Sapphire HD 4850 Video Card Review
By Gabriel Torres on June 26, 2008


Introduction

Hardware Secrets Golden Award

AMD/ATI has released two new high-end graphics chips recently, Radeon HD 4870 and Radeon HD 4850, known by the codenames RV770 XT and RV770 PRO, respectively. As you can guess by the numbers, HD 4850 provides a lower performance compared to HD 4870. In this review we will benchmark HD 4850 from Sapphire and compare it to its main competitors from NVIDIA. Is this video card a good buy? Check it out.

Sapphire HD 4850 follows AMD/ATI’s reference model both on its physical aspect as in specifications: the graphics chip runs at 625 MHz with its memory being accessed at 993 MHz (real clock) through a 256-bit memory interface. Since GDDR3 memories transfer two data per clock cycle, the memory achieves a performance as if it were working at 1,986 MHz, delivering a maximum transfer rate of 63.5 GB/s.

Both new chips are based on DirectX 10.1 (Shader 4.1) architecture, where all processing units inside the graphics chip are generic, being able to process any kind of vector (pixel shader, vertex shader, etc). What is really impressive about these two new chips is that they both have 800 processing units inside the chip. We will provide a short table comparing the specs from this new video card with the specs from its main competitors. Before that, let’s take an overall look at Sapphire HD 4850.

Sapphire HD 4850
click to enlarge
Figure 1: Sapphire HD 4850.

Sapphire HD 4850
click to enlarge
Figure 2: Sapphire HD 4850.

Sapphire HD 4850
click to enlarge
Figure 3: Sapphire HD 4850.

Introduction (Cont’d)

We removed the video card cooler to take a look. As you can see in Figure 4, the cooler is 100% made of copper, which is great, as this material dissipates heat better than aluminum.

Sapphire HD 4850
click to enlarge
Figure 4: Video card cooler.

In Figure 5, you can see the video card without its cooler. It uses eight 512-Mbit Qimonda HYB18H512321BF-10 GDDR3 chips, making its 512 MB memory (512 Mbits x 8 = 512 MB). These chips have a maximum real clock rate of 1 GHz (1 ns, 2 GHz performance), so on this video card they are practically running on top of their maximum spec.

Sapphire HD 4850
click to enlarge
Figure 5: Sapphire HD 4850 with its cooler removed.

In Figure 6, you can see all accessories and CDs/DVDs that come with this video card, which includes a 2 GB USB drive (limited time offer). With the accessories that come with this card you can convert the video output to VGA, HDMI, component video and composite video, plus the DVI and S-Video connectors already present on the product.

Sapphire HD 4850
click to enlarge
Figure 6: Accessories.

This video card comes with three games inside a DVD called “Ruby ROM 1.1”: Call of Juarez, Dungeon Runners and Stranglehold. Programs that come with this video card include CyberLink DVD Suite (PowerProducer 4, PowerDirector 5 Express, Power2GO 5.5, Mediashow 3 and trial versions of PowerBackup 2.5, PowerDVD Copy and LabelPrint 2), Cyberlink Power DVD 7,3DMark06 Full, EarthSim and GameShadow.

Now let’s compare the Radeon HD 4850 specifications to its main competitors.

More Details

To make the comparison between Sapphire HD 4850 and the other video cards we included in this review easier, we compiled the table below comparing the main specs from these cards. If you want to compare the specs of Radeon HD 4850 to any other video card not included in the table below, just take a look at our NVIDIA Chips Comparison Table and on our AMD ATI Chips Comparison Table.

GPU

Core Clock

Shader Clock

Processors

Memory Clock

Memory Interface

Memory Transfer Rate

Memory

Price

GeForce GTX 280

602 MHz

1,296 MHz

240

1,107 MHz

512-bit

141.7 GB/s

1 GB GDDR3

USD 620 - 660

GeForce 9800 GX2

600 MHz

1,500 MHz

128

1,000 MHz

256-bit

64 GB/s

1 GB GDDR3

USD 420 - 550

GeForce 9800 GTX

675 MHz

1,688 MHz

128

1,100 MHz

256-bit

70.4 GB/s

512 MB GDDR3

USD 200 - 300

Rsdeon HD 4850

625 MHz

625 MHz

800

993 MHz

256-bit

63.5 GB/s

512 MB GDDR3

USD 195

Sapphire Atomic HD 3870 X2

857 MHz

857 MHz

320

927 MHz

256-bit

59.33 GB/s

1 GB GDDR3

Radeon HD 3870

776 MHz

776 MHz

320

1,125 MHz

256-bit

72 GB/s

512 MB GDDR4

USD 135 - 240

As you can see the main difference between the new Radeon HD 4850 and its competitors is the amazing number of processing units, 800 against 128 on GeForce 9800 GTX, for example.

