Sapphire HD 3850 Review

gotdamojo06 - 2007-11-14 10:20:13 in Video Cards
Category: Video Cards
Reviewed by: gotdamojo06   
Reviewed on: November 16, 2007
Price: $179.00



Christmas is just a short time away, what does this mean in the computer enthusiasts world? This means that there will be more and more games released that will demand a video card that can handle all of the intense graphics that will be thrown at it. The Sapphire HD3850, a card that was just released, is one card that may be able to handle it, with all of the new features that have been thrown together. When the Sapphire HD3850 was released, it did not come to the table all by itself, Sapphire released its big brother at the same time, the Sapphire HD 3870. This card has a load of great features that from the looks of it, will be able to handle all of the new games such as Crysis, Call of Duty 4, Assassins Creed, and Hellgate: London... all of which will be available for the 2007 Christmas season. In this review, we will be taking a look at the Sapphire HD3850 and seeing how well this card will be able to handle the current games and if the HD3850 is going to be a great addition to your Christmas Wish List.


Closer look:

The Sapphire HD3850 card comes packaged in a great looking case with an attractive computer generated woman on the front. Not only will this woman grab your attention, the list of some of the features this card has on the front will grab your attention and make you anxious to open the package up. On the reverse side of the box, you will be able to read a few words about the technology of the card and the improvements.



The Sapphire HD3850 comes packaged like many other video cards, in a brown cardboard box that has a nice foam housing keeping the card from recieving any damages that could occur during the shipping process. Not only is it protected from physical damages, it is also wrapped up in an anti-static shock bag which will keep all the electrical components on the Sapphire HD3850 safe.


Underneath the foam inside of the box is where Sapphire placed all of the accessories that were packaged with the HD3850. This includes the User Manual, a few CDs, a 4-pin to 6-pin power adapter, a few video adapters and a crossfire bridge (Revision C). The CDs that were included were DVD Suite, Power DVD, 3DMark06, and most importantly the Drivers Installation CD.





Closer Look: 


Once I had removed the HD 3850 from the packaging, I was able to tell that the card itself had a picture of the same lady as the box did. The Sapphire HD 3850 card is has ATI's Crossfire X Technology and also will support PCI-E 2.0. The heatsink and fan setup on this card does not extend to the end of the card like some other video cards but the fan housing does completely cover the GPU's heatsink. This card has two DVI-I outputs on it as well as a S-Video output located between the DVI-I outputs.







The heatsink and fan setup on the Sapphire HD 3850 is designed as a single slot cooling solution, unlike some of the other ones on the market that take up two expansion slot brackets. The fan on this card was surprisingly quiet as I could not hear it over any of my other fans I had running in my case, which is unlike any other video card fan I have had in my system.






The installation of a video card is one of the easiest things that can be done, this is because all you have to do is turn the computer off and open up the side of the case. When the side of the case is opened up, you then will locate the current video card and remove it by releasing it from the rear expansion slots of the case and then pull the card out. Once this is done, you are ready to place the HD 3850 in the PCI-E slot and secure it in place. Once this is done you will attach the PCI-E power connecter to the card and then close up the case and start it up. Once you get into Windows you are going to need to install the drivers to run the card. 






Once you have made it into Windows, you can place the drivers CD that came with the card into your optical drive for installation. Once you have inserted the CD, a window should pop up that will have a few options on it such as; ATI Easy Install, Online User Manual, Acrobat Reader. For the installation of the drivers and other software that comes packaged with it, choose the ATI Easy Install option.




After you click into the ATI Easy Install option on the interface that popped up, you will be asked to choose which Operating System you have installed on your computer, I am using Windows XP so that is the one I will be selecting. This card's drivers will only be supported under Windows XP, Windows XP64, and Windows Vista. After you choose your Operating System, the familiar ATI Drivers Installation portion will show up. You have the option to install two ways, Express or Custom. I will be using the Express Installation option.




After all of this has completed, you will be asked if you want to restart the computer, which is always a great idea to do so when prompted.



PCI-E x16 (PCI-E 2.0 Support)



Memory Bus


Engine Clock


Memory Clock


Stream Processing Units






Max Resolution





This Sapphire HD3850 will be put through a rigorous set of benchmarks that will be very demanding. I'll be comparing this card against another card from its family - the Sapphire HD3870. In addition to that card, I'll be comparing the Sapphire HD2600XT, the Foxconn 8600GTS and the eVGA 8800GTS 640MB against this HD3850. The 8800GTS 640MB is considered a top-of-the-line card while the 8600GTS and HD2600 XT are considered mainstream video cards. Let's see where this Sapphire HD3870 falls when compared against three great cards. In all of the gaming benchmarks and tests, higher is better.

Test System:

Comparison Cards:

NOTE: Our Sapphire HD 2900 XT was going to be included in this review but we don't have updated benchmark results at this time. The scores will be implemented into the review shortly.

