ASUS' new graphics card offers improved cooling features but it won't run Crysis.

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    3.00 / 5


  • Quiet operation, low temperatures, comprehensive overclocking options


  • Little performance improvement over standard ATI Radeon HD 4850 graphics cards, requires two PCI slots for installation

Bottom Line

The ASUS EAH4850 MATRIX/HTDI/512MD5 graphics card offers good cooling options and improved overclocking software, but it lacks any real performance improvements out of the box. A modest performer in any regard, there are few incentives to spend the extra money.

Would you buy this?

ASUS' new graphics card — the EAH4850 MATRIX/HTDI/512MD5 — won't push the boundaries when it comes to performance, but it does offer an effective thermal management for cool and quiet operation. If you're looking for a graphics card that has good performance this card is adequate, but don't expect a graphics workhorse.

The EAH4850 MATRIX belongs to ASUS' Republic of Gamers line of PC components for computing enthusiasts, although this doesn't mean it is the best ATI Radeon HD 4850 card offered by the company. In fact, apart from the hybrid cooler thermal solution and black printed circuit board, there is little to set the EAH4850 MATRIX apart from the ATI Radeon HD 4850 reference card.

Out of the box the card isn't overclocked — sticking to the standard 625MHz core clock and 993MHz memory speed — and it only offers 512MB GDDR3 memory, instead of the 1GB available in ASUS' EAH4850/HTDI/1G. Although the extra memory does not directly translate to better performance, its inclusion would make the card more appealing to PC enthusiasts.

The inclusion of the hybrid cooler feature on the EAH4850 MATRIX is designed to appeal to the enthusiast user looking to upgrade. Rather than relying on a single fan as most video cards do, the hybrid cooler system combines a heatsink and fan, allowing for better cooling and quiet operation. During 2D operation — basic operation of Windows and non-graphics intensive applications — the fan is disabled, leaving the heatsink to serve as a silent cooling method. When the card starts to conduct 3D processing tasks, the fan kicks in, ensuring that your precious video card doesn't crack under pressure.

Unlike ASUS' EAH4870 MATRIX/HTDI/512MD5 which incorporates separate fans for the core and memory modules, the EAH4850 MATRIX opts for a single fan placed over the memory, which serves to circulate air underneath the card's shroud to both vital components. The fan is automatically speed-controlled by the card itself, though ASUS' iTracker software adds an extra level of speed automation within Windows itself. During normal operation, we found the card kept to a reasonable 40 degrees, while under full load the hybrid cooler limited the card's maximum temperature at 66 degrees — a commendable contrast to the 80-plus degree temperatures seen in our test of Force3D's Radeon HD 4850 .

Compared to the growing size of modern graphics cards, the EAH4850 MATRIX is quite small, measuring 228.6mm in length; it will easily fit in most cases built to ATX standards. Howereve, due to the hybrid cooler, the card will occupy two PCI slots, whereas other ATI Radeon HD 4850 cards only require one. The card only requires a single 6-pin power connector.

One hallmark of ASUS' Republic of Gamers line graphics card is the inclusion of its iTracker software. Though ATI's own drivers offer an overclocking utility, iTracker provides more advanced overclocking and fan speed options, with overclock presets for a number of different situations and the ability to change fan speed settings manually.

We tested the iTracker software using the "Optimised" overclock preset, which bumped the core clock speed to 660MHz. In its overclocked state, the EAH4850 MATRIX provided slightly better performance, but most results were negligible. Our 3D Mark Vantage tests indicated a boost in GPU performance (6546 GPU points over the initial 6440 score) with the overall score going from P6334 to P6379. In real world gaming tests we found a 1-2fps boost in F.E.A.R. and Call of Juarez, but the card actually performed worse in our Crysis test; managing only 23.7 frames per second, compared to the 24.53fps at stock speeds. Closer experimentation with the voltage and clock speeds may yield better results, but iTracker won't magically transform the EAH4850 MATRIX into competitor to the ATI Radeon HD 4870X2.

To see how the card performed out of the box, we ran the EAH4850 MATRIX through a number of benchmark tests at factory clock speeds. The graphics test-bed consisted of a 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 CPU, 2GB DDR2 RAM, a 750GB Seagate Barracuda ES hard drive, all encased in Antec's open-air Skeleton enclosure, and running on Windows Vista 32-bit version operating system.

Benchmarking the EAH4850 MATRIX in 3DMark 06 yielded an overall result of 8832 points, a slight increase from the 8821 points we witnessed when benchmarking HIS Radeon HD 4850 factory-standard variant. 3DMark Vantage tests showed a more significant difference between the two cards, with the EAH4850 MATRIX managing a score of P6334 in performance tests and X3016 in the heavier duty extreme tests; a fairly noticeable increase from the HIS Radeon HD 4850 card's scores of P6307 and X2889.

However, in real world gaming benchmarks, this difference is barely noticeable; the EAH4850 MATRIX performs on par with the reference HD 4850 graphics card. Lost Planet (DirectX 10 version), Half Life 2 and Call of Juarez all yielded identical results between the two cards, at 28fps, 41fps and 120fps respectively. F.E.A.R showed a 2fps increase from 90fps when using the EAH4850 MATRIX, while Crysis managed 24.53 fps with ASUS' variant, up from the 23.9 when the HIS Radeon HD 4850 card was installed. Although the 0.63fps difference may be somewhat more notable at fps scores this low, it still won't make the game playable in the first place.

Alhough the 3DMark Vantage synthetic benchmarks show a significant difference between the EAH4850 MATRIX and standard ATI Radeon HD 4850 cards, it is unlikely you will notice a difference in the real world use. Without a huge performance lift, there main reason you may consider this graphics card is if you are considering better cooling features and expanded overclocking options.

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