Asus Radeon HD 4870 Matrix

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MP3 SOUND RECORDINGS

These recordings were made with a high resolution, lab quality, digital recording system inside SPCR's own 11 dBA ambient anechoic chamber, then converted to LAME 128kbps encoded MP3s. We've listened long and hard to ensure there is no audible degradation from the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent a quick snapshot of what we heard during the review.

These recordings are intended to give you an idea of how the product sounds in actual use — one meter is a reasonable typical distance between a computer or computer component and your ear. The recording contains stretches of ambient noise that you can use to judge the relative loudness of the subject. Be aware that very quiet subjects may not be audible — if we couldn't hear it from one meter, chances are we couldn't record it either!

The recording starts with 5~10 seconds of room ambiance, followed by 5~10 seconds of the VGA test system without a video card installed, and then the actual product's noise at various levels. As this particular card did not add any noise the test system, we have provided only a recording of the test system with its system fan set to the levels tested. For the most realistic results, set the volume so that the starting ambient level is just barely audible, then don't change the volume setting again.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Gaming: Please check out gaming-oriented reviews of the ATI HD 4870 at techPowerUp, The Tech Report, and Anandtech. The general consensus is that the HD 4870 performance is on par with the pricier GeForce GTX 260. A 512MB version like the Matrix will deliver excellent frame rates on the majority of PC titles if played at 1680x1050 resolution or lower. It does a passable job at higher resolutions, though a 1GB model would be better in this regard.

Cooling/Noise: The Asus 4870 Matrix cooler was a big disappointment. It kept the GPU cooler than the reference ATI cooler, but the minimum speed of both fans was too high. One fan cannot be controlled at all, while the other can only be turned off or set to spin even faster! At first we were amazed at how quiet the card was... until we realized neither fan was spinning and the GPU temperature was increasing steadily. Eventually the main fan turned itself on, then off again, repeating ad nauseum in an inane cycle. The reference cooler by comparison was very quiet — its noise level during load was equal to the Matrix when idle, at least during the "fan on" portion of its cycle.

Power: By our estimates, the HD 4870 Matrix requires about 48W idle in Power Saving mode and up to 140W when stressed to the limit if used with the overclocked Optimized/Gaming profile. This is the highest power draw we've measured on any graphics card thus far, exceeding the both the reference ATI HD 4870 1GB card and the Asus ENGTX260 by a small margin.

The Asus HD 4870 Matrix left us with mixed reactions. The amount of frequency and voltage customization provided by Asus' iTracker utility is truly impressive — it gives enthusiasts unparalleled control to maximize the card's performance in 3D mode while minimizing its power consumption when idle. Overshadowing this incredible feature is the dismal fan control implementation. The noise generated is also amplified by the fans' undesirable acoustic characteristics. If faced with a choice, we would pick the reference ATI cooler over the Matrix cooler. Recent ATI price drop makes HD 4870 cards the best value in mid-range performance graphics, but the premium charged for the Asus Matrix is difficult to justify. We certainly hope the iTracker utility is impelemted in a card that's better implemented, acoustically speaking — nicer sounding fans, and better fan control. Meanwhile, perhaps Asus can correct basic fan control problems with a firmware update to the card.

Asus EAH4870 MATRIX /HTDI/512MD5
PROS
* Excellent core GPU control
* Excellent 3D performance
CONS
* Main fan cycles on / off
* Fans too noisy at any setting

Our thanks to ASUSTeK for the video card sample.

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Articles of Related Interest
PowerColor SCS HD4650: A Fanless Budget Graphics Card
Asus EN9800GT Matrix
Filling the Gap: ATI Radeon HD 4830
Redefining Budget Gaming Graphics: ATI's HD 4670
Asus ENGTX260: A Quiet Graphics Card for Gamers?
Diamond Radeon HD4850

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