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Sapphire ATI Radeon HD 4850 X2 2GB

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alecamused 23rd January 2009, 10:37 Quote
as usual great article ... with a tiny "but": single and crossfire 4850 card added to the benchmarks would have been great to compare the value of the card (you know, for a quick view in one window;) )
wolfticket 23rd January 2009, 10:43 Quote
Mmmmm... quad dvi outputs and decent gaming performance on one card is almost worth the price of admission in itself.

On a more pedantic note, "it will make your system cry, quite literally" irked me a little, but then I am a pedant :-)
remixme 23rd January 2009, 10:48 Quote
"Frankly, the Sapphire Radeon HD 4850 X2 is too loud for a modern gaming system, driver support isn’t where we’d like it and the GeForce GTX 285 is too expensive."

I might still be blurry eyed this morning, but I don't understand the reference to the Geforce in this sentence?
Tim S 23rd January 2009, 11:04 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by remixme
"Frankly, the Sapphire Radeon HD 4850 X2 is too loud for a modern gaming system, driver support isn’t where we’d like it and the GeForce GTX 285 is too expensive."

I might still be blurry eyed this morning, but I don't understand the reference to the Geforce in this sentence?

No worries, the GeForce is the main competition for the 4850 X2 and it's about £30-40 too expensive IMO. It was more of a general comment about the state of this market segment - the 4850 X2 has flaws (including being far too loud) and the GTX 285 is priced out of contention if you can live with the racket it makes. :)
Goty 23rd January 2009, 11:40 Quote
I don't think the missing driver support for the 4850X2 is a problem with AMD's driver release schedule, I think it's more a case of limited availability and market adoption, making bug fixes and performance improvements for the cards that are made by more than just one manufacturer (even if it is Sapphire) much more important in the overall scheme.
Phil Rhodes 23rd January 2009, 11:51 Quote
See, I might have looked for something like this, because I just sort-of-enjoyed a rather unsatisfactory play-through of Far Cry 2 on a system that wasn't quite up to it.

Unfortunately I remain confused, and at sea in a world of acronyms and abbreviations, most of which sound like the model number of a Camaro. Can we please have a rundown article on the general state of graphics cards, with a list of current model numbers and what they all mean?

Wot wun iz best?
Mentai 23rd January 2009, 12:39 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phil Rhodes
See, I might have looked for something like this, because I just sort-of-enjoyed a rather unsatisfactory play-through of Far Cry 2 on a system that wasn't quite up to it.

Unfortunately I remain confused, and at sea in a world of acronyms and abbreviations, most of which sound like the model number of a Camaro. Can we please have a rundown article on the general state of graphics cards, with a list of current model numbers and what they all mean?

Wot wun iz best?

Bit-tech does a "what hardware should I buy" once a month, here's January's:
http://www.bit-tech.net/hardware/2009/01/05/what-hardware-should-i-buy-jan-2009/1
Phil Rhodes 23rd January 2009, 13:06 Quote
Yeah, that's fine, but I want to actually understand what all the numbers mean so I can make an informed decision.

The graphics card manufacturers appear to be deliberately obscuring the performance of their products behind a dense layer of largely fabricated jargon which has no technical meaning.
Goty 23rd January 2009, 13:09 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phil Rhodes
Yeah, that's fine, but I want to actually understand what all the numbers mean so I can make an informed decision.

The graphics card manufacturers appear to be deliberately obscuring the performance of their products behind a dense layer of largely fabricated jargon which has no technical meaning.

... which is why people like the fine folks here at Bit-Tech do benchmarks for you!
warriorpoet 23rd January 2009, 13:33 Quote
I think the answer is fairly simple at this point: GTX 280 for less than $300 after rebates. Sure it performs a bit less in scenarios favoring the x2, but it's single card, has better driver support, is quieter by far, burns less power and is a folding monster. Shame they're gone when stock runs out...
tejas 23rd January 2009, 14:42 Quote
This is the second article that Tim has brought up the shoddy AMD drivers. Like Tim and Derek Wilson from Anandtech, I fail to understand how AMD/ATI can boast about their X2 cards when their drivers have a 2 month lead time to get profiles for new games. I have experienced this with my awful 3870X2 quadfire and 4870CF setup. Both were sold for an SLI GTX285 setup working beautifully!

Call the GTX295 what you will, it has far superior driver support. End of story.

Excellent article btw and thank you Tim :)
Goty 23rd January 2009, 15:14 Quote
NVIDIA doesn't update its drivers to support new games any faster than ATI does, they just release fewer drivers. The fact that NVIDIA doesn't have to worry about profiles for every game is a testament to the design of SLI, not the drivers themselves.

