Review of the MSI R4830

Author: Kevin Spiess
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Wednesday, December 10th, 2008
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Hardware/s/r4830/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.

What a year 2008 has been for video cards.

Some real monsters came out, like the 9800 GX2, and some real fast, inexpensive cards came out as well; such as today's ATI HD 4830. This HD 4830 has been put together by MSI: overclocked and improved from the reference design, for just over a $100 USD, the MSI R4830 has a great deal of bang-for-buck potential. Today we'll check it out. 

The HD 4830 was the late-comer to the party that was the launch of ATI's HD 4800 series. The HD 4850 and HD 4870 were the first to come out, virtually at the same time, and have proven to be wildly successful -- easily getting into any list of ATI's all-time greatest hits, if one was to be made. Many sources put the number of HD 4850's and HD 4870's sold on the happy side of two million units. The power-balance between Nvidia and ATI has been really shook up, ever since the HD 4800 came on the scene. 

But where things are right now is a bit of different story. With Nvidia's release of some excellent 'Big Bang II' drivers squeezing extra frames out of a bunch of games, and the aggressive price cuts on the shader-boosted GTX 260, Nvdia is working hard on regaining their unarguably dominant position in the discrete graphics market in the last handful of years.

While the new big-gun video cards, the GTX 285 and GTX 295, seem to be peeking their heads out of the corners of CES reports, it does not look like neither Red or Green will be releasing significant products between the $100 - $200 mark until at least February. And there is a good reason for this: right now there is just a glut of cards available, for a fair prices, lower than $200.

Almost daily I read both console gamers and PC gamers complain that PC gaming is too expensive. It is high-time to dispel this fallacy. Anyone can look at the current line-up of video cards available and see that you don't need to break the bank to get very acceptable gaming performance. You don't need a crazy processor to power it either -- you can pick up a $70 Core 2 CPU, and a $70 HD 3870, a $100 motherboard, and some dirt cheap RAM and guess what: you are good to go. No need to break into a bank.

Take this HD 4830 for example. Well, take this MSI R4830 to be even less ambiguous. What do you expect a $140 USD (and sometimes even less expensive) video card might be capable of? We'll compare it to a bunch of other cards in a similar price range and see if it offers enough bargain performance to compete with all the other great deals out right now.

Impressions

MSI's R4830 has a significantly different appearance than the standard, reference design HD 4830 that we've reviewed previously.  There are two major differences you can notice in a brief glance: the cooler, and the capacitors.

Let's start with the cooler. The HD 4830 had the same cooler as the HD 4850:  a single slot, design with a relatively small fan. MSI's R4830 has a custom cooler on it. At first glance, it appears to be fairly standard design, but it is actually rather unique. The cooler is all aluminum -- as you know, aluminum can not transfer heat as faster as some materials, such as a copper, but going with an aluminum cooler is not necessarily a bad thing at all, as MSI shows here.

The cooler's fins spread out in an ellipse shape, each fin a slightly different length. It is best avoided  to have cooling fins reach over the top of the video card, but also seems like MSI is trying to get heat to mostly radiate to the left and right of the card, not up and down, to improve the heat circulation in your case.

The aluminum is kept chill by a robust fast, high speed fan. The fan is audible, but not too loud -- I really don't expect many people will notice the sound much, once installed inside a case. The fan blades are twisted a little bit, purposely by MSI, to help push more air through the cooling fins. All in all the cooling system is very effective, and keeps the HD 4830 idling a relatively low temperatures -- for us the idling temperature hovered around 37C°.

The second very noticeable feature of the R4830 is the layout of the capacitors, running along the right side of the PCB. On the reference board HD 4830 / HD 4850, the capacitors are mushed together up above the cooler, on the R4830 they are aligned in a more civilized style, in a vertically arranged strip. The MSI R4830 boasts '4+1 Power Phase' technology which means that both your memory and your GPU will be supplied with a steady, strong currents to keep them rock steady and stable, particularly when stressed. 4+1 Power Phases (the '1' is going to the card's memory, the other 4 devoted to the GPU) also means that your R4830 will have a better chance of living longer.

As all HD 4800 series cards have, the R4830 features the following:  DirectX 10.1 support, Shader Model 4.1, Unified Video Decoder (for optimized playback for HD video), HDMI output with 7.1 surround sound, and CrossFireX support, allowing you to link your HD4830 with up to three more ATI cards, if you have a compatible motherboard. 

Specifications

The R4830 has two other things going for it, over a regular HD4830: a factory overclock, and good memory chips.

The overclock is fairly unsubstantial: actually -- sorry MSI -- but it is so far the lamest overclocking we've seen in some time, at an incredibly modest 10 MHz boost to the core clock, and no boost to the memory. But, speaking of which, the memory would be able to handle a factory overclock with out issue at all, because this card uses 512MB of Samsung K4J52324QH-HJ1A GDDR3 memory. This memory is rated for up to 1000 MHz (100 MHz more than the default speed), and should be able to overclock above the 1000 MHz without much trouble.

As we got into our own overclocking (see page 4) we were left our scratching our head, wondering why MSI didn't step up the overclock a bit, after going through all the work of designing such a seemingly capable HD 4830.

