Sapphire Radeon HD 3850 Ultimate Edition

The HD 3850 offers good bang for buck as it stands. We see if this passive version from Sapphire warrants a higher cost.
@ShawnBakerTW
Published Tue, Jan 1 2008 11:00 PM CST   |   Updated Fri, Sep 18 2020 10:50 PM CDT
Rating: 91%Manufacturer: Sapphire

Introduction





It's been a while since we've seen something from Sapphire but it was bound to happen sooner or later with the release of the HD 3850 and HD 3870. The thing is though, you don't want to look at boring cards with stock cooling or just stock clocks.

That's not exciting at all, you want to see big overclocks or fancy heatsinks on your graphics cards so we waited and waited until a press release was sent out from Sapphire mentioning the release of the new HD 3850 Ultimate.

We like the word Ultimate, it sounds powerful so we were intrigued and thought it was time to get something new and exciting from Sapphire.

With card in hand it was time to see what exactly what the new Ultimate HD 3850 is capable of, so let's move on.

The Package




The front of Sapphire boxes haven't changed much recently with a more square shape and a pretty plain but informative front. We can see we have a woman on the front of the box holding a sword, and then of course we have the normal line-up of information.



The top left corner shows the brand while the very top shows the model along with mention of the world Ultimate. We then have some of the main features like 512MB GDDR3, HDMI, HD Audio, PCI-E 2.0 along with the inclusion of some of the goodies like 3DMark06, PowerDVD and The Black Box from Valve.

Also included on the front are our standard logos like Windows Vista certified, ATI Radeon and of course mention of support for Crossfire.



Turning the box over and we have a bit of a blurb on the card with some more logos, awards and a mention of some more inclusions inside the box. We again have another image of the sexy lady we saw on the front of the box.



Moving inside the package, in the cable department we have Component Out, S-Video to RCA, DVI to VGA, DVI to HDMI, Molex to PCI Express and a single Crossfire connector.



In the CD Department we have the standard driver CD which we have become so used to along with the Cyberlink DVD Suite, Cyberlink PowerDVD v7 and a copy of 3DMark06. We also have a funky little sticker so you can show your video card brand off with pride.



Paperwork wise we have the Manual along with a "The Black Box" code if you're interested in games like Portal, Team Fortress 2 or Half Life 2: Episode 2.

The bundle in the package is absolutely fantastic. It's time to move on to see if the card can impress as much as the goodies inside here.

The Card




Moving onto the card itself, the front looks a bit weird with a large plate covering most of the front and three little pipes heading out the top and going around the back. To the right of the card you can also see a heatsink covering some of the hotter components on the card.



You can see the heat pipes head out from where the core is and split off into a giant area on the back of the card.



Follow those heat pipes and you ultimately end up looking at what is essentially a giant heatsink that helps dissipate the heat the core generates.



The cooler generally feels of pretty good quality and is one of the better heatsink-only jobs we have seen in a while.





If you do the normal run around the card it's a pretty standard HD 3850 setup, we have a single PCI Express power connector at the back of the card while across the top we have the Crossfire connectors if you feel like running two of the cards.

The I/O department also carries the standard two Dual Link DVI connectors and TV-Out port that we see on most high-end cards these days.

As for the specifications of the card, while Ultimate might be in the name it really only refers to the huge heatsink that we have on the card since it carries the default clocks of 668MHz on the core and 1656MHz DDR on the 512MB of GDDR3 memory.

While the card is of course capable of PCI Express 2.0 it has full backwards compatibility with the PCI Express x16 slots on other motherboards outside the X38 and X48.

Test System Setup and 3DMark05


Test System Setup

Processor(s): Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 @ 3GHz (333MHz x 9)
Cooling: Corsair Nautilus500 (Supplied by Corsair) with Arctic Cooling MX-2 Thermal Compound (Supplied by Arctic Cooling)
Motherboard(s): ASUS Blitz Extreme (Supplied by ASUS)
Memory: 2 X 1GB Corsair XMS3 DDR-3 1066MHz 7-7-7-21 (Supplied by Corsair)
Hard Disk(s): Hitachi 80GB 7200RPM SATA-2
Operating System: Windows XP Professional SP2, Windows Vista
Drivers: Catalyst 7.11, Forceware 169.06 (8800GTS 512MB)

Since this is the first stock clocked HD 3850 we have been greeted with we thought we would check it out against the overclocked HD 3850 from GECUBE along with the stock clocked 8800GT for good measure.

Using the standard line-up of synthetic and real world benchmarks we will venture across both Windows XP and Windows Vista to see what exactly the card can do for us here today.


3DMark05

Version and / or Patch Used: Build 130
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark05/
Buy It Here




3DMark05 is now the second latest version in the popular 3DMark "Gamers Benchmark" series. It includes a complete set of DX9 benchmarks which tests Shader Model 2.0 and above.

For more information on the 3DMark05 benchmark, we recommend you read our preview here.




Straight away we can see the stock clocked card effects are only seen at the higher resolution. Lower resolution performance is pretty on par with the overclocked GECUBE offering.

