Sapphire HD4850 Dual Slot Heatsink Review

ccokeman - 2008-09-10 18:02:15 in Video Cards
Category: Video Cards
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: September 30, 2008
Price: $152.99


It's time to buy that shiny new addition to your gaming rig to replace the well-worn video card that just can't keep up with the latest video games. You've been eyeing the ATI HD4850's and the performance looks just right for the dollars available in your shrinking bank account. There's just one thing that keeps bothering you - the temperature problems that you have been reading about on this series of cards. Sure there are utilities that can adjust the fan speed manually (finally), but you want something better. Actually, you need something better to cool the card but there is that lack of the green to get that something additional - an aftermarket VGA cooler.

Well there bucko, Sapphire has the solution to to the temperature problem for you. They now offer the Dual Slot cooling version of their HD4850. This video card is for all intents and purposes, a stock clocked ATI HD4850, but with a cooling solution that takes up two PCI slots to manage the heat problem on the HD4850 series. Usually, cards with additional non-stock cooling solutions cost more, right? Put that concern to rest. Currently the Sapphire HD4850 Dual Slot card sells for $2 less than the stock cooled card at a popular e-tailer. So now there's nothing there to hold you back. With the additonal cooling, there should also come an overclocking increase over the stock card based on just temperatures alone. Let's see if this holds true with the Sapphire HD4850 Dual Slot card.

Closer Look:

The packaging from Sapphire usually contains a wealth of information for the consumer to digest. This one is no different. Of course, there is Ruby on the front panel, a listing of some of the features, as well as some of the specifications. Highlighted is the inclusion of the bundled software that includes Futuremark's latest benchmark, 3DMark Vantage, as well as a full suite of software from Cyberlink and the Ruby Rom game disk. The back panel lists the technologies that the HD4850 employs to give that stunning picture and performance, as well as a listing of what's in the box. Again, Ruby makes an appearance, but this time she's equipped for battle.













Inside the package there is a non-descript brown cardboard box. Not that it really matters since it's the outside that grabs you and pulls you in. Once inside you can see that the box has a foam sheet that sits over the top of the card for protection. The card is enclosed in an anti-static bubble wrap bag to further protect the HD4850 D.S.. Under the foam, there is a wealth of software and adapters to make connecting to the display of your choosing, a no-fuss affair.




The bundle included with this card is pretty substantial. There is the software, the driver disk, Ruby Rom, Futuremark 3DMark Vantage and a suite of software from Cyberlink. Then there is the hardware part of the bundle that includes a 4pin Molex to 6 pin PCIe power adapter, an HDTV dongle, an RCA to S-Video adapter, DVI to D-SUB adapter, DVI to HDMI adapter and last but not least, the Corssfire bridge connecter to allow you to run this card in a Crossfire X configuration.





Now let's get a look at the Sapphire HD4850 Dual Slot card.


Closer Look:

The Sapphire HD4850 Dual Slot is a slightly different animal than the standard HD4850 from Sapphire. It maintains the same GPU (RV770) and amount of memory (512MB GDDR3 on a 256 bit bus), but is built on a Sapphire designed and built PCB, rather than using the reference design PCB. In addition to the non-reference PCB, there is the non-reference cooling solution to go with the board. There are no memory heatsinks used, but there is one additional heatsink at the front of the PCB. The clock speeds stay right at the factory specified 625MHz on the GPU core and 993MHz on the 512MB of memory. The card is slightly shorter than the standard PCB so this should allow some additional clearance in tight cases.



















Getting the HD4850 connected to your display is as easy as making the correct connection to the video card. The HD4850 DS comes equipped with two Dual Link capable DVI ports, as well as the HDTV-out connection. Adapters are included to get you hooked up through several different connection types, including HDMI, RCA and composite. The back end of the card contains the 6 pin power connection, as well as several capacitors. Along the top edge of the card is the Corssfire X bridge connection. This allows you to hook two or more of these cards up to get substantial increase in performance. A Crossfire X capable motherboard is required for two or more cards to be used in this configuration.