UPDATE: We re-ran all of the benchmarks over with the new drivers that were posted on the Sapphire website after the review was launched. The results are in each of the graphs as "New Drivers".

UPDATE: We re-ran all of the benchmarks over with the new drivers and with the GPU overclocked to 850MHz and the memory at 950MHz. These updates are in the graphs as "Overclocked".

Gaming Benchmarks:


Benchmark: Far Cry

First, I'll start with an older first person shooter.




Looks like the Sapphire HD3850 and the Foxconn 8600GTS will be a good match up, lets see how they compare on the rest of the benchmarks. Not only does it do very well against the 8600GTS, it also beats the HD2600XT which is one of the cards that is being replaced by this newer technology.



Benchmark: F.E.A.R.

F.E.A.R. is a popular first person shooter which can be tough on video cards. I'll be running the in-game performance benchmark.











The Sapphire HD3850 does better than the HD2600XT, which is one of the cards that is being replaced with the launch of this card.


Benchmark: BioShock

BioShock is an interesting new first person shooter that has recently hit the market. This title poses quite a challenge for video cards.









 The Sapphire HD3850 kept up with most all of the different cards that were used as comparison. I was suprised when it did better than the 8800GTS in the highest resolution as well as staying very close to the 8800GTS in the lower two resolutions.



Benchmark: Call of Duty 2

Call of Duty 2 is the prequel to the all new Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Look for the new Call of Duty in our benchmarking lineup soon!












The Foxconn surprisingly had higher results than the Sapphire HD3870 in the lower resolutions, but the HD3870 took control again in the highest resolution, but still lost to the 8800GTS.



Benchmark: Quake 4

Quake 4 is an older first person shooter that makes the player to fight in outer space against the Strogg. 












The Sapphire HD3850 showed great control over the other cards in this benchmark, it preformed just as well as its brother, the HD3870 and was fairly close to the 8800GTS.



Benchmark: Need For Speed Most Wanted

Need for Speed: Most Wanted is one of the latest installments of the ever-so-popular Need For Speed racing series.












In the lower resolutions, the HD3850 was running very close with every other card that I was comparing it to, however when I got to the highest resolution, it lost against the 8800GTS as well as its bother, the HD3870.


Benchmark: 3DMark06

3DMark06 is one of the most popular benchmarks used for bragging rights in the world of gamers.











The Sapphire HD3850 ended up beating out every card that it went up against in this benchmark except for the HD3870 and the 8800GTS in the lowest resolution that was tested. I was very surprised that in the highest resolution it beat the 8800GTS!


RyderMark is a new benchmark developed by Candella Software. The benchmark illustrates a speedboat race through the famed canals of Venice, Italy. There are many options that can be changed in the benchmark, but the settings we have settled on to complete this benchmark are listed below. Please check back for a full review on this new benchmark.






















The Sapphire HD3870 was unable to run this benchmark at this time and we are hoping that the release of updated drivers will allow that card to work. The HD3850 was able to run this benchmark and did not score quite as high as I thought that it would, I am hoping that the release of new drivers will help with the scores.


The Sapphire HD3850 was a great looking card that ended up being able to kick some butt for an amazingly small price tag. It was able to stand up to some of the current leaders in the graphics card scene and hold its own. This was proven in 3DMark06 when the HD3850 beat the 8800GTS in the 1680x1050 benchmark. Not only during benchmarks was it able to hold its own, but in real world testing, it was able to prove itself against the 8800GTS in BioShock... where the HD3850 fell short by just a few frame rates, which was very surprising. The cooling option that Sapphire ended up using on this card was a decent choice because it did not take up a lot of room in the case. Not only did the fan look good, it was very quiet. I wish that I were able to monitor the temperatures of the card, however when installing the drivers, I ran into an error with Catalyst Control Center and I could never get it to start up. Other than that setback, I was very impressed by the results of this card because of the it's price tag, features and the scores it put out. All of these things make me give it a thumbs up. Sapphire has sold me on this video card, I was so impressed with how it ran and how well it did against all of the other video cards that it will be replacing my current video card in my system. 

Note: Due to the fact that Sapphire did send the card out with beta drivers and the fact that that Catalyst Control Center errors did not cause any issues with the way the card was running I am going to take this aspect out when I was judging the award. I will be revisiting this review when newer drivers are released and hopefully these issues are fixed by then.


UPDATE: With the launch of the new drivers for this card, it is clear to see that they fixed some of the bugs. I noticed an improvement in all areas for the benchmarks except for in FarCry. Even in RyderMark, where there was a greatly noticeable increase in points there was improvements. I will be working on overclocking this video card, so please keep checking in for updates.


UPDATE: The Sapphire HD3850 overclocked very easliy using ATI Tool V0.27. The results from overclocking this card speak for themselves, the card still performs well and gains quite a few more FPS.