Gaming laptops are traditionally full of compromises.
ASUS EAH4890/HTDI/1GD5/A graphics card
ASUS slightly tweaks the ATI Radeon HD 4890, with mixed results.
- Quiet, decent performer
- Runs hotter and with lower performance compared to ATI's reference board
ASUS's variant of the ATI Radeon HD 4890 is quieter than the reference board, but the EAH4890/HTDI/1GD5/A provides inferior performance at a slightly higher price.
Price$ 529.00 (AUD)
ASUS has released its first graphics card based on the ATI Radeon HD 4890 GPU (graphics processing unit), and given it a mouthful of a name in the process — the ASUS EAH4890/HTDI/1GD5/A. This graphics card is quieter than the ATI Radeon HD 4890 reference board, but it produces more heat and runs slower that we expected.
In terms of hardware, the ASUS EAH4890/HTDI/1GD5/A graphics card is identical to the reference board, using the same 55nm ATI Radeon HD 4890 (codenamed RV790) GPU which packs in 959 million transistors and runs at 850MHz. It also comes with 1GB of GDDR5 memory, running at a speed of 975MHz and providing memory bandwidth of 124.8GB per second.
The card uses only 60W when idling, though it demands 190W at full power, so ASUS recommends a minimum 550W power supply. It requires two 6-pin power connections to run the card.
ASUS also offers the same ports as the reference board: you get two HDCP-compliant DVI ports (enabled for audio passthrough) and a single S-Video output. The card is 241mm long, so it should fit in most ATX cases.
Though the fan is still audible, the ASUS graphics card isn't anywhere near as loud as the ATI Radeon HD 4890 reference board during operation. The noise only becomes noticeable when under load. ASUS has included its SmartDoctor utility, which provides improved automatic fan control and the option for manual configuration.
The dynamic fan control does, unfortunately, lead to a small increase in heat. Whereas the ATI card ranged from 34-51 degrees Celsius during operation, ASUS' EAH4890/HTDI/1GD5/A reached temperatures of 51 degrees when idle and 61 degrees when under load. These are still reasonable temperatures, but the card might need careful monitoring in cases with less ventilation.
Due to these temperatures, the ASUS EAH4890/HTDI/1GD5/A is a poor choice for overclocking compared to the ATI Radeon HD 4890. Using both ATI's Overdrive utility and the bundled ASUS SmartDoctor, we could not manage to keep the graphics card stable at a GPU speed faster than 950MHz (we managed 1GHz with the reference board). At this speed, the card still managed an extra 3 frames per second in Crysis: Warhead — 36.79fps as opposed to 33.91 at the standard 850MHz clock speed — but the inability to reach 1GHz while using air cooling makes it less appealing than other ATI Radeon HD 4890 variants.
Despite having the same hardware and using the same drivers as the reference board, the ASUS EAH4890/HTDI/1GD5/A graphics card performed slightly worse in our benchmarks. These were conducted on a machine running the 64-bit edition of Windows Vista, an Intel Core i7 965 CPU, 6GB of DDR3 RAM and a Western Digital VelociRaptor (WD3000GLFS) hard drive. We also used an Antec Skeleton case.
The ASUS EAH4890/HTDI/1GD5/A managed 10,400 points in Futuremark's 3DMark 06, down from 10,509 when using the ATI Radeon HD 4890 reference board. In 3DMark Vantage, the difference was wider at X4504 points for the ASUS graphics card and X4718 for the reference board.
In almost every real-world test, the ASUS EAH4890/HTDI/1GD5/A was inferior by 2-3fps when compared to the reference board. It managed 129.7fps in Half Life 2: Episode Two, 33.9fps in Crysis: Warhead, 57.9fps in Call of Juarez, and 32.9fps in the DirectX 10 version of Lost Planet. The only exception was Far Cry 2, where it ran at 49.82fps; the reference board managed 48fps. The ASUS EAH4890's scores are still reasonable, but could be better.
The ASUS EAH4890/HTDI/1GD5/A is ultimately a slower performer than we expected, but it does run quietly. While the quiet operation may be appealing to some, its inferior performance will deter those looking for the fastest ATI Radeon HD 4890-based graphics card on the market.
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