In my personal experience, I have FAR fewer issues with ATI drivers than with those from NVIDIA.
lp1988 23rd January 2009, 15:19 Quote
just too bad with the noise, a diffrent cooler and some better driver support, and this would have forced Nvidia to lower prices once again, giving even more competition on the market.

Is it possible to see a bench for a 4850 (512) in crossfire? currently running one and would like to see how two of these compare to the competition as i am considering a upgrade with another 4850.

A 4850X2 (2 GB) gives a general idea, however it would be nice to see a dedicated bench.
Lepermessiah 23rd January 2009, 16:08 Quote
when will ATI get its act together regarding drivers? They can make or break a cad or any product if it is not properly supported.
Tim S 23rd January 2009, 16:15 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by lp1988
just too bad with the noise, a diffrent cooler and some better driver support, and this would have forced Nvidia to lower prices once again, giving even more competition on the market.

Is it possible to see a bench for a 4850 (512) in crossfire? currently running one and would like to see how two of these compare to the competition as i am considering a upgrade with another 4850.

A 4850X2 (2 GB) gives a general idea, however it would be nice to see a dedicated bench.

I've got CrossFired 4850 512s running right now. I'll also run a single card.
HourBeforeDawn 23rd January 2009, 20:21 Quote
What drivers are you using for the Crossfire? When you tested the two 4870 1gb in crossfire? Just curious as from 8.10-8.12 there is a lot of issues with crossfire.
Tim S 23rd January 2009, 20:37 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnny Utah
I must say I`M DISSAPOINTED by this review because you`ve done it just a few days before the new driver release from ATI with official support for these video cards (Catalyst 9.1) ! Couldn`t you waited a little longer ?

Really unprofessional from my point of view !
And the release would barely change anything - we had already waited nearly 3 months for official support while the product has gathered dust on etailers' shelves. Do you, as a consumer, want to wait 3 months for a product you bought (for nearly £300, no less) to be supported properly? We could have reviewed it any point between November and now and said the same.
Tim S 24th January 2009, 09:20 Quote
The 8.12 mult-core CPU hotfix will not be rolled into 9.1. It might make it into 9.2... that's the way the driver schedule works, sadly. 9.1 might nulify my point, but then in another way it doesn't because there is still the fact that it's taken three months to get that support. Perfect storm or not, it wouldn't happen with a less rigid and limiting release schedule.

Nvidia launched the GTX 295 and 285 right after the holiday season and it has managed to provide customers with WHQL certified drivers for those products. Why can't ATI do the same? They've had a few months to get their act together...

The reason to avoid the segment altogether is not because the GTX 285 is too expensive, it's because the best choice - i.e. the 4850 X2 - sounds like a jet engine and I wouldn't put it anywhere near my machine. There are no custom cooling options available for the 4850 X2 because it's not at all similar to the 4870 X2's PCB layout. In the end you're left with an incredibly noisy card - the loudest I've tested in the last 12 months at the very least - and that's enough to turn most people off.

If you can put up with the noise, great, go for it... it's a better option than the GTX 285, but I'm still not convinced with the driver support because come next year when major game releases start dropping without driver support for a couple of months, I'm sure there'll be a few frustrated customers around. A strategy that's led by multi-GPU at the high end needs a flexible driver schedule so that drivers can be dropped in the run up to (or days after) any major game release to ensure you can play it at the settings you deserve, not at half speed. As a gamer and enthusiast, I want to play games the day they come out, not a month or so later because I've had to wait for drivers to get my card working properly.
Tim S 24th January 2009, 10:33 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by desides
This is a pretty hyperbolic statement for a reviewer to make, IMO. Let's be fair here: the noise levels on the card aren't so terrible as to interfere during gaming. Yes, it's loud at idle, and the card should rightfully be panned for that, but I think the noise factor is being overstated.
No, it's not being over stated. A card that is loud at idle is a noisy graphics card - there is no way around that unless one is trying to justify a purchase. :)

If you can put up with noise, that's great, but I'm fairly tolerant (my PC is the noisiest in my household and I share a house with two likeminded enthusiasts) and this card was intolerable. Want to watch a dramatic movie on your PC, you've got a wonderful whirring sound in the background. The fact is, the majority of all PC uptime is with your graphics card idling. Unless you fold, of course.

