by Rob Williams on October 7, 2008 in Graphics & Displays
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.
In the age where anyone can appreciate good power efficiency, it’s almost upsetting to see how much wattage any graphics card manages to pull from our walls. Even the lowest-end models don’t seem too impressive when compared to the power efficiency of a CPU, but that’s how it is, at least right now. It’s interesting to see how different GPUs compare in this regard, as some might perform better than others, but use less power, like we normally see with a shift to a smaller process node.
To help see what kind of wattage a given GPU eats on average, we use a Kill-A-Watt that’s plugged into a power bar that’s in turn plugged into one of the wall sockets, with the test system plugged directly into that. The monitor and other components are plugged into the other socket and is not connected to the Kill-A-Watt. For our system specifications, please refer to our methodology page.
Like our temperature testing, the computer is boot up and left idle for ten minutes, at which point the current wattage reading is recorded. To test for full load wattage, 3DMark Vantage is again loaded up and run at the “Extreme” setting. The space flight test is used here, with the result being recorded during a specific sequence during that run where it seems to stress the GPU the most.
Palit’s Sonic card might have higher clocks than the reference model, but it manages to use less power overall at full load – 7W less. At idle, the power efficiency is near-identical to the reference model, only hogging one extra watt. I assume the savings seen at the full load settings is the result of a cooler-operating card. The dual-fan cooler does a great job keeping temperatures at a minimum and as a result, the card’s not overheated and doesn’t need to stress the fan. It’s a win/win all around.
When AMD first launched their ATI Radeon HD 4000 series, it became quickly obvious who the new leader in GPUs were. Compared head-to-head with NVIDIA’s recent top offerings, ATI’s cards delivered just what gamers were looking for, and at reasonable prices – so reasonable, that it forced NVIDIA to make stark price drops just to compete.
Well, that was great then, and things are even better now. While the HD 4870 retailed for $299 at launch, it’s easy to find models for much less at various e-tailers, especially if you want to take advantage of mail-in-rebates. In the case of this particular card, NewEgg is currently selling it for $269.99, or $249.99 after MIR, which is a deal in every sense of the word – there’s virtually no cost premium.
Let’s face it. The overclock available with a flick of the switch on this Sonic card is small, and the differences in real-world tests are minimal. What makes this card so great is the general performance we’ve come to appreciate, along with the features and cooler. It’s all made better by the fact that despite the additions, the card is still priced less than most of the competition.
The card features a robust and effective cooler, and a DisplayPort connection built right in. Past that, there is an adapter included for both HDMI and VGA support, so the card pretty-well has it all: performance, features and a great price. It’s impossible to go wrong with this card, and once again, Palit has earned itself one of our Editor’s Choice awards.
- Though minor, Sonic version is faster than stock model.
- Temperatures are much lower than cards with reference coolers.
- Includes support for DVI, VGA, HDMI and DisplayPort.
- Priced-right at around ~$270USD.
- Doesn’t include 1GB of GDDR5 like some newer HD 4870’s.
- The cooler is a bit bland – it needs a flashy sticker.
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Palit Radeon HD 4870 Sonic Dual Edition