AMD's plan for the AMD ATI Palit HD 4850? Create an easily scalable GPU that can stack up on a single card, so if you need more horsepower, you have an affordable upgrade path.

Think of the ongoing battle between nVidia and AMD as one painfully long prize fight to see who can deliver the better graphics processing unit (GPU).

In the last round, nVidia delivered a series of 8800-based haymakers that AMD only now is recovering from. And while nVidia continues to swing hard with its GTX 200-series cards, the spunky ATI Radeon HD 4000 boards deliver a gut punch in the form of solid performance at lower price points.

The latest in the HD 4000 line - the 512MB AMD ATI Palit HD 4850 - is currently in our Test Centre, and is an elegantly designed, single-slot board that already looks to have top marks in the sub-£150 class.

AMD's plan for the AMD ATI Palit HD 4850: create an easily scalable GPU that can stack up on a single card, so if you need more horsepower, you have an affordable upgrade path. With GPU upgrades, you can either buy multiple cards, go the route of high-powered dual-slot solutions - or take the hard-core gamer route and do both, blowing a small fortune in the process.

AMD, though, is banking on mainstream users who hesitate to drop more than £200 on a discrete graphics board. So who is coming out on top? It's the classic standoff of brawn versus grace. Let's go to the tale of the tape.

NEXT PAGE: the battle beyond graphics > >

See also:

Sapphire Radeon HD 4870 review

Index:


  1. AMD ATI Palit HD 4850 review
  2. The battle beyond the graphics
  3. The numbers game
  4. AMD vs nVidia, in the Test Centre

Visit PC Advisor's dedicated Games website to download hundreds of the latest titles, to read gaming news and reviews and to pick up tips and discuss your favourite games in the popular PC Advisor Games forum

AMD's plan for the AMD ATI Palit HD 4850? Create an easily scalable GPU that can stack up on a single card, so if you need more horsepower, you have an affordable upgrade path.

The battle beyond the graphics

Both GPU makers continue pursuing a card that does more than just paint a pretty picture. By releasing its CUDA SDK (software developers' kit), nVidia achieved a good head start in tasking the GPU with nongraphical tasks. That means it can promote this balanced computing model.

The general idea: you shouldn't need to blow money on a top-notch CPU when you can partner a midlevel one with a good graphics card. The results in some tests right now are fascinating - encoding video files at a pace at least twice as fast, or just being able to manipulate photos (and 3D images) faster.

Don't count out AMD. The company can now pull off many of the same tasks with some of the same programs. One telling example: Adobe was on hand at both nVidia and AMD demos to show how its new version of Photoshop will work better thanks to GPU acceleration.

While spokespeople are unable to say which graphics platform works better, the program at least provides one potential apples-to-apples test down the road. For now, the best shot for a fair comparison will be the full AMD-friendly client for the distributed-computing software called folding@home, when it's ready. That way, we can see how the software behaves on nVidia, AMD, and CPU-bound tests. Until then, it's a lopsided battle in nVidia's favour.

Then there's physics. nVidia may heavily tout the £250-plus GTX 200's built-in physics processors, but we're not yet seeing many developers using PhysX (that'll change soon, though). On the other end of the spectrum, AMD hedges its bets with partnerships. AMD has been talking about its GPU doing more than just graphics for ages, and recently the company announced that it is working with Havok's physics engine.

Is it just us, or is it interesting that the Intel-acquired physics software maker is now in bed with the other big CPU maker as well? Combine that with the fact that nVidia makes a strong case for not buying top-end CPUs and we're seeing a potential royal rumble brewing: do both Intel and AMD see nVidia as a common foe? But we digress.

NEXT PAGE: down to testing: the numbers game > >

See also:

Sapphire Radeon HD 4870 review

Index:


  1. AMD ATI Palit HD 4850 review
  2. The battle beyond the graphics
  3. The numbers game
  4. AMD vs nVidia, in the Test Centre

Visit PC Advisor's dedicated Games website to download hundreds of the latest titles, to read gaming news and reviews and to pick up tips and discuss your favourite games in the popular PC Advisor Games forum

AMD's plan for the AMD ATI Palit HD 4850? Create an easily scalable GPU that can stack up on a single card, so if you need more horsepower, you have an affordable upgrade path.

