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RADEON HD 4850 / 4870 from Palit and PowerColor

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In the light of the recent new revision of GeForce GTX 260 with more processors, the star of RADEON HD 4870 has started to fade away. Indeed, the GTX 260 sometimes outscores its competitor in our tests, and only increased frequencies may help RADEON HD 4870 stay the leader in its class. That, and, of course, the fact that AMD and partners can cut prices without losing much profits, while the price of GTX 260 might soon reach its manufacturing costs, as this card is very expensive to make.

As for RADEON HD 4850 and all its modifications, this is the best choice. It provides an excellent combination of price and performance, considering that even prices of 9800 GTX wouldn't drop to the RADEON HD 4850 level, to say nothing of 9800 GTX+. We've already said that in our locality 9800 GTX prices would reach the promised $199 margin when discontinued already. So RADEON HD 4850 has great prospects.

Palit RADEON HD 4870 Sonic 512MB is a very good product in terms of performance. It also has a good PCB layout and convenient arrangement of power connectors. Unfortunately, it comes with a poor bundle. Besides, we've heard that its cooler behaves strangely on different platforms. Sometimes it's too noisy (at a high speed), sometimes it's not (at a low speed). We don't know the reason of this.

Palit RADEON HD 4850 Sonic 512MB is an excellent combination of price and performance, taking into account how hard it's for the competitor to cut prices. Highly increased operating frequencies provide noticeable bonuses to this card. But it also has a poor bundle, which spoils the impression. And don't forget that its cooler is not very quiet.

PowerColor RADEON HD 4870 PCS 512MB is also an excellent choice for its price. The card has demonstrated its advantages not only in performance, but also in cooling efficiency and increased frequencies. If these products are cheaper than GTX 260 (216sp), they'll be a definite success.


A few words about our benchmarks.

In our updated FRAPS review we have illustrated how crude and inaccurate tests with this utility are. Testers do not have other tools, except for benchmarks built into games.

This article and its first part explain that it's sometimes possible to test games with integrated and identically looped demos. Although this implies lots of potential errors, since measurement accuracy depends on a given tester: whether he starts/stops FRAPS in time or does it too late/early.

But I have run across situations, when demo load changes abruptly in the very beginning or end. So a half-second delay in starting/stopping the utility changes the average FPS by 15-20%. That's not a measurement error anymore - such a test is a total waste of time. One time you delay the test, another time you start it too early (not intentionally, of course), and you end up with absolutely different performance results.

But even that's not the most important thing. The fact is, there are almost no games with built-in demos anymore. So, testers are forced to use a method that we deem totally unacceptable. They measure gaming performance by walking a straight line from the a starting point in a scene to a selected destination (the nearest fence, tree, etc.).

We all understand that it's impossible to navigate to a finish spot in precisely the same route with different cards and in different resolutions. Besides, such games always introduce random elements into a scene, and objects may be placed slightly differently on the same scene.

Unfortunately, websites that publish a huge number of tests do not always reveal their test methods for each game (except for those with built-in benchmarks).

So, we believe that it's better to offer a limited number of game tests, but each will be crystal clear, accurate and showing actual differences between graphics cards.

We express gratitude to TUL Russia and PALIT for provided graphics cards.
PSU provided by TAGAN, monitor provided by NVIDIA.

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Page 1: Introduction, graphics cards

Page 2: Cooling

Page 3: Bundles, packages

Page 4: Performance tests

Page 5: More performance tests, conclusions

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