  MSI R4830

9600 GSO

9600 GT

8800GT 512MB

 HD3870

HD 4850

 HD 4870 HD 4830

Processing Cores

 640

 96

64

112

320

800

800 640

Core Clock

 585

 550

650

600

775

625

750 575

Shader Clock

 585

 1375

1625

1500

775

625

750 575

Memory Clock (effective) 

 1800

 1600

1800

1800

2250

1986

3600 1800

Memory Interface

 256 bit

192 bit

256 bit

256 bit

256 bit

256 bit

256 bit 256 bit

Memory Type

512MB GDDR3

384MB GDDR3

512MB GDDR3

512MB GDDR3

512MB GDDR4

512MB GDDR3

512MB GDDR5
512MB GDDR3

Fabrication Process

 55nm

65nm

65nm

65nm

55nm

55nm

55nm 55nm

 

Bundle'n'Box

Similar to other MSI HD 4800 series cards, jumping out on the box we have a ogre-like creature, with burning red eyes, and some variety of silver, rune-inscribed crock pot attached to his chest.

Here's what's in the bundle: you have a DVI-VGA adapter, abundant video cabling (a S-Video cable, component cable, and a S-Video-composite combo cable), a quick start guide, a driver CD, and a manual. Not a bundle for this price point at all, but a CrossFire bridge would be a nice touch, seeing how this card is a perfect choice for a CrossFire setup.

Overclocking

Oh my, where to begin.

Generally video cards -- such as the HD 4830 -- that are basically neutered versions of higher end cards (in this case the HD 4850), have good prospects for overclocking. With a couple banks of stream processors shut down, there is a bit more leeway on the GPU for heat limits.

Take that grain of salt, and than considering that the R4830 is, by all appearances, a well built card with quality components (the Samsung memory, the solid state chokes), and overclocking prospects looked really good.

But! We were not expecting what we found at all. This card is a true demon of an overclocker. Amazingly, after cranking the fan to %100 power (and by the way, it isn't all that loud at %100), and after a long sessions of trail and error, our R4830 was able to maintain an incredible core clock speed of 734, and a clock of 1121 MHz for the memory!

This is pretty astounding, really. At these clock speeds, using RivaTuner we were able to get more performance out of our R4830 than a stock HD 4850! To put things into further perspective, the R4830 stock speed is 585 / 900, so the stable 734 / 1121 overclock we obtained is a 28% / 25% increase. Generally, video cards average about a 5% - 8% overclocking average, and 10% - 15% can be considered a nice overclock for a video card. The only other card in the last one and half years of my tenure here at Neoseeker that overclocked nearly as good was the HD 2900 Pro.

If you are into overclocking at all, this is the card to get. HD 4850+ performance for a damn cheap price. Most impressive.

The R4830 is all over the board here in these synthetic benchmark tests.

Here the R4830 falls a bit short of its primary Nvidia rival, the 8800 GT / 9800 GT (both cards generally preform the same.) However one thing to keep in mind is the Asus 8800 GT is an overclocked model, so that helps the situation in that comparison.

Here the R4830 does quite well, placing nicely around the HD 4850, and 9800 GTX.

Five cards in this benchmark performed almost imperceptibly at the same, real-world gaming level. However, once again the 8800 GT looks like the card to beat in the price range of the R4830.

The R4830 does well here, but does not offer any particular surprise of any sort. 

Call it a conspiracy, but the Asus EN8800 GT TOP again does quite well here. The R4830 puts in an acceptable performance, but it'd be nice if it could gain more ground on the Palit 9600 GT Sonic (a O/C'ed model.)

Seeing charts like these again makes me wish MSI raised the overclock a bit, because the card is capable of so much more, as our overclocking experiences proved.

Here the R4830 does quite well, considering the price of the card. Who would thought something around $140 USD would be able to handle Crysis so well, back when it came out?

Power Usage

To measure power usage, we used a Kill A Watt P4400 power meter. Note that the above numbers represent the power drain for the entire benchmarking system, not just the video cards themselves. For the 'idle' readings we measured the power drain from the desktop, with no applications running; for the 'load' situation, we took readings during a demanding part of 3DMark06.)

All that performance and easy going on your power bill -- the R4830: the card for hardcore green-minded gamer?

Conclusion

The R4830 has a lot going for it. By all indications, MSI set out to built a very solid and capable HD 4830 with the R4830.

Recently we tested a standard HD 4830 against an MSI 9800 GT. Though it was a tough call, in that contest the slight edge went to the 9800 GT. However in this case, this is no standard HD 4830, and if I had to put the R4830 in the ring against the N9800 (MSI 9800 GT), the glory would have to go to the HD 4830.

The most puzzling thing about the R4830 is that it is such a nicely built video card, yet the factory overclock is incredibly slight. If MSI sold this card just with an extra 100 MHz on the core, and another 100 MHz to the memory clock, the R4830 would have no problems sustaining these speeds and it would be an incredible purchase for those unknowingly, or unwanting to do any of their own overclocking.

For those that aren't squeamish when it comes to overclocking however, the R4830 is resounding, stand-out sensation. It can sustain performance levels over that of a HD 4850, for a very reasonable price. If you are on a tight budget and want to spend the very requisite amount to get top-end performance, and not a penny more, we can wholly recommend picking up the R4830 and getting to work. For overclockers, this card is a stellar deal.

For non-overclockers, the R4830 is still a good purchase. Put together nicely, with a competent cooler that gets the job done and is not that loud, the R4830 has what it takes to suceed in the incredibly jammed-pack world of video cards selling between $100 and $150 dollars -- and this is no small feat. However, if it all comes down to price, and you don't want to overclock, you might be able to get a better deal with a 9800 GT -- but prices change so fast around this time a year, you'll have to keep your eyes peeled for deals, and things could change quick.

Here at Neoseeker we only award one award to each card that makes the cut. Above all other awards, the R4830 is most deserving of our overclocking award. If you are not an overclocker -- and can't be convinced to try it out -- the R4830 can also be recommended, because of the high level of workmanship that MSI has shown putting together this fine product.
 

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