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Reviews - Featured Reviews: Video Cards
Written by Olin Coles   
Wednesday, 02 July 2008
Table of Contents: Page Index
Sapphire Radeon HD 4850 Video Card 100242L
Radeon HD 4850 Features
Sapphire 4800-Series Specifications
Closer Look: Sapphire 4850
Video Card Testing Methodology
3DMark06 Benchmarks
Crysis Benchmark Results
Lightsmark Frame Rates
Unreal Tournament 3
World in Conflict Benchmarks
Radeon 4850 Power Consumption
Radeon 4800-Series Final Thoughts
Sapphire Radeon 4850 Conclusion

Sapphire Radeon 4850 Conclusion

Presentation is always the first summary I give in each product review conclusion, but ironically this mundane topic seldom provides the same outcome. Sapphire, who I have pointed out once already is at the top of the sex-sells marketing game for the computer industry, offers us a full spectrum of tastes... I mean personalities for their product characters. Their latest 4800-series is not really so different, but since it's summer-time I think that the leather lingerie should be replaced with bathing suits. Of course, this is only my opinion.

Judging the product appearance is a little more difficult than I'm used to. Lately, almost everything has been encased in plastic housings with a contoured finish. This doesn't mean that you can't look sharp without the extra plastic body work, but there's a level of protection all of that stuff provides which goes missing on ATI products. Still, Sapphire has done a very good job mixing red hues with carbon fiber decals.

Sapphire_Radeon_HD_4850_Top_Splash.jpg

Construction is solid, but not without some concerns. I absolutely appreciate ATI for not placing memory module IC's on the back side of the PCB, but at the same time I have to hold both ATI and Sapphire accountable for the cooling unit. If you've read any of my video card reviews, you'll know how much I dislike VGA coolers that exhaust back into the computer case. Additionally, I am no fan of exposed electronic components, such as surface mounted capacitors which could easily be knocked off of the PCB. Aside from these details, the Sapphire 100242L Radeon HD 4850 is a solid-built graphics card.

I dislike the mentioning of competitor products in the article conclusion, but there are a few times when an exception is necessary. In terms of performance and functionality, the Sapphire Radeon HD 4850 is right on par with the GeForce 9800 GTX in many (but not all) applications and video games. Cooling performance is good, but certainly could be better. Additionally, power consumption is much higher than I would have expected from ATI, who is revered as an efficient company.

Value is always relative to supply and demand, along with whatever retailers think they can get from the consumer audience. As of December 2008 the Sapphire Radeon HD 4850 is being sold at NewEgg for $159.99 with an additional $15 rebate for a limited time. I've found a few other sources selling around the same price, so it's a good idea to do some price shopping before you buy. All things considered, I think the Radeon HD 4850 should see a small price reduction after the initial glow of a fresh product launch fades away.

In conclusion, my final recommendation on the Sapphire 100242L Radeon HD 4850 is very high but not extremely enthusiastic. The 4850 comes close to the GeForce 9800 GTX in gaming performance, but never completely outperforms it. Taken into consideration, you have to look at price and sub-feature offerings. It's no surprise that CrossFire and CrossFireX are available on just about every single motherboard that fits an Intel or AMD process; the same is hardly true for the SLI. So then it's down to price. Since NVIDIA submitted to ATI's price point, both products are now offered at the same cost. At the end of this point, there's really no decisive victory to be handed out. The drivers I tested with were Catalyst 8.6, and couldn't remain stable without an unmentioned Radeon HD 4800 Series Hotfix, but then again Forceware drivers are certainly not without their own problems. The Sapphire Radeon HD 4850 is an outstanding product, and just as good as the alternative, so the decision is going to come down to personal preference.

Pros:Benchmark Reviews Silver Tachometer Award for Quality Recognition

+ Very good AA/AF performance for higher-end games
+ Supports DirectX 10 and Shader Model 4.0
+ 625 MHz GPU / 993 MHz GDDR3 vRAM
+ Features ATI AVIVO Technology
+ 1080p HDMI Audio and Video supported for HDCP output
+ Quiet fan under normal operation
+ Introduces new TeraScale Graphics Engine technology
+ Contoured enclosure offers improved airflow
+ Supports CrossFireX functionality
+ 24x Custom filter anti-aliasing (CFAA)
+ 5 GBps PCI Express 2.0 graphics interface
+ Kit includes CrossFireX bridge component

Cons:

- Less efficient power consumption than most comparable 65 nm products
- Maximum post-processing Anti Aliasing is limited to 8x
- Loud high-pitch fan under heavy load
- Fragile electronic components are exposed on PCB
- Unstable driver support (Catalyst v8.6 without hotfix)

Ratings:

  • Presentation: 9.25
  • Appearance: 8.75
  • Construction: 8.75
  • Functionality: 8.75
  • Value: 8.50

Final Score: 8.75 out of 10.

Quality Recognition: Benchmark Reviews Silver Tachometer Award.

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