WooHoo! I've never started like that before, but I'm legitimately excited about this review and having the ability to write about it. I, like a lot of people out there had hoped that the HD 4850 was going to be a great card for AMD; competition is good and the last thing we want is for AMD to wither away and NVIDIA to become supreme ruler.I actually tested the HD 4850 before I finished writing my review on the GTX 280, which turned out to be good news for AMD but bad news for NVIDIA. It completely changed my opinion on the GTX 280 before I had even finished writing. The thing is, the GTX 280 is a good card in the sense of what it's capable of. Such technology as CUDA and PhysX are great inclusions. But I'm a gamer; I want FPS! - I can't sum it up better than that, and the GTX 280 really didn't deliver in that department.I wrote in my editorial the other day that the HD 4850 in Crossfire wasn't going to bring me fully back into the world of PC gaming, but I think the HD 4870 has the ability to do this. While the performance on the HD 4850 is excellent in Crossfire, it's not loads faster than the GTX 280. That's fine; we didn't expect it to be faster at all simply because of the price. The thing is though, it is, and this is awesome news for people who want what could probably be the absolute best value for money setup we've ever seen - Yes, ever! I said it. However, people with deep pockets will of course prefer to hold out for the HD 4870 due in the first week of July.The HD 4850 in Crossfire is going to really bring BIG performance to the everyman and women at an excellent price. You can't really ask for much more from a graphics card. FPS talks; there isn't much else to it. Gamers want big numbers for as little money as possible.
It's been a while since I wrote an intro this big, and it's because like I said, I'm legitimately excited about this product. We've got a pair of Sapphire cards here with us today; so before we get into the benchmarks, let's just have a look at the package and the card itself.
The PackageThe Package
The Sapphire box hasn't really changed much from past generations of cards. The top left corner of the box has the Sapphire logo and to the right of that we have a few logos which include Crossfire X and Windows Vista certification. We also have to the right that the card is a Version 2.0 PCI Express one. Of course you don't actually need a PCI-E 2.0 board, you just simply need a PCI Express x16 board which is pretty much every motherboard with PCI Express.
Across the bottom of the box we have the model and above that we have some of the main features. We then have mention of the Ruby ROM and Sapphire including a 2GB pen drive in the package. We also see that the card has 512MB of GDDR3 and a copy of 3DMark06. In the middle of it all we have a tag line that says "Prepare to Dominate...." We intend to!
Turning the box over, we have a bit of a blurb and below that there is mention of what's in the box. To the left we have a list of features the card offers and across the bottom we have a number of awards (which don't include TweakTown, uh hum Sapphire!) and the model along with some of the main features again.
Along with the standard manual, we have a lineup of CDs which include drivers, PowerDVD, 3DMark06 and a few other applications that you may or may not find useful.
With the paperwork out the way, it's time to move onto the cables. There's nothing too out of the ordinary with a DVI to VGA connector, component-out dongle and a Crossfire Connector.
While the package was looking a little boring, what's cool is that Sapphire has included a 2GB pen drive in the package. This is cool as it's something that a lot of people can use as opposed to a game they're not interested in or some software that's not needed.
The CardThe Card
With the package out of the way, it's time to move onto the card. At first glance it doesn't look like anything too out of the ordinary; it really resembles a HD 3850 with a cooler that manages to take up the majority of the card.
Towards the rear of the card we have a copper heatsink that also covers some of the more important parts on the PCB. Behind the red we can see the heatsink lay-out. As you can see, we do have a smaller fan which isn't always a good thing as they tend to push out more noise than larger ones.
Taking a look around the card, it doesn't have anything that really stands out and carries the same features of ATIs last generation high-end cards. We have a single 6-Pin PCI Express connector at the back of the card while we find two Crossfire connectors across the top which we're happily making use of today.
Finishing up the tour of the HD 4850, we find ourselves staring at two Dual Link DVI connectors and a single TV-Out port. The card is also of course a single slot offering which is good news for people who are tight for space.Specifications
Compared to the HD 3870, we're up from 666 Million transistors to 965 Million. The manufacturing process remains the same at 55nm; stream processors are of course WAY UP from 320 to 800 now.Texture units are also up a huge amount from 16 to 40. Render Back Ends remain the same at 17 and the HD 4850 core speed is lower at 625MHz Vs. 775MHz. The 512MB of GDDR3 comes in at 2000MHz DDR which is quite a healthy clock for what should be a mid-range card. Even though the HD 4850 uses GDDR3 over GDDR4, the memory data rate is only .25Gbps down at 2Gbps. The only real problem we see with the HD 4850 is the aging 256-bit bus. With NVIDIA moving to 512-bit, it would have been nice to see AMD do the same thing. With all that said, let's see what's going on in the real world, because specs never tell us everything.
