In order to run a high performance computer system, you have to sacrifice your ears to the annoying roar of multiple fans attached to various parts of your PC. This greatly limits the computing power you can get without introducing more noise. Audio recording engineers grapple with eliminating noise daily and even a home theatre PC needs to be quiet because the last thing you need is the roar of your system drowning out the soundtrack during quiet passages in a film. Thankfully, GIGABYTE has been working hard on this very same issue of reducing noise and they've targeted one of the main culprits: The video card.
The GIGABYTE Silent CELL HD 4850 1GB GDDR3 is a completely passively cooled video card based on the highly acclaimed ATI HD 4850 GPU. Although this isn't their first attempt at a silent solution (their Multi-Core series comes to mind), it is certainly their best thus far as it boosts cooling performance an impressive 18% over the reference cooling solution. The question though, is this a good idea on the notoriously toasty HD 4850 GPU? Well, let's find out!
Features and Specifications
There really isn't much to talk about in terms of performance as the HD 4850 has been around for quite sometime and is still one of the best video cards at its price point. Aside from a GPU frequency boost up to 640MHz vs the 625MHz reference clock, it's the same GPU as the one we reviewed last year. Memory has been boosted to 1GB of GDDR3, but memory frequency still sits at 960MHz. In a nutshell, if you're looking for a souped up, overclocked card, this isn't what GIGABYTE is selling. What they are selling though is silence.
Using GIGABYTE's Ultra Durable technology which specifies a 2oz copper PCB and upgraded solid power components, the card already has the propensity to run cooler right off the bat. With a high end and often very noisy active cooling solution, it could be the basis of a great overclocked variant of the HD 4850. Instead, GIGABYTE took the card and stuck a new passive cooling solution called Silent Cell and turned this into a silent PC enthusiast's dream.
On the box, GIGABYTE claims that this solution decreases operating temps of the GPU by up to 18% over the reference design. It also claims that you can overclock this GPU between 10-30% over reference. Excuse me. Overclock an already hot GPU that idles at around 75C on an active cooling solution? Yep, that's what they say and we're going to take them up on that challenge, naturally.
The GIGABYTE Silent Cell HD 4850 does carry a $20 premium over the stock 1GB HD4850, but costs about the same as GIGABYTE's own overclocked HD 4850.
What's In The Box?
The GIGABYTE Silent Cell HD 4850 has a fairly bare bones packing list. There is no bonus game and there is no squishy bobble headed toy in the box. What you do get is a manual, a driver DVD (with already outdated drivers), Molex to 6 Pin PCI-E power adapter, a DVI to HDMI adapter and a CrossFire connector in case your motherboard didn't come with them, or if you had the bright idea of running four of these things in CrossFireX. You definitely wouldn't need a heater anymore.
I did find it rather odd that GIGABYTE included an S-Video to composite (or is it composite to S-Video?) adapter in the box. I mean, in this day and age, HD is the common denominator and it was peculiar that no one thought to include, I don't know, a component video cable adapter instead? I'm pretty sure this was just an error in packaging because my original GIGABYTE HD 4850 did come with a component video adapter. Better fix that guys.