Hybrid Cooling Technology Battle - MSI 4850 vs ASUS 4850

Lately, my big brother has been thinking about getting a new car, and I asked him what kind he was thinking of. He said he wanted one that was 'Mean but Green,' a hybrid car, to which I replied "Take a fart!" I didn't believe he was a true environmentalist, and he agreed. He said "it's about saving a little gas expense and enjoying a quiet ride, the global warming has nothing to do with me." He even pointed out that some Japanese scientists don't agree that global warming is a man-made change.

Anyways, when it comes to graphics cards, gamers want to milk every once of ability out of their hardware (ideally the card is free and helps clean the house when not in use). They want their cards to be as fast as the ATI Radeon HD 4870 X2, is quiet, has an ever-ready cooling system, etc. - something that, at first glance, seems impossible. However, though it is impossible to use on the a card with the same performance as the 4870 X2, a few vendors have been releasing Hybrid-type graphics cards that offer great cooling and quiet performance.

These Hybrid cards are simple - simple to the point people will wonder why it wasn't done before. The temperature controls whether the fan runs or does not; with a high loading (3D graphics and games) the fan starts up to drop the GPU temperature. When 2D applications, which need less GPU processing power and thus a lower temperature, are running, the fan just turns off for utterly silent processing.

This simple technology gives gamers a quiet environment, good cooling, and energy-saving performance. Additionally, with the fan only running when it needs to, the total life of the cooling system is extended, something which I know more than a handful of gamers out there have run into. A fan that doesn't spin when it should is like an old fart clinging to a respirator after brain death - in the end you have to pull the plug. A Hybrid card has a higher chance of avoiding this kind of dilemma.

Currently there are two hybrid cards in the market: MSI's R4850 Hybrid Frozr and Asus's EAH4850 Matrix. Both use the high-temp ATI Radeon HD 4850 GPU, which is the bane of many a gamer. Can a Hybrid system really handle volcanic temperature of the 4850?

I've strayed enough from the point, let's get down to compare these two. The results are quite surprising.

On the outside both look good.

★ASUS EAH4850 Matrix

The first special guest of today, the Asus EAH4850 Matrix features an all black exterior with silver piping and not-too-small fan. The overall impression looks very powerful, and while it looks very large, it is smaller than the MSI R4850 Hybrid Frozr.

★MSI R4850 Hybrid Frozr

Our second guest of the day is the MSI R4850 Hybrid Frozr. This card maintains MSI's 4850 special red for the PCB board and features a fan that can automatically adjust its speed to best suit the temperature of the GPU. It has 4 cooling pipes, but seems down a level from the Matrix.

Cut, cut, cut everything away
After checking out the outside appearance, I am sure the interior is what interests gamers the most. Because of this, I am reviewing these two cards based on the quality capacitors, PWM phase, and graphic memory size.

★ASUS EAH4850 Matrix

Complete solid state choke (SSC) design, unabashedly brandishing the ROG logo.

For the power cables, 4+2 phases PWM for GPU, and 2 phases are for the Graphic memory. From an overclocking standpoint, it appears that power should not be a problem; the layout is similar to the 4870 co-lay.

The memory is Qimonda HYB18H512321BF–10 GDDR3 with 512 MB built-in.

★MSI R4850 Hybrid Frozr

Also implementing a total SSC design, the product's stability and durability most certainly has an above-average level.

Aside from SSCs, this R4850 Hybrid Frozr also has a 4+1 phases PWM design and SSC design, more than other cards which use a 2+1 design. Its advantage is increased stability when overclocking, and helps eliminates the 4850's overheating issues.

The memory is Samsung K4J52324QH-HJ1A GDDR3, with 12 chips combining for a 512 MB total graphics memory.

Heavy loading games - this cooling unit supports them
Both companies gave real heart when designing the cooling systems on these two cards. While the mechanics are not exactly the same, the goal of both was - to implement a Hybrid cooling system.

★ASUS EAH4850 Matrix

EAH4850 Matrix's cooling system, as you can see from the picture, looks pretty much the same as other graphics cards. It uses a familiar copper base with aluminum fins and some pipes to disperse the GPU's heat. EAH4850 Matrix has three heat pipes, and also uses a 3500 rpm fan to keep the card cool (however, the copper base seems a little thin....).

Asus also added a special integrated circuit to the EAH4850 Matrix that controls the speed of the GPU (though I suspect this chip is just a rather simple controller of the electrical flow to the GPU with the fancy name Asus SHE). Coupled with the Asus created iTracker software, the fan will automatically vary its speed or stop depending on the system demands. The software also allows the user to set specific performance types, a feature which is more complicated than most gamers wouldn’t really want to spend time on.

Asus 4850 Matrix special iTracker software must be installed to enjoy the Hybrid cooling functionality. Without it the card is just an average graphics card with a spinning fan.

★MSI R4850 Hybrid Frozr

With four cooling pipes, a big, thick copper base and thin aluminum fins, the card's cooling performance looks excellent.