Test System Setup and 3DMark06Test System SetupProcessor(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
GIGABYTE X48-DQ6 (Supplied by GIGABYTE
2 X 1GB Kingston PC6400 DDR-2 3-3-3-10 (KHX6400D2ULK2/2G) (Supplied by Kingston
Seagate 250GB 7200RPM SATA-2 7200.10 (Supplied by Seagate
Windows XP Professional SP2, Windows Vista SP1Drivers:
Forceware 175.16 (9 Series) 177.34 (GTX 280) Catalyst 6.5With a whole heap of other graphics cards along with our two HD 4850s, we're going to see what exactly we have on our hands today.3DMark06Version and / or Patch Used:
Build 110Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.comProduct 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.
Straight away we can see the $500ish AUD HD 4850 combo beat out the competition. The single card, while sitting at the back carries a very small price tag, yet it sits not all that far behind the heavily overclocked 9800 GTX OCX from BFG.
Benchmarks - 3DMark Vantage3DMark VantageVersion and / or Patch Used:
1.0.1Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.comProduct Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmarkvantage/Buy It Here
3DMark Vantage is the new industry standard PC gaming performance benchmark from Futuremark, newly designed for Windows Vista and DirectX10. It includes two new graphics tests, two new CPU tests, several new feature tests, and support for the latest hardware. 3DMark Vantage is based on a completely new rendering engine, developed specifically to take full advantage of DirectX10, the new graphics API from Microsoft.
As we start to apply some pressure to the cards we can see in our P test the GTX 280 and the CF configuration scoring extremely close to each other. As we climb to X, the GTX 280 does sneak out ahead, but the single HD 4850 performs very well and beats out the 9800 GTX OCX. It also scores quite close to the Dual GPU HD 3870 X2.
Benchmarks - PT Boats: Knights of the SeaPT Boats: Knights of the SeaVersion and / or Patch Used:
Benchmark DemoDeveloper Homepage: http://en.akella.com/Product Homepage: http://www.pt-boats.net/
PT Boats: Knights of the Sea is a naval action simulator that places gamers in charge of a mosquito fleet of the Allied Forces, Russia or Germany during the height of World War II.Using the latest Direct X 10 technology PT Boards - Knights of the Sea manages to apply a lot of stress to the components of today which in turn gives us quite an intensive benchmark.
As you can see, we don't get any gains here with Crossfire, but the single card performance looks good at resolutions of up to 1920 x 1200 and only trails behind cards considerably more expensive than it.
Benchmarks - CINEBENCH R10CINEBENCH R10Version and / or Patch Used:
Release 10Developer Homepage: http://www.maxon.net/Product Homepage: http://www.maxon.net
CINEBENCH is a real-world test suite that assesses your computer's performace capabilities. MAXON CINEBENCH is based on MAXON's award-winning animation software, CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. MAXON software has been used in blockbuster movies such as Spider-Man, Star Wars, The Chronicles of Narnia and many more.MAXON CINEBENCH runs several tests on your computer to measure the performance of the main processor and the graphics card under real world circumstances. The benchmark application makes use of up to 16 CPUs or CPU cores and is available for Windows (32-bit and 64-Bit) and Macintosh (PPC and Intel-based).
While Crossfire doesn't get any benefits, the HD 4850 by itself is the second fastest card only to the GTX 280 at almost 3x its price.
Benchmarks - World in ConflictWorld in ConflictVersion and / or Patch Used:
184.108.40.206Timedemo or Level Used:
Built-in TestDeveloper 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.
What we find is that WIC gains are only really seen at the highest of resolutions. This puts both setups quite similar to each other here, but performance is ahead of the Dual GPU HD 3870 X2 and not all that far behind the more expensive 9800 GTX OCX.