The numbers game

nVidia's G92-based 9800 GTX props up specs like a 675MHz core clock and 2.2GHz DDR memory strapped into a dual-slot card that requires two six-pin power connectors and a team of horses to run. By comparison, AMD's Palit HD 4850, built with a 55nm manufacturing process, is all about efficiencies.

The AMD ATI Palit HD 4850 has a lower core clock (625MHz) and a lower memory clock (2GHz) and yet manages to hold its own. That's due in no small part to the 800 stream processors (as compared to the 9800 GTX's 128). Not bad for a single-slot card that requires only one six-pin power connector.

A few caveats on our testing at this stage: we are continuing an initial shakedown run of a new graphical gauntlet. We are still hand-picking titles - current and upcoming - that'll challenge new hot-rod rigs, so that means no official scores on these graphics cards just yet. (Speaking of which, if there are games you'd like to see submitted into the official test list, let us know.) All right, enough jibber-jabber. Touch gloves and come out fighting.

In Crysis, the AMD ATI Palit HD 4850 pretty much matches stride for stride with AMD's pricey - and beefy - last-generation card, a Sapphire HD 3870 X2. In Unreal Tournament 3, though, it's a whole other story. At both 1920-by-1200 and 2560-by-1600 resolutions, the HD 3870 X2 pulls ahead by 12 and 19 frames per second, respectively.

How does the AMD ATI Palit HD 4850 hold up against nVidia cards? The 8800 GT runs the same numbers in Crysis until you turn on antialiasing. That's when the HD 4850 starts pulling ahead by a handful of frames. Hang on a second. What's that commotion in nVidia's corner? Just as AMD rallies, nVidia sucker-punches by dropping the price on overclocked 9800 GTX boards, bringing 'em right in line with the HD 4850.

Shrewd move! That's like having Mike Tyson lose a couple pounds and shoving him into a lower weight class.

NEXT PAGE: AMD vs nVidia, in the Test Centre > >

See also:

Sapphire Radeon HD 4870 review

Index:


  1. AMD ATI Palit HD 4850 review
  2. The battle beyond the graphics
  3. The numbers game
  4. AMD vs nVidia, in the Test Centre

Visit PC Advisor's dedicated Games website to download hundreds of the latest titles, to read gaming news and reviews and to pick up tips and discuss your favourite games in the popular PC Advisor Games forum

AMD's plan for the AMD ATI Palit HD 4850? Create an easily scalable GPU that can stack up on a single card, so if you need more horsepower, you have an affordable upgrade path.

Just as luck would have it, we managed to get a board for testing. The results: trading blows, the XFX-built GeForce 9800 GTX XXX and the AMD ATI Palit HD 4850 end up in a dead heat. Both cost the same, and both post roughly the same performance numbers. AMD scores a couple extra frames in Crysis, and nVidia takes it right back during Unreal Tournament 3.

Worried about running up the electric bill during this slugfest? During all these runs, our test bed fluctuated between 156 watts while idle to 241 watts under load with the HD 4850. The XXX broke a sweat keeping up with the AMD ATI Palit HD 4850, running about 20 Watts hotter both when idle and when playing Crysis.

See also:

Sapphire Radeon HD 4870 review

Index:


  1. AMD ATI Palit HD 4850 review
  2. The battle beyond the graphics
  3. The numbers game
  4. AMD vs nVidia, in the Test Centre

Visit PC Advisor's dedicated Games website to download hundreds of the latest titles, to read gaming news and reviews and to pick up tips and discuss your favourite games in the popular PC Advisor Games forum

AMD ATI Palit HD 4850: Specs

  • 800 stream processing cores (identical to the ATI Radeon HD 4870)
  • stock GPU core clock speed of 625MHz
  • 512 MB of GDDR3 memory rated at 2 gigabits/second
  • single-slot PCI Express 2.0 configuration with a maximum board power of 110 watts
  • 800 stream processing cores (identical to the ATI Radeon HD 4870)
  • stock GPU core clock speed of 625MHz
  • 512 MB of GDDR3 memory rated at 2 gigabits/second
  • single-slot PCI Express 2.0 configuration with a maximum board power of 110 watts

OUR VERDICT

AMD manages to score solid hits with the AMD ATI Palit HD 4850, but ultimately the contest with nVidia is still too close to call. And so the fight goes yet another round.

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