Core Clock: 675MHz Memory Clock: 2,200MHz (effective) Warranty: Two years (parts and labour)
With the release of the Radeon HD 4870 X2 last week we’ve seen the last major graphics release of the summer, with both Nvidia and AMD/ATI having laid all their cards on the table, for now at least. But while the GeForce GTX 280 and Radeon HD 4870 X2 slug it out at the top end for the title of world’s fastest graphics card, it’s easy to forget the phenomenal performance and value offered by cards further down our benchmark graphs and the Radeon HD 4850 is no doubt the best example of this.
Back in our giant summer graphics overview the Radeon HD 4850 proved itself a real winner, managing to best the GeForce GTX 260, a card twice its price (at the time of writing), in a few tests and resoundingly crushing its price point competitor the GeForce 9800 GTX. Needless to say it also offered significant performance advantages over the previous pounds per pixels champion, the GeForce 8800 GT.
In fact, the excellent combination of value and performance offered by Radeon HD 4850 series has meant their price hasn’t really budged in the seven weeks since launch - you’ll still struggle to find a stock card for less than £100, whilst the competing Nvidia models haven’t so much had a price cut since launch, as a price amputation.
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The Radeon HD 4850 we’re looking at today comes from one of AMD/ATI’s longest standing board partners, and the single largest supplier of ATI based graphics cards in the world, Sapphire. As well as being AMD/ATI's principal card shifter, Sapphire also offers a variety of products under its TOXIC, ATOMIC and Ultimate brands, and it's the overclocked and custom cooled Radeon HD 4850 TOXIC we'll be looking at today.
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In this instance, Sapphire has taken an otherwise stock HD 4580 and replaced the notoriously poor stock cooler, which we found runs the card idle at around 85°C, with a Zalman VF900 dual heatpipe GPU cooler. As well as the copper core cooler Sapphire have also included funky blue ram-sinks for the memory modules and PWMs, although it’s a little bit of a disappointment to just have the fan cable trailing untidily across the PCB. In this case it's blue rather than the stock red, although it still bears the outline of the stock cooler fitting!
With the addition of the custom cooler, Sapphire have also been able to include a healthy pre-overclock of 50MHz (eight percent) to the core and 107MHz (eleven percent) to the memory, which should hopefully translate nicely into an in game performance increase. However, other than the shiny new cooler and overclocks, this is still the standard HD 4850 architecture with the same 800 stream processors, 512MB of GDDR3 and 256-bit memory interface and as almost every other HD 4850 on the market right now.
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Bundle wise, Sapphire always include a ton of extra bits and pieces with their cards, and the HD 4850 TOXIC is no exception. Included you get full versions of 3DMark Vantage, Cyberlink PowerDVD v7 and Cyberlink DVD Suite v5, as well as AMD/ATI’s Ruby Rom 1.1 which includes demo versions of Call of Juarez, Dungeon runners and Stranglehold. Then there’s also the included DVI to HMDI and DVI to VGA adapters, 4 pin molex to 6 pin PCI-E power adapter , an S-video to composite adapter, a 7-pin component break-out cable and of course the mandatory driver disk and user manual.
This is a pretty well featured bundle on the face of things, and certainly more than the bare minimum you’ll get from some other partners, although everything on the Ruby Rom can easily be found on-line and DVD playback is now included in Windows Vista, although PowerDVD will take advantage of the UVD hardware acceleration on the HD 4850. The inclusion of a DV to HDMI adapter is a bonus, although in some ways to be expected considering the HD 48xx series come with an internal audio engine for just this purpose.
Warranty & Support
The Sapphire Radeon HD 4850 comes complete with a two-year warranty that includes cover for parts and labour. During the first year of the product’s life, your point of contact should be the retailer. However, if you’re having problems getting hold of the retailer (or the retailer goes out of business), you should contact Sapphire’s support team directly. During the second year of the warranty period, you should talk directly with Sapphire.
This warranty is nothing special, but to be fair to Sapphire it’s in line with what most other AMD partners offer and the warranty period is consistent in every corner of the world.