The dual slot heatsink is the largest item on this card, save the actual board itself. The design is similar to that used on the stock Intel socket 775 heatsink. It has a copper slug inside of an aluminum fin array that uses a shrouded fan to direct air through the heatsink. This airflow blows directly down on the heatsink that covers the mosfets for the power system, as well as down on the memory modules. Will it be enough to keep the RV770 core and the memory cool enough for some heavy clock speeds?



Taking the heatsinks off of the board shows just how different the PCB is than the reference design. It's not just the bright teal blue color that makes it different - the mosfets for the power regulation circuit are moved towards the front of the PCB.



The GPU used on this model is the same used on the on the standard HD4850 from Sapphire. While the RV770 core is usually the same, many manufacturers will use a different brand of GDDR3 memory to meet the specifications of the card. Sapphire has used Qimonda GDDR3 rated at 1000MHz on this model.



All that's left is to get the card installed and start our testing.


Closer Look:

To install the drivers for the Sapphire HD4850 Dual Slot, 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. This installs the Catalyst driver suite. 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 HD4850 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 disk. 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 what the HD4850 Dual Slot edition has to offer in the way of performance.


Closer Look:

The Catalyst Control Center is where all of the settings for the Sapphire HD4850 are available. There are plenty of options and settings available, depending on the capabilities that you choose to use. Each group of settings can be adjusted to your specific viewing preferences and image quality.

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 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.



VIVO Video & ATI Overdrive: AVIVO settings allow you to alter the color settings for better viewing. ATI Overdrive is where you can push the HD4850 to the limits with overclocking settings. There are controls for the advanced user, or you can use Auto-Tune for automatic overclocking.



Fabrication Process
Graphics Clock
625 MHz
Memory Clock 993 MHz / 1886MHz effective
Memory Interface 256-bit
Memory Size
Memory Type
400 MHz
Stream Processors
HDCP Support
HDMI Support
Yes (Using DVI-to-HDMI adaptor)
Connectors 2 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



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 how well the Sapphire HD4850 Dual Slot compares to some of the other enthusiast video cards on the market. We'll be using single GPU models exclusively, to show just how much the Sapphire HD4850 Dual Slot brings to the table. 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 the 177.79 for the Nvidia cards and the Catalyst 8.8 for the ATI video cards used in this review.


Comparison Video Cards:



Overclocked settings:

With the large overclock the custom cooled MSI HD4850 gave up with the lower temperatures the cooler delivered I figured I may as well give that kind of overclock a shot on this Sapphire custom cooled card.. Bumping the GPU core up 10MHz at a time until I started having lockups got me to 674 MHz on the core and 1062MHz on the memory. I was kind of dissapointed with the results, considering I was running much cooler than the ATI reference design allows. You have that and the non-reference design of this card. But when you come down to it this really is close to the levels that the reference design Sapphire HD4850 reached. The big plus is that this card does it over 20 degrees Celsius cooler. No two components are the same, so overclocking is not really a one size fits all proposition. Just because one video card may reach a higher performance level than another can be attributable to one or more components. So, with that said, your mileage may vary. 49MHz worth of overclock on the GPU core and 69MHz on the GDDR3 Qimonda memory equates to a free performance increase, for the price of your time to go after it.



  1. Crysis
  2. Knights of the Sea
  3. BioShock
  4. Call of Duty 4
  5. World in Conflict
  6. Call of Juarez
  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 has yet to be a single or multi GPU setup that can fully showcase the graphics performance of the game. Will the GTX 280 be that card? The Crysis single player demo includes both CPU and GPU benchmarks to test the performance of your processor and video card.





















