Sapphire HD4850X2 Review

ccokeman - 2008-10-29 19:11:28 in Video Cards
Category: Video Cards
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: November 3, 2008
Price: $350


The introduction of the HD4870x2 laid down the gauntlet in the video card wars. The 4870x2 is the fastest desktop single PCI-E slot solution on the planet. In benchmarks it really is at the top of the food chain. When you make a statement like that how do you top it? Simple, you take the little brother HD4850 and put two of them together on one PCB and wala, you have the HD4850x2. What this effectively does is creates another avenue for the end user that does not have the available expansion slots to accommodate a multi GPU solution any other way, For the enthusiast or gamer it offers a path to Crossfire X with four GPUs that unless you are running a Spider Platform system from AMD this option is unavailable unless you spend the dollars for the big dog HD4870x2s. Not anymore.

Sapphire has just let the HD4850x2 loose on the world. As well as its big brother, scales expectations are high with this offering. Featuring two RV770 GPUs at a clock speed of 625MHz and twice the amount of 1024MB of GDDR3 memory running at 993MHz through a 2x256-bit bus the card should deliver some serious numbers. After seeing the performance of the various HD4850s and the non reference solutions from several manufacturers I can't wait to see how well this card performs








Closer Look:

The front panel of the retail package for the Sapphire HD 4850X2 shows "Ruby" armed with a pair of swords. Highlights include the list of software that comes with the HD 4850X2, included are Futuremark's 3DMark Vantage, two pieces of software from CyberLink, and the Ruby ROM that includes "Games and More." Other highlights include notifications about the amount of frame buffer, 2GB of GDDR3, support for four displays and the fact that this card is Crossfire X capable. The rear panel goes into greater depth on the features and product hightlights of the Sapphire HD4850X2.



Inside the well done exterior packaging is the container that holds this beast of a card. Rather than the two pieces of open cell foam usually used is a foam shell that securely holds the video card in place. Under this foam structure is the box that contains the rather large bundle of accessories for the Sapphire HD 4870X2. It seems as of late that Sapphire is bringing a little more value to the table with the bundles it has been including. This bundle looks quite similar to the one included with the Sapphire HD 4850 Toxic



The bundle includes software from CyberLink, Futuremark, the Ruby ROM, and driver disc. Connectivity comes in the form of DVI to HDMI and DVI to D-sub adapters, an HD to RCA video out, and an HD to component dongle. A CrossFire bridge connection is included, in case you want to run two of these monsters in a CrossFireX configuration. Four GPU cores would be sick! If your power supply does not have the required 8-pin and 6-pin PCI-E power connections, have no fear - Sapphire has included adapters just in case. Although it is not the optimal solution, it will get the card up and running.




Now that everything has been carefully removed from the packaging, let's take a better look at the little brother of the HD4870X2 and see just what it is capable of.

Closer Look:

The Sapphire looks much like the non reference Asus HD3870x2 with the dual fan and heatsink combination and aluminum shroud. The Sapphire HD 4850X2 is PCI-E 2.0 compliant, supports DirectX 10.1, Shader Model 4.1, Unified Video Decoder, and 7.1 surround sound. Sapphire's HD 4850X2 features a clock speed of 625MHz on the 55nm RV770 GPU cores, and 993MHz on the 2GB of GDDR3 memory running on a 2x256-bit bus. What else is this little beastie hiding up its sleeves? How about 2.0 teraflops of computing power, almost two billion transistors, 1600 (2x800) streaming processors and an alternative cooling solution. This card uses a dual-slot cooling solution that physically takes up two expansion slots and is nearly as large as its big brother, the HD4870X2. To use the HD 4850X2 in a CrossFireX configuration, you will need a motherboard that has two PCI-E x16 slots and a power supply that can handle the additional load.








The Sapphire HD 4850X2 has something a bit different from the norm when it comes time to hook up to your display. There are not the normal two Dual-Link DVI ports but a total of four that allow you to use up to four monitors at once with the Sapphire HD4850X2. Along the back end of the HD4850X2 you can see that the power regulation department is heavily heatsinked to provide some longevity and stability to these components.



