ASUS' ATI Radeon HD 4870-based graphics card offers quiet and cool - but not necessarily better - performance.

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    4.00 / 5


  • Quiet operation, low temperatures under full tests, simple design, improved overclocking capability


  • Test results revealed no big improvement over the ATI Radeon HD 4870 standard performance.

Bottom Line

ASUS' high-end HD 4870 variant offers great cooling with quiet operation. There are noticeable differences in 3DMark scores, but our tests indicated that the EAH4870 MATRIX doesn't offer a huge performance boost over the ATI Radeon HD 4870-based cards.

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ASUS' latest addition to its Republic of Gamers graphics card line-up is the EAH4870 MATRIX/HTDI/512MD5, a comparatively late entry into the ATI Radeon HD 4870 field. With a dual fan setup and an additional overclocking utility, the card doesn't greatly improve on Radeon HD 4870's standard performance, but it still brings a refreshing update this established graphics processor.

The Republic of Gamers series is a subset of ASUS' branding usually reserved for the company's high-end graphics cards and motherboards. As such, the EAH4870 MATRIX offers users technologies not available on other ASUS-branded ATI Radeon HD 4870 cards, such as factory overclocking, better cooling and a black printed circuit board.

Physically, the EAH4870 MATRIX is 241.3mm in length and has a fan shroud that covers the entire board. It's certainly not the longest of video card we have seen, and it should fit into most PC cases easily. Because the graphics card has a relatively large cooler, it does take up two PCI slots and also requires two separate 6-pin power connectors.

The fan shroud forms part of ASUS' hybrid cooler thermal solution, which is perhaps the biggest upgrade feature of the card. The cooling solution includes two fans and a heavy duty heatsink, which cool not only the graphics chip — but the memory modules as well. The dual fans are independently speed-controlled, remaining off while not in use, but working at varying speeds according to the heat of the chip and memory modules. Fan speed is usually determined by the card itself at a hardware level, but the included iTracker software offers further control and better automation. In our test, under full load, we saw the temperature rise to a maximum of 56 degrees Celsius — a far cry from the 80-90 degree Celsius temperature we saw when putting the reference card to the same test.

In addition to keeping the graphics card cool, the hybrid cooler also works to keep the card relatively quiet. In our tests, the Sapphire Radeon HD 4870 sounded like a jet engine when running, the Hybrid Cooler system's features allow the EAH4870 MATRIX to remain silent when operating in a 2D environment, and only slightly audible at full-bore. The difference is definitely noticeable, and one that should be appreciated by any user who prefers their graphics card fast but not loud.

Apart from the cooling system, the EAH4870 MATRIX doesn't too many additional enhancements. Out of the box, the card offers a core clock speed of 770MHz and an overclocked memory speed of 920MHz — both 20MHZ over and above their factory-standard counterparts. Apart from this, the card still has the same specifications as the original reference card, with 800 stream processors, a 256-bit memory bus and 512MB of GDDR5 RAM. It is disappointing to see ASUS retain the 512MB standard, especially as the reference card has been in the market for some time.

Enthusiasts familiar with ATI's products will be aware that the graphics cards can be overclocked using ATI's overdrive utility. ASUS has targeted the EAH4870 MATRIX at the enthusiast market, and offers advanced overclocking in the form of the iTracker software. The software provides you with the card's status, current clock speeds and temperature settings. iTracker also allows you to select one of five different overclocking presets, including the ability to set user-defined clocks, and fan controls. Unfortunately, the software won't yield huge performance benefits — we actually received lower benchmark results in Crysis in our tests — so you may be better off with the factory-set clock speeds.

To determine if the EAH4870 MATRIX performs well, we ran it through a barrage of tests on our graphics testbed — a 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 CPU, 2GB of DDR2 RAM, a 750GB Seagate Barracuda ES hard drive, all installed in Antec's open-air Skeleton enclosure, running on Windows Vista Ultimate 32-bit. Overall, the EAH4870 MATRIX graphics card does provide some performance improvements, but over all on par with the reference board and HD 4870 cards that aren't factory overclocked.

Futuremark's benchmark revealed this slight — but noticeable difference in performance — with the EAH4870 MATRIX managed an overall score of 9223 in 3DMark 06, in contrast to the score of 9176 we managed on the Sapphire Radeon HD 4870, which has the same specifications as the reference board. In the extreme benchmark in 3DMark Vantage tests, the EAH4870 MATRIX managed a score of X3923 to the Sapphire HD 4870's score of X3883; a minor difference.

In real world gaming tests, the results were even closer. The ASUS' graphics card saw a two frame per second increase in both F.E.A.R. and Lost Planet (DirectX 10 version) over the Sapphire variant. Both cards performed on par in the Crysis benchmark (an unfortunately unplayable 24fps) and Lost Planet's Direct X 9 performance test (81fps).

Apart from the noticeable differences in 3DMark scores, our tests indicated that despite the slight overclocking, the EAH4870 MATRIX doesn't offer a huge performance boost over the ATI Radeon HD 4870-based cards (not overclocked). If anything, the graphics card provides silent performance and better cooling using its combined dual fan and heatsink design, but don't expect an overhaul of the ATI Radeon HD 4870 performance standard.

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