In order to compete with Radeon HD 4850, NVIDIA reduced the maximum suggested price (MRSP) of GeForce 9800 GTX to USD 199, so Radeon HD 4850 and GeForce 9800 GTX are, today, on the same price range. At least officially – think about it, if you are a reseller and has your stock loaded with USD 300 video cards, would you lower them to USD 200 just because NVIDIA told you so? One week ago GeForce 9800 GTX was quoted between USD 270 and USD 355. NVIDIA also has launched a “new” high-end video card, GeForce 9800 GTX+, which is basically an overclocked GeForce 9800 GTX. Click here to read the full story.

Some important observations regarding this table:

Before going to our tests let’s recap the main features from Sapphire HD 4850.

Main Specifications

Sapphire Radeon HD 4850 main features are:

* Researched at Shopping.com on the day we published this review.

How We Tested

During our benchmarking sessions, we used the configuration listed below. Between our benchmarking sessions the only variable was the video card being tested.

Hardware Configuration

Software Configuration

  • Windows Vista Ultimate 32-bit
  • Service Pack 1

Driver Versions

  • nForce driver version: 15.17
  • AMD/ATI video driver version: Catalyst 8.5
  • AMD/ATI video driver version: Catalyst 8.6 + hotfix (8.501.1.0, 6/21/2008) (Radeon HD 4850)
  • NVIDIA video driver version: 175.16
  • NVIDIA video driver version: 177.34 (GeForce GTX 280)
Software Used

Resolutions and Image Quality Settings

Since we were comparing very high-end video cards, we ran all our tests under three 16:10 widescreen high resolutions: 1680x1050, 1920x1200, and 2560x1600. We always tried to run the programs and games in two scenarios for each resolution, one with low image quality settings and then maxing out the image quality settings. The exact configuration we used will be described together with the results of each individual test.

Error Margin

We adopted a 3% error margin; thus, differences below 3% cannot be considered relevant. In other words, products with a performance difference below 3% should be considered as having similar performance.

3DMark06 Professional

3DMark06 measures Shader 3.0 (i.e., DirectX 9.0c) performance. We run this software under three 16:10 widescreen resolutions, 1680x1050, 1920x1200, and 2560x1600, first with no image quality enhancements enabled – results we call “low” on the charts and tables below –, then setting 4x anti-aliasing and 16x anisotropic filtering. See the results below.

Sapphire HD 4850

3DMark06 Professional 1.1.0 - 1680x1050 - LowScoreDifference
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X21626037.31%
GeForce 9800 GX21562331.93%
GeForce GTX 2801490425.86%
GeForce 9800 GTX127597.74%
Sapphire Radeon HD 485011842 
Radeon HD 38701069410.73%

Sapphire HD 4850

 

3DMark06 Professional 1.1.0 - 1920x1200 - LowScoreDifference
GeForce 9800 GX21554745.42%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X21548944.88%
GeForce GTX 2801421532.96%
GeForce 9800 GTX116318.79%
Sapphire Radeon HD 485010691 
Radeon HD 3870945413.08%

Sapphire HD 4850

3DMark06 Professional 1.1.0 - 2560x1600 - LowScoreDifference
GeForce 9800 GX21301561.14%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X21231552.47%
GeForce GTX 2801176645.67%
GeForce 9800 GTX87438.25%
Sapphire Radeon HD 48508077 
Radeon HD 3870682318.38%

Sapphire HD 4850

3DMark06 Professional 1.1.0 - 1680x1050 - HighScoreDifference
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X21626083.09%
GeForce 9800 GX21390056.51%
GeForce GTX 2801215736.89%
GeForce 9800 GTX89811.13%
Sapphire Radeon HD 48508881 
Radeon HD 3870691528.43%

