Palit Radeon 4850 Sonic Review
Over the course of the past few months, we’ve been taking a look at Radeon 4850 cards with custom cooling. Back in August we reviewed the first crop of custom 4850 boards to hit the retail market, MSI’s R4850 512M and Sapphire’s Toxic 4850 and Radeon 4850 Dual Slot. All three of these cards delivered significantly improved cooling performance over the stock ATI Radeon 4850 reference design, while Sapphire’s Toxic board was also OC’ed out of the box for added performance.
Our search for the best of the best in Radeon 4850 cards brings us today to Palit’s 4850 Sonic. Like the Sapphire Toxic, Palit’s 4850 Sonic combines custom heat pipe cooling with factory OC’ed clocks, but Palit adds one additional twist to the equation designed to improve OC performance even further…More Power!
Custom 4850 board design
While we’ve been reviewing their cards for a few months now, many of you still aren’t very familiar with who Palit Multimedia is. The company is actually a very large player worldwide, with their cards being sold under the Gainward brand in Europe, and XpertVision in Asia. The Palit brand is targeted towards the North American market, with the company focusing on delivering high quality innovative designs that stand out from other manufacturers in the marketplace. For Palit, the reference board design isn’t good enough, they know that in order to gain share they have to deliver cards that are as unique as possible. Palit manufactures cards based on GPUs from AMD and NVIDIA.
So what has Palit done to separate their Sonic 4850 card from ATI’s reference board? Quite a bit.
Once again Palit has come up with their own custom board design that offers many features you won’t find on the stock ATI reference board. Physically Palit’s 4850 Sonic board is 1/2" shorter than the ATI design, measuring 9” in length instead of ATI’s 9.5”. This makes the card an easier fit in tight cases.
The biggest change though is the board’s power circuitry. Palit has beefed up the board’s power subsystem with a 3-phase power design instead of ATI’s reference board which is just 2-phase:
Unlike ATI, Palit chooses not to provide cooling for their power subsystem. Fortunately this didn’t seem to have a negative effect on board temps, as our card still ran considerably cooler than the ATI reference board design. With the additional power phase, less stress is put on the power subsystem, so the system as a whole is able to run cooler. This in turn also helps to improve the card’s longevity, and OC’ing ability.
To further improve OC’ing, Palit equips the board with an 8-pin PCIe 2.0 power connector instead of the 6-pin PCIe connector used on stock Radeon 4850 cards.
The 8-pin connector is able to deliver two times the power to the graphics card, 150W versus 75W. As any experienced OC’er will tell you, often times you need more juice (power) to get a stable OC. When overclocking the CPU, many enthusiasts will increase the voltage by 10% or more. By integrating an 8-pin power connector instead of a 6-pin connector, Palit is seriously upping the amount of juice that the card draws.
In theory this should allow the card to scale further when OC’ing (we’ll put this theory to the test in the OC’ing portion of the article). In fact, Catalyst Control Center actually provides higher speeds for OC’ing the Palit Sonic card than standard Radeon 4850 boards. Whereas a standard Radeon 4850 card is limited to just 700MHz in Catalyst Control Center, once you plug in Palit’s Sonic 4850, the slider maxes out 35MHz higher, speeds up to 735MHz are automatically available. Palit clocks the board 60MHz higher than stock, running at 685MHz on the graphics core instead of the Radeon 4850’s 625MHz.
Just in case you were wondering, the 8-pin connector isn’t an option either. It’s required in order for the board to operate. Fortunately if you don’t own a PCIe 2.0 compliant power supply, Palit does include an 8-pin adapter inside the box, so end users shouldn’t have a problem getting the card to operate.
The final addition Palit has integrated into the 4850 Sonic is custom cooling. Palit cools the card with a dual-slot heatsink/fan unit that also features dual copper heat pipes. The heat pipes cool the GPU, while the heatsink keeps the heat pipes cool. We’ll test out the effectiveness of this cooler a little later in this review.