Benchmarks - 3DMark06


3DMark06

Version and / or Patch Used: Build 110
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark06/
Buy It Here




3DMark06 is the very latest version of the "Gamers Benchmark" from FutureMark. The newest version of 3DMark expands on the tests in 3DMark05 by adding graphical effects using Shader Model 3.0 and HDR (High Dynamic Range lighting) which will push even the best DX9 graphics cards to the extremes.

3DMark06 also focuses on not just the GPU but the CPU using the AGEIA PhysX software physics library to effectively test single and Dual Core processors.




Moving to the more intensive 3DMark06 we can see the stock clock offering is of course slower, but not by all that much.

Benchmarks - Half Life 2 (Episode One HDR)


Half Life 2 (Episode One HDR)

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest from Steam
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom Timedemo
Developer Homepage: http://www.valvesoftware.com
Product Homepage: http://www.half-life2.com
Buy It Here




By taking the suspense, challenge and visceral charge of the original, and adding startling new realism, responsiveness and new HDR technology, Half-Life 2 Episode One opens the door to a world where the player's presence affects everything around him, from the physical environment to the behaviors even the emotions of both friends and enemies.

We benchmark Half Life 2 Episode One with our own custom timedemos as to avoid possible driver optimizations using the "record demo_name" command and loading the timedemo with the "timedemo demo_name" command - For a full list of the commands, click here.




We continue to see that the overclocked offering is faster, but not significantly. Considering you have a completely silent card here the performance is pretty much up there.

Benchmarks - Prey


Prey

Version and / or Patch Used: Unpatched
Timedemo or Level Used: HardwareOC Custom Benchmark
Developer Homepage: http://www.humanhead.com
Product Homepage: http://www.prey.com
Buy It Here




Prey is one of the newest games to be added to our benchmark line-up. It is based off the Doom 3 engine and offers stunning graphics passing what we've seen in Quake 4 and does put quite a lot of strain on our test systems.




We can see at the highest resolution that the overclocked HD 3850 has quite a gain, but with an average of over 90FPS you're not going to have any dramas playing Prey at 1920 x 1200 on the Ultimate HD 3850 from Sapphire.

Benchmarks - F.E.A.R.


F.E.A.R.

Version and / or Patch Used: Unpatched
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.vugames.com
Product Homepage: http://www.whatisfear.com/us/
Buy It Here




F.E.A.R. (First Encounter Assault Recon) is an intense combat experience with rich atmosphere and a deeply intense paranormal storyline presented entirely in first person. Be the hero in your own spine-tingling epic of action, tension, and terror...and discover the true meaning of F.E.A.R.





We continue to see good numbers with the Ultimate offering almost a 60 FPS minimum at the higher 1600 x 1200 resolution.

Benchmarks - Company of Heroes


Company of Heroes

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.7
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.relic.com
Product Homepage: http://www.companyofheroesgame.com
Buy It Here




Company of Heroes, or COH as we're calling it, is one of the latest World War II games to be released and also one of the newest in our lineup of benchmarks. It is a super realistic real-time strategy (RTS) with plenty of cinematic detail and great effects. Because of its detail, it will help stress out even the most impressive computer systems with the best graphics cards - especially when you turn up all the detail. We use the built-in test to measure the frame rates.






We can see the overclocked offering gives us a big jump here at the higher resolutions, and it's the difference between playable and not playable at these settings when running 1920 x 1200. Jumping into the options though and you can drop the detail a bit so as to achieve a smoother experience at 1920 x 1200.

Benchmarks - World in Conflict


World in Conflict (DX9)

Version and / or Patch Used: Demo
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.massive.se
Product Homepage: http://www.worldinconflict.com




World in Conflict is a real-time strategy video game by Massive Entertainment and to be published by Sierra Entertainment for Windows (DX9 and DX10) and the Xbox 360.

The game is set in 1989 where economic troubles cripple the Soviet Union and threaten to dissolve it. However, the title pursues a "what if" scenario where, in this case, the Soviet Union does not collapse and instead pursues a course of war to remain in power. It is an intensive new game is sure to put plenty of stress on even the latest graphics cards and we use the built-in benchmarking for our testing.





WIC doesn't get affected as much by the overclock, but you would want to lower the settings a bit more to get smooth gameplay at 1920 x 1200.

High Quality AA and AF




Our high quality tests let us separate the men from the boys and the ladies from the girls. If the cards weren't struggling before they will start to now.


3DMark06



We can see turning on AA and AF brings both cards to their knees and gives us very little between the two.


Half Life 2 (Episode One HDR)



We get a similar picture here with only a few FPS separating the two cards and the 8800GT performing almost twice the speed.


Prey



Lastly we see Prey continue with the same pattern we saw above.

Benchmarks - 3DMark06 - Vista


3DMark06

Version and / or Patch Used: Build 110
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark06/
Buy It Here




3DMark06 is the very latest version of the "Gamers Benchmark" from FutureMark. The newest version of 3DMark expands on the tests in 3DMark05 by adding graphical effects using Shader Model 3.0 and HDR (High Dynamic Range lighting) which will push even the best DX9 graphics cards to the extremes.

