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Palit Radeon HD 4870 Sonic Dual Edition
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by Rob Williams on October 7, 2008 in AMD-Based GPU

It’s no secret that the HD 4870 is one of the best overall GPUs on the market right now, but with so much selection from vendors, it’s hard to choose the “best” one. Palit has a definite winner with their Sonic Dual Edition though. It’s pre-overclocked, runs 20°C cooler than the reference design and carries no cost premium.

Introduction, Closer Look

Just a month ago, I posted our review of Palit’s Radeon HD 4870, and since then, not too much has changed in the GPU scheme of things. AMD released their Radeon HD 4670 and HD 4650 budget cards, but for gamers after great performance, the choices have remained the same since the beginning of summer. There’s nothing wrong with that though, as the releases we saw in June from both ATI and NVIDIA are still amazing and I’ll say it once again, there’s no better time to be thinking about a GPU purchase than right now.

Another interesting event over the summer was to see the tables turn in the market. Even though NVIDIA released their impressive GTX 260 and GTX 280 cards, they were quickly overshadowed by ATI’s launch of the HD 4000-series, which delivered performance no one was expecting. Fast forward to the HD 4870 X2, and it’s really difficult to look away from any of AMD’s offerings. As it stands right now, their current line-up is priced-right and offers insane performance.

When I get asked about the “best” mid-range GPU of the moment, I have no other choice but to say the HD 4870. It’s affordable, at just under $300, yet delivers enough performance to power any game on the market at 2560×1600 with good detail settings – even Crysis Warhead. Should you decide down the road that you want even more performance, adding a second identical card to your system is all you need. By the time you feel the need to upgrade, prices should be far lower than they are right now.

Now more than ever, we’re seeing graphic card vendors working hard to draw your attention to their offerings, instead of a competitors. Rather than just slap a GPU along with a sprinkle of memory chips on a PCB, they are looking to offer extra features that set their product apart. In the case of the Radeon HD 4870 Sonic from Palit, the extra features include three-phase power, a dual-fan cooling solution, higher clocks and enough connections to keep your monitor stuffed.

Closer Look

As it is right now, the HD 4870 is ATI’s second-highest card in their line-up, succeeded only by the HD 4780 X2, which in case you are unaware, is simply two HD 4870’s put together. Unlike NVIDIA’s GX2 solution, the ATI’s X2’s stick to one PCB, thankfully. The next best option to the HD 4870 from ATI is of course the HD 4850. That card is similar in most regards except where clocks are concerned. The HD 4870 also features GDDR5, while the HD 4850 sticks to GDDR3.

Model
Core MHz
Mem MHz
Memory
Bus Width
Stream Proc.
HD 4870 X2
750
900
2x1024MB
256-bit
800
HD 4850 X2
625
993
2x1024MB
256-bit
800
HD 4870
750
900
512MB
256-bit
800
HD 4850
625
993
512MB
256-bit
800
HD 4670
750
900
512MB
128-bit
320
HD 4650
600
500
512MB
128-bit
320
HD 3870 X2
825
900
2x512MB
256-bit
320
HD 3850 X2
666
828
2x512MB
256-bit
320
HD 3870
775
900
512MB
256-bit
320
HD 3850
666
828
512MB
256-bit
320
HD 3650
725
800
256,512MB
128-bit
120
HD 3450
600
500
256MB
64-bit
40

Palit’s Sonic “Dual Edition” card is named as such because it includes two fans with steeply-curved blades, completely unlike the leaf-blower fan that the reference design includes. The semi-translucent fans are rather quiet, although I don’t have a sound meter here to test with. It’s much quieter than the reference design fans, however, especially at full load.

Palit also makes improvements with the card itself, using a multi-layer PCB that improves upon the reference, while also utilizing a three-phase power solution – whereas the stock design uses a two-phase design. I am not immediately impressed by the physical appearance of the cooler, and the red is a little gaudy , but at least it matches the both the brand and PCB color.

This card undoubtedly includes most of the connectivity that most people will ever need. Included on the card itself are two DVI-D ports along with a DisplayPort – nice to see given it’s a technology that’s still catching on. Palit includes VGA and HDMI support by including the appropriate dongles.

Another special feature of the card is its Dual-BIOS design, which opens up the ability to overclock your card on a dime (with the computer off, preferably). With the switch in its original position, the card will act as a normal-clocked HD 4870 (with slightly overclocked memory), but flick it to the Turbo position and the Core clock gets bumped by 25MHz over stock and the memory by 100MHz. A healthy boost, but not jaw-dropping.

To help understand how the special cooler operates, we can look at the side-view photo below.

The card utilizes an array of aluminum fins like most others on the market, but with the help of the dual fans, more of the card is covered and heat gets exhausted out towards the back quickly. The cooler doesn’t touch the memory chips, but as we’ll find out later, it doesn’t matter – the card keeps cool enough even with this design.

To use the card, your PSU should include two PCI-E 6-pin cables, or four if you plan to pick up two for Crossfire mode. With the current prices of the HD 4870 though, the small premium over dual cards would be put to good use on the X2, since it’s a single card design and only requires two power connections (8+6 Pin).

With our look at Palit’s latest offering taken care of, we highly recommend you peruse our testing methodology on the following page. We recently overhauled our entire test system and also how we conduct testing, so even if you’ve read one of our GPUs recently, we still recommend looking through.


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