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Radeon HD 4850 Vs. GeForce GTS 250: Non-Reference Battle

The Asus EAH4850 MT: MT Stands For Matrix

Yes, MT stands for Matrix. But what does Matrix supposed to mean? Based on the card’s unique capabilities, it stands for a redesign that allows better power handling, a great cooler, and–certainly the most compelling feature for overclockers–GPU voltage control. There is also Asus’ iTracker software that gives the user a great deal of control and customization over how the card operates.

Let’s start with the PCB redesign. Components have been moved around compared to AMD’s reference, which was likely intended to clean things up and accommodate the unique heatpipe cooler that Asus uses on the EAH4850 MT. The card is about as long as most Radeon HD 4850 cards, with the PCB just under 9.5." As far as tangible changes go, Asus has enhanced the card with four-phase power versus the reference design's two-phase power system, which should allow for more efficient operation and more stable power under load. Asus has also added some hardware to enable its Asus Super Hybrid Engine, a proprietary chip allowing this card to perform some of its unique abilities in conjunction with Asus’ iTracker utility.

It is noteworthy that the card still requires the same six-pin PCI Express (PCIe) power connector as a garden-variety Radeon HD 4850. Asus also made the decision to include only 512 MB on this special-edition Radeon HD 4850 card. While this likely keeps costs down, it’s not going to help the card in its battle with Gigabyte’s GV-N250ZL-1GI and its full gigabyte of RAM. Then again, it might not hurt it much either, as more RAM doesn't always equal more performance. We’ll see how this decision stacks up in the benchmarks.

Default clock speeds on our EAH4850 MT test sample are 625 MHz for the GPU and 1,986 MHz for the memory, which is the same as the reference card. With the iTracker utility installed, users have access to a mild overclock profile that sets the GPU to 660 MHz. However, the user has access to much more radical settings if he or she wants to experiment with higher overclock speeds.

At first glance, you would assume that the Asus 4850 Matrix sports the same two dual-link DVI outputs and analog video output as the reference card. However, the yellow DVI output is single-link only. This might be a little disappointing for those of you with two 30” 2650x1600 monitors, but the rest of us can breathe easy.

Physically, the most obvious improvement is the EAH4850 MT's heatpipe cooler. It’s a large cooling system that utilizes three heat pipes, while most of it is made of aluminum with a copper block that covers the GPU. While the cooler populates two slots (blowing air out of a vent at the back), it doesn't use the rear vent in the traditional manner, since hot air is not forced out the back by a closed fan shroud. Instead, much of the heated air is free to vent out of the sides of the cooler and back into the case.

It might seem like a strange call to not channel heated air out of the back of the case, until you consider that the cooler is designed as a hybrid piece with a passive mode. If the heatpipe cooler is to work with the fan turned off (minimizing noise in 2D mode), then there has to be airflow around the cooler. A closed system built to channel air out the back of the case would make that virtually impossible, so the price of absolute silence is more heat in your case.