If you want to run this card in a CrossfireX configuration you will need to hook up the bridge connection between the two HD4850X2 video cards. You will notice there is only one bridge connection, why you ask when the standard HD4850 has two? Well, since you can only run CrossfireX with up to four GPUs, currently there is no need to add the additional connector into the design of the card. To cover the power requirements of up to 230watts the Sapphire HD4850X2 has both 6-pin and 8-pin PCI-E connections to provide this power.



Now that you have seen the card from top to bottom, let's see what it can do. Will it come close to the performance of the HD4870X2? Stick around to find out.


Closer Look:

To install the drivers for the Sapphire HD 4850X2, first pop the driver CD into your drive, and the Sapphire menu will auto-start. The menu has three options that you can choose from - the first option is to install the Catalyst Control Center and drivers by clicking the ATI Easy Install. The drivers used in this review is 8.542. The options available with the installation GUI include a link to the online manual in several different languages, and a link to download the latest Adobe Acrobat Reader.












When you click the ATI Easy Install option, the Catalyst Control Center installation will begin. This process installs all of the necessary drivers needed to make the Sapphire HD 4870X2 fully functional. After finishing the installation, the customary reboot is required.




As an added bonus, Sapphire has included several pieces of software from CyberLink. Everyone has heard of PowerDVD, a program to play all of the DVD, Blu-ray, and HD content you desire. DVD Suite includes PowerProducer 4, PowerDirector 5, Power2Go 5.5, and [email protected] 3, as well as trial versions of Power Backup 2.5, PowerDVD Copy, and LabelPrint 2. As nice as these tools are, Sapphire has also included a licensed version of the latest benchmark from Futuremark, 3DMark Vantage.



Last, but not least, is the Ruby ROM Version 11 disc. This disk contains game demos, wallpapers, screen savers, and several applications for you to use.




Now that the utilities, drivers, and extras are installed, let's see if the X2 can deliver on the expectations.


Closer Look:

The Catalyst Control Center is where all of the settings for the Sapphire HD 4850X2 are available. There's a lot that you can change and set, but I am only going to go over the main parts of it.

Information Center: The Information Center is where you can view everything about the hardware and software associated with the video card, such as driver versions and hardware specifications.



















Digital Panel: The Digital Panel is where you can set and view monitor information, HDTV settings, ATI's AVIVO color settings, and LCD Overdrive to apply LCD settings that override the monitor's settings.



3D: The 3D tab is where you can modify your visual settings for performance or quality, including Anti-Aliasing, Anisotropic Filtering, color schemes and more.



CrossFire and Overdrive are two tabs that will allow for increased performance from your HD48XXX2 video card. RFan speed control became available on the 8.10 Cats and is available with this release as well.



Let's see what kind of muscle the HD4850X2 possesses!




RV770 x 2
Fabrication Process
Graphics Clock
Memory Clock 993 MHz / 1186MHz effective
Memory Interface 2 x 256-bit
Memory Size
Memory Type
400 MHz
Stream Processors
2 x 800
HDCP Support
HDMI Support
Yes (Using DVI-to-HDMI adaptor)
Connectors 4 x dual-link DVI-I 1 x S-Video Out
Bus Technology PCI Express 2.0
Form Factor Dual Slot Design
Power Connectors 1 x 6-pin 1x8-pin



Redefine HD Gaming

Go Beyond HD Video

Break-through Efficiency

System Requirements

–PCI Express® based PC is required with one X16 lane graphics slot available on the motherboard

–450 Watt or greater power supply with 75 Watt 6-pin PCI Express® power connector recommended (550 Watt and two 6-pin connectors for ATI CrossFireX™ technology in dual mode)

–Certified power supplies are recommended. Refer to a list of Certified products

–1GB of system memory

–Installation software requires CD-ROM drive

–DVD playback requires DVD drive

–Blu-ray™ / HD DVD playback requires Blu-ray / HD DVD drive

–For a complete ATI CrossFireX™ system, a second ATI Radeon™ HD 4850 graphics card, an ATI CrossFireX Ready motherboard and one ATI CrossFireX Bridge Interconnect cable per board (included) are required.