Sapphire HD 4850

3DMark06 Professional 1.1.0 - 1920x1200 - HighScoreDifference
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X21548994.29%
GeForce 9800 GX21221353.20%
GeForce GTX 2801099137.87%
Sapphire Radeon HD 48507972 
GeForce 9800 GTX78112.06%
Radeon HD 3870611430.39%

Sapphire HD 4850

3DMark06 Professional 1.1.0 - 2560x1600 - HighScoreDifference
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X212315108.87%
GeForce 9800 GX2982966.71%
GeForce GTX 280870447.63%
Sapphire Radeon HD 48505896 
GeForce 9800 GTX57742.11%
Radeon HD 3870431936.51%

3DMark Vantage Professional

3DMark Vantage is the latest addition to the 3DMark series, measuring Shader 4.0 (i.e., DirectX 10) performance and supporting PhysX, a programming interface developed by Ageia (now part of NVIDIA) to transfer physics calculations from the system CPU to the video card GPU in order to increase performance. Mechanical physics is the basis for calculations about the interaction of objects. For example, if you shoot, what exactly will happen to the object when the bullet hits it? Will it break? Will it move? Will the bullet bounce back? Notice that we didn’t upgrade the PhysX to the latest version, which would make the physics calculations for CPU Test 2 to be made by the GPU instead of the CPU on NVIDIA video cards (since we aren't considering CPU or 3DMark scores this change wouldn't produce any increase in our results anyway).

We ran this program at three 16:10 widescreen resolutions, 1680x1050, 1920x1200, and 2560x1600. First we used the “Performance” profile, and then we used the “Extreme” profile (basically enabling anti-aliasing at 4x, anisotropic filtering at 16x, and putting all detail settings at their maximum or “extreme” value. The combination of 2560x1600 resolution with extreme settings didn’t produce reliable results according to the program, so we aren’t going to add them here. The results being compared are the “GPU Scores” achieved by each video card.

Sapphire HD 4850

3DMark Vantage Professional 1.0.1 - 1680x1050 – PerformanceScoreDifference
GeForce GTX 280769560.41%
GeForce 9800 GX2699045.72%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2565117.80%
Sapphire Radeon HD 48504797 
GeForce 9800 GTX380526.07%
Radeon HD 3870297761.14%

Sapphire HD 4850

3DMark Vantage Professional 1.0.1 - 1920x1200 - PerformanceScoreDifference
GeForce GTX 280610663.92%
GeForce 9800 GX2537944.40%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2433616.40%
Sapphire Radeon HD 48503725 
GeForce 9800 GTX289128.85%
Radeon HD 3870226964.17%

Sapphire HD 4850

3DMark Vantage Professional 1.0.1 - 2560x1600 - PerformanceScoreDifference
GeForce GTX 280354973.12%
GeForce 9800 GX2291041.95%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2238216.20%
Sapphire Radeon HD 48502050 
GeForce 9800 GTX155731.66%
Radeon HD 3870124464.79%

Sapphire HD 4850

3DMark Vantage Professional 1.0.1 - 1680x1050 - ExtremeScoreDifference
GeForce GTX 280600574.31%
GeForce 9800 GX2485841.02%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X235673.54%
Sapphire Radeon HD 48503445 
GeForce 9800 GTX270327.45%
Radeon HD 3870185585.71%

Sapphire HD 4850

3DMark Vantage Professional 1.0.1 - 1920x1200 - ExtremeScoreDifference
GeForce GTX 280473271.89%
GeForce 9800 GX2350827.42%
Sapphire Radeon HD 48502753 
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X226693.15%
GeForce 9800 GTX203835.08%
Radeon HD 3870143991.31%

Call of Duty 4

Call of Duty 4 is a DirectX 9 game implementing high-dynamic range (HDR) and its own physics engine, which is used to calculate how objects interact. For example, if you shoot, what exactly will happen to the object when the bullet hits it? Will it break? Will it move? Will the bullet bounce back? It gives a more realistic experience to the user.

We ran this program at three 16:10 widescreen resolutions, 1680x1050, 1920x1200, and 2560x1600, maxing out all image quality controls (i.e., everything was put on the maximum values on the Graphics and Texture menus). We used the game internal benchmarking feature, running a demo provided by NVIDIA called “wetwork.” We are putting this demo for downloading here if you want to run your own benchmarks. The game was updated to version 1.6.