Hybrid cooling is supported via a programmable IC chip and temperature monitor (the two black things between the screws below the card). By monitoring the GPU temperature, the fan will automatically adjust to the best speed or turn off when not needed. This entire process is completely automatic, and the user doesn't have to change a single setting.

Cooling performance
Although both cards have practically the same base - both can manage 2D graphics without spinning the fan and the fans adjust to the 3D graphic intensity - only the Asus Matrix needs to install a separate program to enjoy these results, which is a little annoying. The MSI Hybrid Frozr is completely automatic and doesn't need to install any other program to achieve hybrid functionality. Additionally, not having any other programs removes any risk of compatibility problems, a real concern given the slowness of Asus's updates.

Most exciting part is cooling comparison of two cards! The result will surprise you!

This is the Asus 4850 Matrix's temperature diagram. As you can see the temperature was maintained at 45 degrees when running 2D graphics, but once we switch to 3D graphics the fan starts to kick in, but the heat does not stop rising. The hottest it gets is 84 degrees. This temp is not as bad as the factory ATI model, but 84 degrees?!

MSI 4850 Hybrid Frozr's temperature is fairly complicated. Though for 2D graphics the average temperature is around 52 degrees, but this is just its beginning. When the 3D applications start the fan does not immediately come on, in fact it stays off until the temperature reaches 88 degrees. After coming on, however, the fan brings the temperature to 44 degrees and keeps it there.

Simply put, Asus 4850 Matrix has a lower base temperature, though 45 and 52 degrees is not a big difference. However, the Asus card has an incredibly high 3D temperature, around 40 degrees higher than the MSI R4850 Hybrid Frozr. From a pure cooling stand point, the MSI R4850 Hybrid Frozr beats the Asus Matrix.

Noise level
Here, I am a little at a loss because I don't have any real tool to test the exact noise level of both cards. However, after installing all the related hardware and software, there is really no noticeable difference. The only thing worth mentioning is the Asus Matrix, when it first starts up, has a few seconds when it runs its fan at full speed and is quite loud. The MSI R4850 Hybrid Frozr's fan doesn't run at start up, and actually only spins when it is really needed - which is really the true meaning of Hybrid cooling, right?

The performance battle royal
For performance, since both cards use the 4850 GPU, the difference should be slight. I tested benchmarks on 3DMarck 06, 3DMark Vantage, as well as Crysis and Devil May Cry 4. The results are below.

★ASUS EAH4850 Matrix
Testing software results

3DMARK06 Default

3DMARK06 8AA, the performance level drop is really not very noticeable.

3DMark Vantage P test


Gaming test results

Crysis tested at three resolutions

Devil May Cry 4, the game rank is S

Devil May Cry 4 with all effects turned on dropped the performance, but the final game ranking was still an S.

★MSI R4850 Hybrid Frozr

Testing software results

3DMARK06 default, MSI R4850 Hybrid Frozr got more than slightly better performance to the Asus Matrix.

3DMARK06 8AA, here the Asus Matrix performed better.

3DMark Vantage P, this test showed both cards have a performance gap of around 100 points.

3DMARK VANTAGE H this test showed both cards have a performance gap of around 100 points.

Gaming test results

Crysis tested at 3 different resolutions

Devil May Cry 4 results

Devil May Cry 4 with settings on high, again we see the performance drop slightly while the overall rank remains unchanged.

MSI R4850 Hybrid Frozr Wins

Based on the above test results you can tell that the difference between the two cards is not that great, though MSI's Hybrid Frozr leads in most categories - Asus's Matrix only wins slightly in the 3DMark06 8AA test. This difference may be because the MSI Hybrid Frozr's GPU is set to a higher frequency thereby kicking up the performance.

Coupled with the above analysis the MSI R4850 Hybrid Frozr definitely out-performs the Asus Matrix. Though, of course, the R4850 Hybrid Frozr is no where near as filling a package as the Matrix's software, packaging, and accessories, but I trust most gamers out there are more interested in a card's price-performance ratio. With the same GPU, Hybrid style cooling functionality, which is better? Which has the best performance? For the price, the Asus Matrix, according to ROG and Asus, is pegged around USD 190. The MSI R4850 Hybrid Frozr is definitely much cheaper, and though it sports a more common appearance, it outperforms in cooling and ease of use. Its 3D cooling was better than the Asus Matrix by 40 degrees! This is one card not to be missed.
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  1. Wasn't expecting this much, but nice review nevertheless. :)
  2. thanks a lot :D
  3. Of course the MSI won it is using the Arctic Cooling cooler, that thing is still leading in performance.
  4. Those were really nice images.
  5. The_Blood_Raven said:
    Of course the MSI won it is using the Arctic Cooling cooler, that thing is still leading in performance.

    but that cooler is not artic cooling cooler :pt1cable:
  6. MSI has been using that cooler and slight variations of it for awhile, they are pretty damn good espically considering its not a straight shoot put out the back of the case.

    Youll do better getting an HIS IceQ 4 anyways.
  7. Yeah well a GTX 240 + GTX 480 watercooling radiator setup will keep it even cooler. Keeps my overclocked 4870 X2 under 65c load!
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