At we use a set of benchmarks to stress the graphics card. We will use a series of newer gaming benchmarks, as well as some that are more seasoned, to show just how well the Sapphire HD4850X2 compares to some of the other enthusiast video cards on the market. We'll be using single GPU models, with the exception of the HD4870X2 from Sapphire, to to find out just what the little brother of the aforementioned HD4870X2 has to offer in the way of performance. All driver settings and clock speeds will be left at factory defaults for both the CPU and GPU in an effort to minimize or eliminate any variables that could impact the results. The test system used in this review is listed below. After testing the card at stock speeds, I'll overclock it to see what kind of performance can be gained. All testing is performed with the default settings in the respective control panels, as well as default settings in the BIOS of the motherboard used in this test. For this round of testing, our drivers have been updated to 177.79 for the Nvidia cards and Catalyst 8.8 for the ATI video cards used in this review. The exception being the driver supplied by Sapphire for the HD4850X2 as the 8.8-8.10 Catalyst drivers would not install with this card.



Comparison Video Cards:



Overclocked settings:

On the first attempt I was at 700MHz on the core and 1165MHz on the GDDR3 memory but was soon starting to set random failures. I will investigate this further and return with a full overclocking report on the HD4850X2. With the stock performance I cant wait to see how it clocks.


  1. Crysis
  2. Knights of the Sea
  3. BioShock
  4. Call of Duty 4
  5. World in Conflict
  6. Far Cry 2
  7. Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts
  8. 3DMark 06 Professional
  9. 3DMark Vantage



Crysis has been out for quite some time now. In that time, there's yet to be a single or multi-GPU setup that can fully showcase the graphics performance of the game. The Crysis single player demo includes both CPU and GPU benchmarks to test the performance of your processor and video card.





















The HD4850X2 loses only four frames per second from the lowest to the highest resolution. This is seen with the HD4870X2 as well whereas the green camp's top dogs lose significantly more performance as the resolutions increase.



PT Boats: Knights of the Sea is a new DX10 title that features its own proprietary graphics engine currently in development. The game is a combination of Real Time Strategy and Simulation. You have the ability to control the entire crew or just a single member. Play as the German, Russian or Allied navies, and prove your mettle on the open seas.


Video Settings:

















The HD4850X2 holds its own against big brother but falls a bit short against the GTX series cards.



BioShock is one of the creepier games out in the wild, chronicling the building of a perfect Utopian society undersea gone horribly wrong - its inhabitants driven mad with the introduction of tonics and genetic modifications. Now, Rapture is just a shadow of its former glory, with little girls looting the dead of what little they have left, while being shadowed by guardians known as "Big Daddies" It is a demanding game that will make your hardware scream for mercy. This First Person Shooter allows for an infinite number of weapons and modifications to provide a unique experience each time it is played. The environment, as well as the storyline, will wrap you up for hours on end.


Video Settings:

















What a surprise. The little HD4850X2 that could. This card keeps up with the 4870X2 in three out of four resolutions and just blows away the green camp.


Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is the successor to the Call of Duty crown. This iteration of the game is fought in many of the world's hot spots with modern armaments and firepower. You can play as either a US Marine or British SAS trooper. Since this game does not feature an in-game test, I will run through a section of the game and measure average FPS using Fraps 2.9.3.


Video Settings:


















The HD4850X2 falls a little short on the bottom end compared to the GTX280 and GTX260 but it more than makes up for this shortcoming at 1920X1200.



World in Conflict is a newly released DX10, Real Time Strategy game that simulates the all-out war the world hopes never comes. The difference in this RTS game is that it is not the typical "generate wealth and build" type of game. Instead, you advance by conquering your foe.


Video Settings:





















World In Conflict just doesn't seem to scale with Crossfire. The performance delivered by the HD4850X2 is almost identical to that of the HD4870X2.