Sapphire HD 4850

Call of Duty 4 - 1680x1050 - MaximumScoreDifference
GeForce 9800 GX2106.246.69%
GeForce GTX 280105.345.44%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X275.74.56%
Sapphire Radeon HD 485072.4 
GeForce 9800 GTX69.14.78%
Radeon HD 387043.068.37%

Sapphire HD 4850

Call of Duty 4 - 1920x1200 - MaximumScoreDifference
GeForce 9800 GX294.559.90%
GeForce GTX 28091.755.16%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X261.33.72%
Sapphire Radeon HD 485059.1 
GeForce 9800 GTX57.72.43%
Radeon HD 387035.466.95%

Sapphire HD 4850

Call of Duty 4 - 2560x1600 - MaximumScoreDifference
GeForce 9800 GX264.876.57%
GeForce GTX 28064.876.57%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X240.610.63%
GeForce 9800 GTX38.34.36%
Sapphire Radeon HD 485036.7 
Radeon HD 387022.463.84%

Crysis

Crysis is a very heavy DirectX 10 game. We updated this game to version 1.2.1 and used the HOC Crysis Benchmarking Utility to help us collecting data. Since we don’t think the default demo based on the island map stresses the video card the way we want, we used the HOC core demo available with the abovementioned utility. We ran this demo under three 16:10 widescreen resolutions, 1680x1050, 1920x1200, and 2560x1600, first with image quality set to “low” and then with image quality set to “high.” Since all video cards achieved a number of frames per second below 10 at 2560x1600 with image details set to “high,” we are not including this test as the results aren’t reliable. We ran each test twice and discarded the first result, as usually the first run achieves a lower score compared to the subsequent runs since the game loses time loading files. The results are below, in frames per second (FPS).

Sapphire HD 4850

Crysis 1.2.1 - 1680x1050 - LowScoreDifference
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X212548.81%
GeForce GTX 28012548.81%
GeForce 9800 GTX840.00%
Sapphire Radeon HD 485084 
GeForce 9800 GX27512.00%
Radeon HD 38707118.31%

Sapphire HD 4850

Crysis 1.2.1 - 1920x1200 - LowScoreDifference
GeForce GTX 28011571.64%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X210861.19%
GeForce 9800 GTX692.99%
Sapphire Radeon HD 485067 
GeForce 9800 GX2636.35%
Radeon HD 38705815.52%

Sapphire HD 4850

Crysis 1.2.1 - 2560x1600 - LowScoreDifference
GeForce GTX 28095120.93%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X27165.12%
GeForce 9800 GTX442.33%
Sapphire Radeon HD 485043 
GeForce 9800 GX2422.38%
Radeon HD 38703522.86%

Sapphire HD 4850

Crysis 1.2.1 - 1680x1050 - HighScoreDifference
GeForce GTX 2804244.83%
GeForce 9800 GTX290.00%
Sapphire Radeon HD 485029 
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X22611.54%
GeForce 9800 GX22516.00%
Radeon HD 38701952.63%

Sapphire HD 4850

Crysis 1.2.1 - 1920x1200 - HighScoreDifference
GeForce GTX 2803447.83%
Sapphire Radeon HD 485023 
GeForce 9800 GTX224.55%
GeForce 9800 GX2219.52%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X22015.00%
Radeon HD 38701643.75%

Unreal Tournament 3

Unreal Tournament 3 is the latest installment from this famous first person shooter franchise, supporting DirectX 10 graphics when installed on Windows Vista with a DX10 compatible card. We upgraded Unreal Tournament 3 to version 1.2 and benchmarked it with the help of HOC UT3 benchmarking utility using the “Containment” demo, maxing out image quality settings (image quality at “high” and anisotropic filtering at x16). It is important to note that we haven’t applied the PhysX mod to this game, which would transfer PhysX processing from the CPU to the GPU on NVIDIA cards. The results are below, in frames per second (FPS).

