Summary: Clocked at 1000MHz/1000MHz, MSI's R4890 SOC delivers performance besting the GeForce GTX 285 while costing nearly $100 less. If that weren't enough, it also features impressive cooling and a shorter PCB. If you're in the market for a new Radeon 4890 card, you'll definitely want to check out our review of the board right here!
Some of the most powerful winds in nature are produced by cyclones. The strongest cyclones Ė category 5 Ė can generate wind gusts of more than 170 miles/hour.
Unique board design
While all gamers appreciate the performance NVIDIA and ATI provide with their latest high-end offerings, one downside of these cards is their size; the Radeon 4890ís PCB is 9.5 longĒ, while the GeForce GTX 275ís PCB measures even longer: 10.5Ē.
MSI addresses this issue with their Radeon 4890 Cyclone. The cardís PCB measures just 9Ē long, making it a little shorter than the Radeon 4850 and GeForce 8800 GT. Itís a pretty impressive feat considering the size of their Cyclone cooler and all the 4890ís required power circuitry.
Speaking of the power circuitry, MSI is pretty proud of their use of solid-state chokes. Their 4890 board is loaded with them. Itís a nice touch that isnít found on the 4890 reference design. MSI also uses highly conductive capacitors on the 4890 Cyclone. These are the same capacitors youíll find dotted around the CPU socket on MSIís high-end motherboards. These capacitors boast even better tolerance to overclocking/overvoltage than solid capacitors. Youíll find them nestled right next to the RV790 GPU.
Finally, the board also features all-solid capacitors rated for 10 years of use. The 4890 reference design also uses solid capacitors though, so unlike the other board design features, thereís nothing unique about the 4890 Cyclone here.
The most eye-catching aspect of the 4890 Cyclone is without a doubt its dual-slot cooler though. While weíve pictured it here next to a 4890 for you, words really canít begin to describe how massive the heatsink/heatpipe cooling is. Itís something you really have to see in person with your own eyes to properly appreciate how colossal everything is.
At the heart of the cooler are its two massive SuperPipes. Whereas most heatpipes are generall 5mm thick, MSIís SuperPipes are 8mm. The heatpipes MSI uses are long too. They wrap around the majority of the GPU in a semicircle. Theyíre accompanied by smaller heatpipes for even greater cooling potential.
A 3-piece heatsink works to keep the heatpipes cool. Resting directly above the RV790 GPU is an Orb-shaped heatsink, which frankly looks a little overwhelmed resting directly above the two SuperPipes. Itís a slim, single-slot heatsink thatís composed of dozens of long, curved fins.
Two dual-slot heatsinks are placed on the ends of the heatpipes. These heatsinks are decked out with the words ďR4890Ē ďCycloneĒ.
At the center of the cooler is a 100mm fan. Again, this fan is larger than many case fans, and thanks to its size itís able to run whisper quiet while still generating a ton of airflow. Itís actually quieter than the blower-style fan ATI uses on the 4890: crank the stock 4890 cooler to 75% fan speed and youíre generating quite a bit of noise (a lot of it coming from the fanís motor); MSIís fan just whooshes like the air conditioning in your home or car.
Itís really rather impressive considering the amount of air this fan can dish out.
MSI outfits the 4890 Cyclone with the same Qimonda memory modules found on the ATI reference design.
Unlike the 4890 reference design, MSI doesnít provide any cooling for the boardís memory modules though. Fortunately the Qimonda modules are designed to run without heatsinks, so technically they arenít a requirement. However, considering this is a high-end board designed for enthusiasts, it wouldíve been a good idea if MSI couldíve included them.
MSI outfits the board with a variety of display options also. Besides providing one dual-link DVI with the 4890 Cyclone, the board also ships with an HDMI output and VGA connector. Here youíll also see exhaust vents just above the display connectors, but obviously due to the nature of the cooler these vents arenít going to be exhausting a lot of air: most of the air from the fan is going to be fed into your case.
As we mentioned earlier, our R4890 Cyclone board is the Super Overclocked (SOC) model, which runs the graphics core at 1GHz. Thatís 150MHz higher than stock. The boardís memory modules are then OCíed to 1GHz, which is 25MHz higher than the stock 4890.