Far Cry 2:

While I have not run all of the cards in the comparison list through the Far Cry 2 benchmark, I will add the GTX260 Black Edition to the list of cards I have run through the testing. Our testing is not yet complete but you can look for Far Cry 2 to become part of the OverclockersClub benchmark suite. The settings used are just a few steps below the maximum in-game settings and offer a good blend of performance vs. visual quality.








Compared to the green camp the HD4850X2 does not seem to scale that well here. There is a hotfix driver that deals specifically with enhancements for this game but the driver would not install. Once this is rectified I will revisit the testing but for now this is how the card fared in Far Cry 2.


Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts is the latest chapter in the Company of Heroes series. The scene is WWII. The mission is Operation Market Garden, the first Allied attempt to break into the Third Reich. Play as the British or Germans. This Real Time Strategy game is brought to us by Relic Entertainment.


Video Settings:





















Performance is very similar to that of the HD4870X2 and is easily comparable with the GTX280.


3DMark06 is one of those benchmarks that always comes up when a bragging contest breaks out. 3DMark06 presents a severe test for many of today's hardware components. Let's see how this setup fares. The settings we will use are listed below.





















While there are no single GPU cards that will touch the 4870X2, the dual GPU HD4850X2 from Sappire takes a shot. Performance wise the card is very close to the faster X2. Looks like a clean sweep in the 3D06 comparison here.


Just added to the OverclockersClub suite of benchmarks is the newest from Futuremark, 3DMark Vantage. Featuring all-new game tests, this benchmark is for use with Vista based systems. "There are two all-new CPU tests that have been designed around a new 'Physics and Artificial Intelligence-related computation.' CPU test two offers support for physics related hardware." There are four preset levels that correspond to specific resolutions. 'Entry' is 1024x768 progressing to 'Extreme' at 1920x1200. Of course, each preset can be modified to arrange any number of user designed testing. For our testing, I will use the four presets at all default settings.



















The only two cards the HD4850X2 has issues with in 3DMark Vantage are the two top cards in each respective manufacturers' performance deck. However, the rest of the single GPU cards are easily beaten in all four resolutions by the Sapphire HD4850X2.


The Sapphire HD4850x2 does just what it is supposed to do. Offer performance that is a shade less than that delivered by the baddest card out right now (for the time being). During the gaming tests the little X2 was consistently keeping up with the 4870x2. Of course, some games don't seem to scale with Crossfire but that is a whole other can of worms. When manually controlled, the two fan cooling solution kept the 4850x2 below the 70 degrees Celsius mark. Keeping temperatures below this level seemed to help with the ability to overclock the card, any higher and the card would heat up and not run much over the stock clock speeds. Manual control is required as the driver released with this card did not do an effective job in keeping the card cool at anything above the stock clock speeds. There is however, a price to pay for running this card with the fans manually controlled. This penalty is noise, and lots of it. Anything above 30 to 35% was just obnoxiously loud and reminded me of why I went and bought aftermarket cooling solutions for my 1900XTs. If you have ever heard a Vantec Tornado close to your ears, this is the sound that gets old after just fifteen minutes. If you game with headphones on then it really won't present an issue for you. Initial release drivers have a weak spot with ATI on its product launches. I thought this was an issue that was fixed with the HD4870x2 but the initial driver has a few little glitches that should be addressed on the next go around from the Catalyst crew.

Viewing your HD content has never been easier with the addition of support for four different monitors at one time. The last card I have seen to feature four DVI outputs was the Asus EAH3870X2. If you have plans on using this card with an HDMI output you can with the supplied DVI to HDMI dongle. To further expand on the HD aspect of this card, Sapphire has included an accessory pack that includes several suites of software from Cyberlink as well as a licensed copy of the latest benchmark from Futuremark. With pricing suggested in the $350 range, this card is right around the price of two separate HD4850 cards. If the Big Dog HD4870x2 is a little rich for your blood, then the Sapphire HD4850x2 will fit both the price and performance requirements for the vast majority of the public. The performance was a surprise.