Sapphire HD 4850

Unreal Tournament 3 - 1680x1050 - MaximumScoreDifference
GeForce 9800 GTX11216.67%
GeForce 9800 GX210812.50%
GeForce GTX 2801048.33%
Sapphire Radeon HD 485096 
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X28414.29%
Radeon HD 38708315.66%

Sapphire HD 4850

Unreal Tournament 3 - 1920x1200 - MaximumScoreDifference
GeForce 9800 GTX10821.35%
GeForce 9800 GX210619.10%
GeForce GTX 280912.25%
Sapphire Radeon HD 485089 
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X27814.10%
Radeon HD 38707518.67%

Sapphire HD 4850

Unreal Tournament 3 - 2560x1600 - MaximumScoreDifference
GeForce 9800 GTX9253.33%
GeForce 9800 GX29253.33%
GeForce GTX 280623.33%
Sapphire Radeon HD 485060 
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X25117.65%
Radeon HD 38704727.66%

Half-Life 2: Episode Two

Half-Life 2 is a popular franchise and we benchmark the video cards using Episode Two with the aid of HOC Half-Life 2 Episode Two benchmarking utility using the “HOC Demo 1” provided by this program. We ran the game in three 16:10 widescreen resolutions, 1680x1050, 1920x1200, and 2560x1600, under two scenarios. First with quality set to maximum, bilinear filtering and anti-aliasing set to x0. This configuration we are calling “low” on the charts and tables below. Then we maxed out image quality settings, enabling x16 anisotropic filtering and 16xQCS anti-aliasing. This configuration we are calling “high” on our charts and tables. We updated the game up to the June 9th 2008 patch.

Sapphire HD 4850

Half-Life 2: Episode Two -1680x1050 - LowScoreDifference
Sapphire Radeon HD 4850164.9 
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2160.42.81%
GeForce GTX 280156.35.50%
GeForce 9800 GTX153.87.22%
Radeon HD 3870145.713.18%
GeForce 9800 GX2136.820.54%

Sapphire HD 4850

Half-Life 2: Episode Two - 1920x1200 - LowScoreDifference
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2156.74.61%
GeForce GTX 280156.34.34%
Sapphire Radeon HD 4850149.8 
GeForce 9800 GTX146.91.97%
GeForce 9800 GX2135.210.80%
Radeon HD 3870120.124.73%

Sapphire HD 4850

Half-Life 2: Episode Two - 2560x1600 - LowScoreDifference
GeForce GTX 280145.154.53%
GeForce 9800 GX2130.639.08%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2129.738.13%
GeForce 9800 GTX107.914.91%
Sapphire Radeon HD 485093.9 
Radeon HD 387072.828.98%

Sapphire HD 4850

Half-Life 2: Episode Two - 1680x1050 – HighScoreDifference
GeForce 9800 GTX137.918.67%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2126.18.52%
GeForce 9800 GX2125.47.92%
Sapphire Radeon HD 4850116.2 
GeForce GTX 28089.330.12%
Radeon HD 387068.370.13%

Sapphire HD 4850

Half-Life 2: Episode Two - 1920x1200 – HighScoreDifference
GeForce 9800 GTX116.319.65%
GeForce 9800 GX2111.114.30%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2106.59.57%
Sapphire Radeon HD 485097.2 
GeForce GTX 28070.338.26%
Radeon HD 387056.871.13%

Sapphire HD 4850

Half-Life 2: Episode Two - 2560x1600 – HighScoreDifference
GeForce 9800 GTX71.322.09%
Sapphire Radeon HD 485058.4 
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X250.615.42%
GeForce 9800 GX237.555.73%
GeForce GTX 28035.564.51%
Radeon HD 387034.967.34%

Quake 4

We upgraded Quake 4 to version 1.4.2 and ran its multiplayer demo id_perftest with SMP option enabled (which allows Quake 4 to recognize and use more than one CPU), under the same three 16:10 widescreen resolutions, 1680x1050, 1920x1200, and 2560x1600, first with image quality settings configured at “low” and then with image quality settings configured at “ultra.” You can check the results below, given in frames per second.

