I needed a video card, and I needed one in a hurry.
Over the years I have upgraded my video card many times. I always keep the old card handy just in case something goes wrong with the new one. I like to have a fall-back position.
However, I was in a bind this time around. My current system is PCI-Express and all my old video cards are AGP. There was no fall-back position. And while the 8800GT was still operating in a minimal functionality mode, so at least I could do something on my computer, all video functions were set to “Slow & Painful.”
I did some quick research over at Tom’s Hardware. They had their “Best Graphics Card for the Money” feature updated for February 09. At my price target was the ATi 4850 based video card with 512MB or RAM. It offered performance on par with my old card and was a design that had been on the market for a while, so should be stable.
But which version of the ATi 4850 to select?
I hunted around a bit, looking for the model with the best cooling arrangement. I just wanted the card to last.
Finally I found a review over on Firing Squad that had potential. The high-end ASUS version of the ATi 4850, the EAH4850 Matrix looked to be just about the thing I was after. A quick visit to ZipZoomFly.com and it was ordered and on its way to me.
Friday the package arrived.
I opened the shipping box and picked up the contents.
I removed the black sleeve from the black box. I opened up the black box and began to go through the black cardboard inserts. Inside of the biggest black insert was a static bag held close with black tape. Inside the bag was a video card built on a black PCB, covered with black integrated circuits on one side and a large black housing for a cooling system on the other, in the middle of which was a large black fan. Once installed, little black lights labeled in black on a black background lit up black to indicate the black video card was now operational.
Okay, except for the last sentence, everything in that last paragraph was true. ASUS has a black theme going on with this card. This is truly Hotblack Desiato’s Video Card.
The card itself is a double-wide. You need to open two covers on the backplane of your computer case, one for the video connectors and one for the heatsink exhaust. That doesn’t bother me, but some people may resent the space it takes up. Somewhere over the last 10 years I stopped needing to populate every last slot on the motherboard.
And how does it run?
With my in-game video settings left over from the 8800GT, things feel about the same. Of course, I spent most of the weekend playing EVE Online or World of Warcraft, neither of which really taxes a video card. But I did go run around in Lord of the Rings Online for a bit, and things felt about the same there.
As for heat, the ASUS iTracker application that comes with the card let me keep an eye on that. I used it to change the cooling settings to be somewhat more aggressive in spinning up the fan on the card.
The fan itself is reasonably quiet. I can hear it quite clearly when it comes on, but it isn’t loud and it just joins the chorus of fan noises that eminate from the computer case under my desk.
We shall see how the card operates in the long term, but for now I am back up and running.