CrossFire may be something to watch with this card. We paired it alongside a bone stock 4890 reference design with the Cyclone card located in the uppermost PCIe slot and the reference board sitting underneath it.
With the 4890 reference board sporting a longer PCB and resting in such close proximity to the 4890 Cyclone SOC, it suffocates the Cyclone cardís 100mm fan of much of the air that it needs to run efficiently. Instead of cranking up the fanís RPMs to compensate, the card soldiers on like a champ. Problem is, the fan needs to give in and run faster.
Without optimal airflow, the cardís massive heatpipes eventually get scorching hot. This heat has nowhere to go, heating up the GPU, board, and all of its components. Eventually the card succumbs to the heat and locks up the PC. Weíre talking a hard lock too, requiring a full reboot (after the card has cooled down of course).
This happened to us repeatedly, and the only way to remedy the situation was to either place the 4890 Cyclone in the secondary (bottom) graphics slot, where airflow isnít an issue (unless of course you also have an expansion card next to this slot), or to manually crank up the fanís RPMs in ATI Overdrive.
Bundle and accessories
With such a wide variety of display outputs, MSI skips shipping the card with any display adapters. There are no DVI-to-VGA or DVI-to-HDMI adapters here, as outputs for both of these are natively provided on the backplate of the card.
Intel Core i7-920
6GB OCZ Reaper HPC DDR3-1600
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 260 216 core
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 275
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 280
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 285
NVIDIA GeForce 9800 GTX+
NVIDIA GeForce GTS 250 1GB
ATI Radeon HD 4850 512MB
ATI Radeon HD 4870 1GB
ATI Radeon HD 4890 1GB
MSI R4890 Cyclone Super Overclocked
300GB Western Digital Caviar SE
Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit w/Service Pack 2
Blazing clock speeds: Our Super Overclocked board runs at 1GHz/1GHz, technically making it the fastest card weíve seen in terms of clock speeds. Itís because of these speeds that the MSI board was able to run up to 10% faster than the stock Radeon 4890 in Crysis and Far Cry 2. STALKER Clear Sky is also a graphically demanding title. Here the MSI 4890 Cyclone SOC ran 12% faster than the stock 4890.
As a result, the MSI board actually outran GeForce GTX 285 in our benchmarks.
Cooling: MSIís R4890 Cyclone employs massive 8mm thick heatpipes to help draw heat off the cardís RV790 GPU. These heatpipes then are paired with more conventional heatpipes and a dual-slot heatsink to bolster the coolerís performance.
A 100mm fan is used to supply the heatsink/heatpipe combination with cool air. By using such a large fan, MSI is able to generate lots of airflow without having to crank up the fanís RPMs, which would result in a noisier cooler.
MSIís cooler is quite effective too. Despite being OCíed significantly higher than the stock Radeon 4890 card we tested, it ran seven degrees Celsius cooler at load.
Pricing: Officially MSIís R4890 Cyclone SOC carries an MSRP of $239.99. While thatís a little higher than other Radeon 4890 cards on the market, also consider that youíre getting a board with excellent cooling, and some of the fastest clock speeds you can get in a Radeon 4890 card.
If you donít want to spend that kind of money though MSI does offer the R4890 Cyclone OC. This board sells for $199.99 on Newegg right now and has the same Cyclone cooling, only it isnít OCíed to the same extremes as our SOC board, running at just 880MHz core/975MHz memory.
Diverse array of video outputs: MSI equips the R4890 Cyclone with a pretty wide variety of display outputs for gamers. In addition to sporting a dual-link DVI output, the card also features an HDMI output and VGA. ButÖ
Shorter PCB: Those of you with smaller cases will be glad to hear that the R4890 Cyclone utilizes a shorter 9Ē PCB. Thatís half an inch shorter than the stock 4890, and itís the only 4890 card weíve seen this short.
Lack of support for dual DVIs in favor of 1xVGA: We could do without the sole VGA output. Analog VGA displays are being phased out in favor of digital outputs like DVI and DisplayPort. Considering this is a card oriented towards enthusiasts (who are more likely to own digital displays) we feel that offering an analog VGA out instead of DVI or DisplayPort is a mistake on MSIís part.
|© Copyright 2003 FS Media, Inc.|