Take an average week where you play games for 2 hours per day, but spend around 9 hours using their PC each day (these aren't figures plucked out of thin air and are from a reader survey we conducted last year with thousands of responses, fwiw), 75 percent of the average day is idle time for the graphics card. Even if we modify this to account for only evenings and weekends (3 hours in the evenings, of which 2 hours are spent gaming, and 9 hours Saturday/Sunday), there's still 19 our of 33 hours per week where the average bit-tech reader's PC is not playing games... or 58 percent of the time.
Quote:
The rest of your points, IMO, have less to do with the card and more to do with ATi's software developers. I can't see the justification in faulting the Sapphire for something beyond their control: they provide working drivers, they've done their part. There are better ways to state your case that ATi's driver policies need an overhaul than to pan a card in a review.

AMD talks about this card a lot in all of its sales and marketing documents... how it's much greater than the GTX 285, etc, etc. That's fine, but since this is the only 4850 X2 on the market, talking about the driver issues and lack of support is very much deserved - it affects the consumer because when a driver promising improvements is dropped, it doesn't work on the card you've purchased because there's no support. It's a three month old issue and we've been waiting to see how it plays out - it's played out too long though.

In many respects, the driver situation is no fault of Sapphire's, but it is merely delivering a card to market that AMD said would be available shortly after the 4870 X2 launch. By that same rationale, you could argue that panning drivers in any partner card review is unfair - they don't develop the drivers, after all, but they are ultimately a part of the final product being delivered to market. That is why Sapphire is one of AMD's partners because there's a partnership that goes beyond AMD supplying a few GPUs and PCB designs. At the end of the day, a multi-GPU graphics card is made a sucess or failure by its drivers and so AMD is very much involved in the making or breaking of this card.
naokaji 24th January 2009, 10:53 Quote
The problem is Sapphire, I mean seriously, if they want to release a card noone else has they should make drivers for it and if they don't have the ability to do so they shoudn't release the card in the first place.

Sure, AMD drivers should support it as well, but they don't and there is no 4850x2 around other than from Sapphire.
Tim S 25th January 2009, 10:20 Quote
Quote:
Again, the Catalyst 9.1s will support the 4850 X2. You have a point about having to wait three months, and ATi--not Sapphire--should be panned for the three month wait, but likewise you're ignoring the point that the 9.1s will support the 4850 X2 and as such the review should have waited until the release of those drivers. At the very least, the review should make mention of this.

No, it shouldn't have waited... that's like saying I should wait for Santa to come before celebrating Christmas. The card has been on the market and there are public drivers available for it from Sapphire's website. That's fair game to me. And no, I'm not ignoring the point about Cat 9.1 since I've mentioned it here, mentioned it in the review and mentioned it in several other places on this website.

Again, Sapphire is an ATI partner and they have a partnership. Without ATI, this graphics card will not work. They're clearly making drivers for Sapphire, but where's the official support on game.amd.com? AMD talks about this card like it's the second prodigal son, but isn't confident enough in it to release official drivers. We'll no doubt be testing the card again for future reviews when we update drivers, so we'll be looking at the card again in our Spring Performance Update article at the very least.

Ultimately, any opinion based on fact is as valid as any other factual opinion - and with that in mind, there's no point trying to change my opinion since it is based on facts. If you don't like my opinion, that's fine, this isn't a dictatorship and that's why we have comment threads that we take time to respond to. The beauty of the internet is that no one opinion is law and there are plenty of other opinions out there - we recommend people do their research and look at several websites to gather a range of opinions. Our opinions tend to be a bit more stern than most other places and I believe that is why a lot of readers appreciate our opinion - we don't see value in stamping 9/10 recommended on every product we see, regardless of how good or bad it is.

Anyway, this is going round in circles - I think we'll have to agree to disagree in light of what I've said above in the last paragraph. I'm sure our readers appreciate another perspective from someone who is a bit more tolerable towards the fan noise in particular, but as a team working together in the office, we concluded the card was loud - it wasn't just my opinion. :)
Gremlin 25th January 2009, 16:22 Quote
on the topic of Catalyst 9.1 any idea on when they are actually going to release them?
teamtd11 25th January 2009, 16:26 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gremlin
on the topic of Catalyst 9.1 any idea on when they are actually going to release them?

Some time this month :D
Gremlin 25th January 2009, 16:36 Quote
yeah but i ment specifically dude , ive been waiting all month for them and the month is almost over already! :P

i suppose it's be safe to expect them around mid week since its the only week left hahaha
PopcornMachine 25th January 2009, 23:24 Quote
Thanks very much for the article. I find these kind of comparison reviews facinating.

What I find most interesting about it though is the fact that the 280 SLI and 4870 Crossfire almost always bettered their two core counterparts, the 295 and 4870 X2. I would have guessed the opposite.

It would have been interesting to see a 4850 Crossfire included for comparison, at the expense of even more work for you guys.

Thanks again for your efforts.
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