Benchmarks - CrysisCrysisVersion and / or Patch Used:
1.1Timedemo or Level Used:
Custom time demoDeveloper Homepage: http://www.crytek.com/ Product Homepage: http://www.ea.com/crysis/Buy It Here
From the makers of Far Cry, Crysis offers FPS fans the best-looking, most highly-evolving gameplay, requiring the player to use adaptive tactics and total customization of weapons and armor to survive in dynamic, hostile environments including Zero-G.Real time editing, bump mapping, dynamic lights, network system, integrated physics system, shaders, shadows and a dynamic music system are just some of the state of-the-art features the CryENGINE 2 offers. The CryENGINE 2 comes complete with all of its internal tools and also includes the CryENGINE 2 Sandbox world editing system.
We continue to see the cards perform very well with the HD 4850 outperforming the HD 3870. The single card sits just behind the BFG 9800 GTX OCX. Unfortunately Crossfire doesn't see much of a performance increase here, meaning that the GTX 280 does have a bit of a lead on it.
Benchmarks - Unreal Tournament 3Unreal Tournament 3Version and / or Patch Used:
1.1Timedemo or Level Used: Developer Homepage: http://www.epicgames.com/ Product Homepage: http://www.unrealtournament3.com/Buy It Here
Following the formulae that made Unreal Tournament so great the third installment to the series has hit us recently with better than ever graphics. The games uses the latest Unreal Engine which like most modern day games when maxed out puts the pressure on our lineup of graphics cards.
We see good gains with the Crossfire setup and the HD 4850s ending up with the highest score at 2560 x 1600. The single card setup sits around the 9800 GTX/HD 3870 X2 territory, continuing to offer excellent value.
Benchmarks - High Quality AA and AFHigh 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
Turning AA and AF on, we see the ATI cards continue to fly along. The Crossfire configuration comes out ahead while the single card again doesn't sit all that far behind the 9800 GTX OCX.World In Conflict
WIC AA performance, while very good, it's not unlke the GTX 280 in that it still doesn't offer playable results. Under this intense load though, we see just how well the cards fair.
Temperature and Sound TestsTemperature 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.
There is no denying the card runs very warm, and we don't doubt for a second companies will be offering dual slot cooling solutions sooner rather than later which should drop the temps considerably.Sound Tests
Pulling out the TES 1350A Sound Level Meter we find ourselves quickly yelling into the top of it to see how loud we can be.After five minutes of that we get a bit more serious and place the device two CM away from the fan on the card to find the maximum noise level of the card when idle (2D mode) and in load (3D mode).
Pulling out the trusty sound meter, we see noise levels that are pretty standard sitting around the mid 60dB range.
Power Consumption TestsPower 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.
Power draw on the single card solution is the lowest while the CF setup does put us above the GTX 280 in both load and idle. Really though, it's not too bad but we don't doubt the HD 4870 will be quite power hungry.
Final ThoughtsFinal Thoughts
I absolutely love this card and the performance it offers. Considering stock is already available and the price is nothing short of fantastic, there isn't a whole lot not to get excited about. Sure, it's not a GTX 280 killer at all points, or even a 9800 GTX killer all the time for that matter, but the ultimate fact is that at launch these cards are going to be around the $250 AUD mark.It's also nice to see that Sapphire has thought outside the box, for inside the box there is the addition of a 2GB pen drive; something that is always handy to have. They seem to be one of those devices that you keep meaning to get, but just never get around to it. Plus if you end up going Crossfire, you can end up with two which is certainly more helpful than two copies of the same game.If the HD 4850 is anything to go by, the HD 4870 should also be a real winner for people with deeper pockets. The other thing is the fact that Intel support Crossfire, and this is AMDs biggest strength. You have to think if the X48 chipset was an SLI motherboard, what would our thoughts be on the card? - Fortunately, it's not so we don't have to worry about that and I can continue to have my borderline scary love for the new ATI model.There are a few other things that are worth noting in this review as well; the GTX 280 from ZOTAC was overclocked along with the BFG 9800 GTX OCX, making the HD 4850s again look even more attractive.I suppose all we have to do now is wait for all the ATI partners who have been doing nothing but sitting on their hands to release some cool models over the coming weeks or months. No doubt Sapphire are hard at work on an Atomic or Ultimate model while ASUS are doing a TOP, HIS doing something OC'ed with an IceQ cooler and more.