4850 TOP will probably serve you better. While the Matrix comes with a good cooler, it doesn't quite justify the price alone. However, if you are looking for advanced hardware monitoring and tweaking features on your 4850, the ASUS ROG EAH4850 Matrix should be at the top of your list. With a dedicated hardware monitoring chip, advanced tweaking options including voltage adjustments, and a slick software interface, the ROG EAH4850 Matrix is a tweaker's delight.

     
  • Good Performer
  • Quality Cooler
  • Powerful iTracker Software
  • Excellent Hardware Monitoring
  • Advanced Overclocking Options
  • Voltage Adjustments
  • No Factory Overclock
  • Premium Price



ASUS ROG EAH4870 Matrix
: The ROG 4870 Matrix offers the same monitoring and tweaking features as the 4850 version, so what was said above in that regard applies here as well. However, the 4870 does differ in the style of cooler it uses. It also receives a factory overclock to 770MHz core and 920MHz memory (up from 750MHz/900MHz stock) while the 4850 did not, although this is somewhat moot since both cards have powerful overclocking features.

The cooler on the ROG 4870 Matrix is quite beefy and features two fans. While it can certainly provide some serious cooling, it's not optimally designed for quiet cooling. Positioning two fans right next to each other seems to produce quite a bit of extra noise as the airflow from the two fans interfere with each other, causing turbulence which results in wind noise. This was noticeable during testing whenever both fans were on, such as during benchmarking. The end result is the 4870 Matrix was about as loud as the 4870 reference cooler. The default fan profile is also too aggressive, spinning them up too much and generally making a lot of noise. Thankfully, the iTracker is very easy to use and a more relaxed fan profile helps to alleviate the problem, but prolonged stress will still cause the fans to spin up.

The ROG 4870 Matrix also comes at premium over other reference clocked 512MB Radeon HD 4870 cards, to the tune of $250--again minus $30 for a mail in rebate running unit the end of the month. Compare that to the $190-$200 price of reference clocked 4870s and the Matrix looks somewhat less attractive. Especially considering that many cheaper 4870's offer higher factory overclocks and quieter coolers than than Matrix. Overall, we found the ROG EAH4870 Matrix to be less attractive than its 4850 stablemate. It's a good choice if you're really into tweaking your hardware or plan on heavy overclocking. However, the cooler is too loud in our opinion and the overclock too mediocre, which also conversly sets the price too high for what you get, in our humble opinion.
 

     
  • Decent Factory Overclock
  • Quality Cooler
  • Powerful iTracker Software
  • Excellent Hardware Monitoring
  • Advanced Overclocking Options
  • Voltage Adjustments
  • Premium price
  • Low overclock for price
  • Cooler is loud
  • Over aggressive default fan profile



Sapphire HD 4870 1GB Toxic
: The Sapphire HD 1GB Toxic is a much more conventional video card compared to the ASUS Matrix series. There are no special sensor chips here, just a factory overclocked card with Sapphire's proven Vapor Chamber cooling technology.

The Vapor-X is definitely the main attraction here. During our testing we found it be to very quiet. When the system is loaded lightly or idle, the fan is nearly silent and easily drowned out by the sounds of other fans in the system. While the fan does spin up under heavy load, it's still quieter than the stock reference cooler and the fan ramping is fairly passive. Next to the Matrix cards, the 4870 Toxic felt much more like a turn-key solution since there was no software to mess with and nothing to install (other than the card and drivers).

However, just like the Matrix cards, the 4870 Toxic does come at a price premium and cost about $269. For the price you get a 1GB frame buffer, the excellent cooler as well as a decent GPU overclock to 780MHz (up from 750MHz stock) and a substantial memory overclock to 1000 MHz (up from 900MHz stock). While this isn't the highest factory overclock on a 4870, it's pretty close. You can also save a few bucks by going with the 512MB version of the 4870 Toxic, although it might cost you a few fps in certain applications, especially at higher resolutions. However, though its bundle is a litter nicer than the Asus bundle, its warranty comes up 1 year short of the Asus 3 year offering.

Overall we liked the Sapphire HD 4870 1GB Toxic. It had the best out-of-box performance of the three cards evaluated in this article and it also behaved well, with excellent noise and thermal characteristics.

     
  • Good Factory Overclock
  • Excellent Cooler
  • Low Noise
  • Decent Bundle
  • Premium Price


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