Review: Pick your poison at the Gainward Coral
Gainward's offer includes several HD 4850 cards, so we’ve decided to take the two top models and see how they compare. The first card is Gainward HD 4850 GS 1024MB card, which as the name suggests packs 1GB of memory. The performance difference between the cards with 512MB and 1024MB isn’t as obvious if you’re not gaming at 1920x1200 and higher resolutions, but users regularly favor higher numbers in their shopping strategies. The second, or another first card if you will, is Gainward’s HD 4850 GS Goes Like Hell 512MB. To make things more interesting, both these cards not only pack different amount of memory, but the memory types are different as well. The first card uses GDDR3 memory, whereas the Goes Like Hell version is one of rare HD 4850 versions that runs GDDR5 memory, which is used on HD 4870 and HD 4890 cards.
Gainward HD 4850 GS 1024MB
HD 4850 GS 1024MB uses dual-slot cooling that looks quite bulky, mostly due to the plastic hood, which covers the entire card. This type of cooling is used on HD 4850 GS 512MB card as well, but we’re no strangers to it as we’ve seen it when Gainward was still doing business exclusively with Nvidia. The cooler is nice and efficient, and we’ve seen it in action on a couple of G92-based cards.
Unlike the reference single slot design, the HD 4850 GS 1024MB uses dual slot cooling and runs at 700+MHz, 75MHz higher than reference. While testing Gainward’s cards, we’ve learned that the famous “+” means more overclocking headroom, and can be found only on the crème of the crop cards both from Nvidia and AMD. HD 4850 GS 1024MB can be overclocked further with no problems whatsoever, but since such feats are not covered by the warranty it might be wiser to stick to Gainward’s pre-overclocked speeds. The memory on this card is overclocked by only a few MHz more than on the reference model, as it now runs at 1000+MHz (2000+ effectively) compared to the reference 993MHz.
The photo below shows the dual-slot cooling in all its glory. The fan is in the center and the two fat heatpipes transfer heat to the aluminium heatsink. Within the heatsink is the fan that can cool sideways as well as underneath, so air dispersion causes only a fraction of blown air to exit at the outlet. However, this card isn’t what you’d call too hot so modest in-case cooling solutions will suffice.
The RV770 graphics processor is built in 55nm and puts 800 shader processors at our disposal. Compared to the previous generation it’s 2.5x more shader processors as well as texture units.
The photo above shows that the card uses 8 memory chips for the total of 1024MB of memory. Gainward HD 4850 Golden Sample card uses 3+1 VRM design and an 8-pin power connector, which is not common for HD 4850 cards since they usually come with a single 6pin connector.
The left side of the card beneath the cooler is uninteresting (not that it's supposed to be. sub.ed) and mostly unpopulated, all the way to the dual-link DVI port and the standard mini-DIN port. Upper left corner houses two CrossFireX connectors. Crossfire/CrossfireX support is of course there, so if your motherboard allows it you can chain up to 4 HD 4850 cards in CrossfireX.
All the HD 4890, HD 4870 and HD 4850 cards use 256 bit memory bus, but higher quality models use GDDR5 memory. AMD started using GDDR5 with HD 4870 cards, when the company compensated for the weaker, 256-bit bus on their card with better memory. You might remember that at the same time, Nvidia used a 512-bit bus, but combined with GDDR3.
ATI recently announced the HD 4770, also with GDDR5 memory but 128-bit memory bus. In case of the HD 4770, GDDR5 memory with 128-bit memory bus will provide identical bandwidth as GDDR3 with 256-bit bus, provided they both run at the same speeds.
Gainward strapped their HD 4850 1024MB Golden Sample card with 1GB of memory but the frequencies are the same as on the reference card. This resulted in a slightly higher bandwidth - from 63.6GB/s to 64GB/s.
HD 4850 GS GLH however maybe even got a sweeter deal, as using GDDR5 resulted in a bandwidth of 115.2GB/s.
Gainward HD 4850 GS Goes Like Hell 512MB GDDR5
Just like the previous card, GLH also uses non-reference dual-slot cooling.
HD 4850 GS GLS card’s cooling isn’t identical to the one on HD 4850 GS, but rather a version of the cooler used on GTS 250 cards. Below is the GTS 250 2GB, which we’ve tested recently, here.
So far, every HD 4850 we’ve tested used GDDR3 memory, but an excellent feature of the RV770 is that it supports both GDDR3 and GDDR5, and some partners just couldn’t resist.
Gainward is one of the first companies with this kind of “hybrid” card, as the HD 4850 GS GLH card comes with GDDR5 memory at 3,600MHz and 256-bit memory interface. The card runs at 700+MHz GPU and comes with DVI, DisplayPort, HDMI and VGA outs.
The card is cooled by a pretty large fan placed in the center of the card, whereas the entire card is covered with a black Gainward logoed hood. Gainward’s Golden Sample HD 4850 used similar cooling, but our today’s sample comes with a different heatsink. The fan is attached to the hood and not the heatsink, as you can see on the photos above.
We see that power requirements on this card are closer to high-end cards, as the card requires two 6-pin connectors. However, our testing reveals that power consumption is not so high, as the HD 4850 GS GLH consumes about 10W more than the reference HD 4850.
HD 4850 comes with the new UVD 2.0 engine enabling dual-stream decoding as well as 7.1 channel lossless audio. Both DVI outs support resolutions up to 2560x1600 and come with HDCP, but HDMI + audio will require a DVI to HDMI adapter, which Gainward unfortunately didn’t bundle with the card.
You can see that GS GHL’s box is much larger, but what we’re interested in is the raw power, so let’s move on and see how these cards compare.