Once the resolution reaches 1280x1024, the performance of the HD4850 matches up with that of the 9800GTX and it pulls away from it from that point on. At 1920x1200 the HD4850 is within four FPS of the GTX260 and HD4870. Not too shabby for a much less expensive video card.



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:


















In this benchmark the ATI based cards are overwhelmed by the boys in green. Even the HD4870 struggles against the last gen Nvidia cards.



BioShock is one of the creepier games out the wild. 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 Daddys" 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 story line will wrap you up for hours on end.


Video Settings:


















From 1280x1024 and up, the HD4850 competes favorably with the GTX260 and keeps within 10 FPS of the HD4870.


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 performance of the HD4850 closely matches that of the 9800GTX, where it competes at the two top resolutions. At the lower resolutions, the 9800GTX has the edge.



World in Conflict Released last year, World in Conflict is a 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 with limited opportunities to replenish your troops..


Video Settings:


















The Sapphire HD4850 DS performs just above the level of the 9800GTX in World in Conflict, but just can't muster enough juice to catch the faster cards, even when overclocked.


Call of Juarez is a DX10, first-person shooter set in the Wild West of the late 1800's. The game is inspired, in part, by the movies of the Wild West genre of the seventies and eighties. The game can be played in both single player and multiplayer modes. The game focuses on realistic graphics and gameplay designed to take advantage of the latest video cards on the market.


Video Settings:


















ATI based video cards seem to have just that little extra performance edge in this benchmark. This is evidenced by the scoring of the GTX260.


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:



















Through all four resolutions, the HD4850 DS stays within a few frames per second of the big dogs in this comparison. the maximum difference is six frames per second at 1280x1024 and 1680x1050.


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.





















The Sapphire HD4850 DS finishes ahead of only two of the comparison cards in this benchmark - the 8800GT and 9800GT, both of which are identical with just a name change to differentiate them.


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.


















In 3DMark Vantage, the HD4850 DS outperfomed the three Nvidia G92 based video cards in all four resolutions. It finishes this benchmark behind only the GTX260 and the HD4870. It just does not have the muscle to overtake the faster cards.


The Sapphire HD4850 Dual Slot Fansink equipped video card performs much the same as the rest of the standard clocked HD4850's I have tested, and it should, because that is exactly what it is. What sets this one apart from the rest is the cooling solution and non reference design PCB. With relocated components that take advantage of the cooling capabilities of the Dual Slot cooling, I was expecting a little more of an overclock from this revision. What I got was about average. 49MHz on the RV770 core and 69MHz on the Qimonda GDDR3 memory. Not the highest I have gotten, but well worth going after. This is free performance. While itself not free, the Sapphire HD4850 Dual Slot card is available right now for a mere 2 dollars less ($152) than the Standard reference design card at a popular e-tailer.

The basis for making this card has got to be the cooling woes that the reference design cards are known for. With reference cards routinely hitting 90+ Celsius under load in an enclosed, well-ventilated chassis, there is a certain comfort factor that just is not there with the reference design cards. There are several things you can do to cool the card down (aftermarket utilities Riva Tuner and ATI tool) as well as the XML hack where you manually create a profile and modify the fan speeds that will allow you raise the fan speed to improve the cooling. This comes at a price though - increased fan noise. When pushed above 60% the fan gets a bit loud and while it helps cool the GPU and card, it can get annoying and reminds me of the noise level of the X1900XT cards from ATI. The cooling solution on this card remedies this problem and Sapphire was wise to incorporate a solution to the heat problem and do it with a near silent (from outside the case) solution. When the fan speed was ramped up to 100%, it was almost inaudible and provided load temperatures in the 60 degree celsius range. With the fan on auto, I could not hear the fan on the card running from outside the case and kept load temperatures in the low to mid 60 Celsius range. If the HD4850 is in your purchase plans, the Sapphire HD4850 Dual Slot Fansink video card should be on your shopping list. It's quiet, it effectively handles the heat, overclocks and can be had on the inexpensive side of the price scale.