Sapphire HD 4850

Quake 4 - 1680x1050 - LowScoreDifference
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2285.3018.20%
GeForce GTX 280268.8011.36%
Sapphire Radeon HD 4850241.38 
Radeon HD 3870227.755.98%
GeForce 9800 GTX225.527.03%
GeForce 9800 GX2220.489.48%

Sapphire HD 4850

Quake 4 - 1920x1200 - LowScoreDifference
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2266.2328.25%
GeForce GTX 280235.9213.65%
Sapphire Radeon HD 4850207.58 
Radeon HD 3870188.4010.18%
GeForce 9800 GX2174.0619.26%
GeForce 9800 GTX158.8730.66%

Sapphire HD 4850

Quake 4 - 2560x1600 - LowScoreDifference
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2197.8254.55%
GeForce GTX 280168.8131.88%
Sapphire Radeon HD 4850128.00 
Radeon HD 3870116.0110.34%
GeForce 9800 GTX114.3411.95%
GeForce 9800 GX2100.0727.91%

Sapphire HD 4850

Quake 4 - 1680x1050 - UltraScoreDifference
GeForce GTX 280246.391.85%
Sapphire Radeon HD 4850241.91 
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2237.981.65%
GeForce 9800 GX2218.8010.56%
GeForce 9800 GTX194.6524.28%
Radeon HD 3870167.2644.63%

Sapphire HD 4850

Quake 4 - 1920x1200 - UltraScoreDifference
GeForce GTX 280224.448.13%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2218.625.32%
Sapphire Radeon HD 4850207.57 
GeForce 9800 GX2158.3531.08%
GeForce 9800 GTX158.1831.22%
Radeon HD 3870144.8043.35%

Sapphire HD 4850

Quake 4 - 2560x1600 - UltraScoreDifference
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2177.3638.69%
GeForce GTX 280168.4331.71%
Sapphire Radeon HD 4850127.88 
GeForce 9800 GTX102.0425.32%
GeForce 9800 GX294.6835.07%
Radeon HD 387094.4035.47%

Conclusions

With so much data presented in the previous pages, we think we should summarize our review answering two questions: how is Sapphire HD 4850 compared to Radeon HD 3870 – once the most high-end video card from AMD/ATI – and how is Sapphire HD 4850 compared to GeForce 9800 GTX, especially now that NVIDIA is promoting a price cut on this model in order to make it a competitor to HD 4850.

AMD raised the performance of the new Radeon HD 4850 to a completely new level. Sapphire HD 4850 was between 6% and 91% faster than Radeon HD 3870 during our tests, depending on the game, resolution and image quality settings. The highest differences were found when we increased image quality. You can see the complete breakdown in the previous page.

We saw a good battle between Sapphire HD 4850 and GeForce 9800 GTX. Here is the breakdown.

We saw Sapphire HD 4850 being faster than GeForce 9800 GTX on two programs: 3DMark Vantage (between 26% and 35% faster) and Quake 4 (between 7% and 31% faster).

We saw Sapphire HD 4850 and GeForce 9800 GTX achieving the same performance level on Call of Duty 4, Crysis and 3DMark06 with image quality settings enabled (with image quality settings disabled, GeForce 9800 GTX was between 8% and 11% faster).

And we saw GeForce 9800 GTX being faster than Radeon HD 4850 on Unreal Tournament 3 (between 17% and 53%) and on Half-Life 2: Episode Two (between 15% and 22%, however both cards achieved the same performance at 1920x1200 with no image quality settings enabled and Sapphire HD 4850 was 7% faster than GeForce 9800 GTX at 1680x1050 with no image quality settings enabled).

So we have to call it a technical tie, because which one is faster will depend on the game. On the two of the heaviest games around today – Crysis and Call of Duty 4 – both cards achieved similar performance.

Then comes pricing. On this aspect Sapphire HD 4850 has, today, the biggest advantage, even with NVIDIA pushing their partners to drop GeForce 9800 GTX’s price down to USD 200. This model from Sapphire can be found around USD 195 and you can buy it on NewEgg.com for USD 175 after a mail-in rebate. Even though the cheapest GeForce 9800 GTX was being sold by USD 200 on the day we published this review, you could find GTX models being sold as high as USD 300, with most models being sold by USD 250. As we mentioned before we doubt resellers will drop their prices just because NVIDIA wants them to.

So unless you only play Unreal Tournament 3 or Half Life 2 we honestly believe that Sapphire HD 4850 is the video card that brings the best cost/benefit ratio for the savvy user looking for a high-end video card: it costs at least half the price of GeForce 9800 GX2, GeForce GTX 260 and GeForce GTX 280 and still brings a high-end gaming performance to your PC.

A final trick: at this time Radeon HD 4850 will only run stable if you install Catalyst 8.6 drivers and a hotfix made available by AMD.

Originally at http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/article/Sapphire-HD-4850-Video-Card-Review/576


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