3DMark06 also focuses on not just the GPU but the CPU using the AGEIA PhysX software physics library to effectively test single and Dual Core processors.




We continue to see that 3DMark06 doesn't see big gains for the overclocked 3850.

Benchmarks - Call of Juarez (DX10) - Vista


Call of Juarez (DX10)

Version and / or Patch Used: DX10 Benchmark Demo
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.techland.pl/en/
Product Homepage: http://www.coj-game.com

Buy It Here



Call of Juarez is a Western-themed FPS from Techland. The North America release was one of the first games to utilize DX10.

Call of Juarez is loosely based on a number of Western movie hits from the last four decades, particularly the Spaghetti Westerns that became popular in the sixties and early seventies. The game features two different characters: Billy "Candle", a young fugitive accused of murder and the Reverend Ray, an ex-outlaw who turned to religion, believing that God himself has chosen Ray to be the instrument of His wrath.





COJ sees slight gains with the overclocked offering, but nothing major. It comes as no surprise that all cards are running pretty poorly in the game.

Benchmarks - Lost Planet (DX10) - Vista


Lost Planet: Extreme Condition

Version and / or Patch Used: Demo
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.capcom.com
Product Homepage: http://www.nzone.com/object/nzone_lostplanet_home.html




Driven to the brink of extinction on ice-covered wastelands, humankind fights to survive. From extreme conditions and insurgent Snow Pirates to hostile gargantuan alien Akrid, all that you can trust are your instincts.

Combining a gripping single player campaign and intense multiplayer modes with support for up to 16 players online, Lost Planet is an epic gaming masterpiece. Enormous world maps unfold as players' battle across vast snow fields and deserted cities either on foot or in armed, robotic Vital Suits.



We saw that Lost Planet benefited NVIDIA cards when overclocked, and we can see here we get some good gains from the AMD offerings when overclocked.

Benchmarks - Company of Heroes (DX10) - Vista


Company of Heroes

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.7
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.relic.com
Product Homepage: http://www.companyofheroesgame.com
Buy It Here




Company of Heroes, or COH as we're calling it, is one of the latest World War II games to be released and also one of the newest in our lineup of benchmarks. It is a super realistic real-time strategy (RTS) with plenty of cinematic detail and great effects. Because of its detail, it will help stress out even the most impressive computer systems with the best graphics cards - especially when you turn up all the detail. We use the built-in test to measure the frame rates.




We leave our benchmarks with COH pretty much showing no improvements for the overclocked offering and the Sapphire Ultimate HD 3850 holding its own very well.

Temperature and Sound Tests


Temperature Tests



With the TES 1326 Infrared Thermometer literally in hand we found ourselves getting real-world temperatures from the products we test at load (3D clock speeds).

There are two places we pull temperature from - the back of the card directly behind the core and if the card is dual slot and has an exhaust point we also pull a temperate from there, as seen in the picture.




It comes as no surprise that the HD 3850 Ultimate from Sapphire is very toasty considering it doesn't have a fan on it.

Power Consumption Tests






Using our new PROVA Power Analyzer WM-01 or "Power Thingy" as it has become quickly known as to our readers, we are now able to find out what kind of power is being used by our test system and the associated graphics cards installed. Keep in mind; it tests the complete system (minus LCD monitor, which is plugged directly into AC wall socket).

There are a few important notes to remember though; while our maximum power is taken in 3DMark06 at the same exact point, we have seen in particular tests the power being drawn as much as 10% more. We test at the exact same stage every time; therefore tests should be very consistent and accurate.

The other thing to remember is that our test system is bare minimum - only a 7,200RPM SATA-II single hard drive is used without CD ROM or many cooling fans.

So while the system might draw 400 watts in our test system, placing it into your own PC with a number of other items, the draw is going to be higher.




The Sapphire HD 3850 runs slightly less power, probably more so due to the fact that it hasn't got a fan going.

Final Thoughts




Sapphire has done a good job with the HD 3850 and it clearly is deserving of the Ultimate name that it carries. The overclocked offering does give it a boost in performance at some stages, and not so much at others. There's no doubt that there are a number of people who would prefer to have a completely silent card and sacrifice a few FPS over having something with a fan.

The HD 3850 isn't a bad card as it stands; when you throw Sapphire's version into the mix it becomes a little bit better. There's no doubt that it's one of the faster silent cards around, and for people who don't want the noise there really isn't many more options.

Clearly the card gets a bit toasty, but you have to remember that we run it in an open environment without any form of fans or airflow blowing directly over the components so this does tend to heat it up a bit more.

It will be interesting to see if Sapphire are able to do something with the more powerful HD 3870 in the new year, but for now if you're looking for an excellent performing graphics card with a silent cooling solution it's definitely worth checking out the Ultimate offering from Sapphire.

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Shawn takes care of all of our video card reviews. From 2009, Shawn is also taking care of our memory reviews, and from May 2011, Shawn also takes care of our CPU, chipset and motherboard reviews. As of December 2011, Shawn is based out of Taipei, Taiwan.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.
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