Sapphire HD3850 Ultimate Edition Review

Makaveli - 2008-03-02 21:48:15 in Video Cards
Category: Video Cards
Reviewed by: Makaveli   
Reviewed on: March 6, 2008
Price: $204.99 USD


Most enthusiasts would agree that silence is an ideal trait for all computer hardware components. It’s nice to be able to leave your computer on all night and not have it bother you with the annoying noise given off by the GPU fan. I’ve only had a few video cards that have been dead silent but most of the cards I’ve ever used were just slightly too loud for me to be able to sleep without them waking me up. Sapphire has a line of graphic cards that it calls the “Ultimate Edition” and every single video card that I have ever tested from this line has been dead silent. Will the Sapphire HD 3850 Ultimate be any different?

The Sapphire HD 3850 Ultimate Edition does not have any fans onboard. Instead, it is passively cooled by a massive heatsink. If there aren’t any fans, you know that the video card does not make a sound. How will Sapphire’s “Ultimate” 3850 do when it’s compared against other HD 3850s on the market? Let’s see what this Sapphire HD 3850 Ultimate Edition can do!


Closer Look:

The Sapphire HD 3850 Ultimate Edition comes packaged in a glossy box that features a female equipped with a sword. There are some key features and technologies listed on the front of the box. The back of the box lists what is included inside the box, as well as some product highlights.













The card is securely held in place with pink padding. Included with the card is a Crossfire connector, HDTV breakout cable, 4-pin power cable to 6-pin PCI-E converter, DVI to HDMI converter, DVI to VGA converter, and a TV out connector.  There are multiple free pieces of software included such as 3DMark06, CyberLink DVD Suite, Cyberlink PowerDVD, and the driver CD. Sapphire also includes a manual and a free subscription to “The Black Box” which features multiple new games such as Portal.




Now let’s take a closer look at the Sapphire HD 3850 Ultimate Edition video card itself.

Closer Look:

The card has an absolutely massive heatsink on it that almost completely covers the card on both sides. This card is has 512MB of onboard memory and it is specifically made for a PCI-Express port. Notice how the heatsink fins on the back of the card are angled at almost 45 degrees over the card.





















This 3850 from Sapphire is powered by a 6-pin port in the rear of the card. Also, this card is equipped with Crossfire connectors for anyone wanting to do Crossfire or CrossfireX.



Two DVI outputs and one S-Video output can be found on the front of this card. If your monitor has a VGA cable but no DVI cable, don’t worry, because this card comes with a DVI to VGA converter.


Now let’s take a look at the Catalyst Control Center once the newest drivers are installed.


When you insert the driver CD after you install the card, you’ll be presented with options such as which operating system you’re running. For me, I just did the ATI Easy Install and selected Windows Vista 32-bit for my operating system. Once everything is correctly installed, you’ll be prompted to restart your computer.



















Catalyst Control Center can either be run in “Basic” or “Advanced” mode.


We’ll be taking a closer look at the “Advanced” section on the next page.


Be sure that you check either ATI or Sapphire's website for the absolute latest drivers available. Now let's break down some of the key features of Catalyst Control Center (CCC).

Information Center: This is where you can view your software and hardware information as well as your driver version. There is a sub-menu of display options and display management, which allows users to configure their desktop environments.



















Digital Panel: This is the tab you want to go to if you want to view your monitor's information, set up HDTV settings, and set up AVIVO color settings. This tab has four sub-menus under it that include "Attributes," "AVIVO Color," "HDTV Support," and "LCD Overdrive."




3D: This tab is where you'll be able to modify your performance versus quality settings. You'll also be able to chage your anti-aliasing settings, among other settings.



AVIVO Video & ATI Overdrive: You're allowed to alter the basic color settings in theater mode in the AVIVO Video section. ATI Overdrive is an easy-to-use overclocking utility that allows the user to overclock his or her card to a certain point. My only complaint is that there are no controls for the fan speed on the video card.



Now that we've examined CCC, let's test the card!


        • Dynamic load balancing and resource allocation for vertex, geometry, and pixel shaders
        • Common instruction set and texture unit access supported for all types of shaders
        • Dedicated branch execution units and texture address processors
        • High definition (HD) playback of both Blu-ray and HD DVD formats
        • Motion compensation and IDCT
        • Color space conversion
        • Chroma subsampling format conversion
        • Horizontal and vertical scaling
        • Gamma correction
        • Advanced vector adaptive per-pixel de-interlacing
        • De-blocking and noise reduction filtering
        • Detail enhancement
        • Inverse telecine (2:2 and 3:2 pull-down correction)
        • Bad edit correction
        • Drive two displays simultaneously with independent resolutions, refresh rates, color controls and video overlays for each display
        • Full 30-bit display processing
        • Programmable piecewise linear gamma correction, color correction, and color space conversion
        • Spatial/temporal dithering provides 30-bit color quality on 24-bit and 18-bit displays
        • High quality pre- and post-scaling engines, with underscan support for all display outputs
        • Content-adaptive de-flicker filtering for interlaced displays
        • Fast, glitch-free mode switching
        • Hardware cursor
  1. Dual channel interconnect is not required for ATI CrossFire, and may not be included in all product configurations
  2. Some custom resolutions require user configuration
  3. HDCP support for playback of protected content requires connection to a HDCP capable display



-All information sourced from Sapphire's website:


To test this Sapphire HD 3850 Ultimate Edition, we’ll be comparing it to cards that are similar performance-wise. These cards include the Diamond Multimedia 3850, Sapphire HD 3870, and the XFX 9600GT. All of the video cards were tested on the system listed below to eliminate any advantages or disadvantages for the cards against one another. All cards were run at their stock settings.

Test System:




Overclocked Settings:

To overclock this card, I used the Catalyst Control Center. I was able to push this card from the stock core clock of 670MHz to 715MHz. The memory was overclocked from the stock 830MHz to 945MHz. Not a bad overclock at all if you ask me. This was especially surprising considering that this card has no fan on it. Also, the card was idling at 21C while overclocked! That's just amazing!



  1. Crysis
  2. Knights of the Sea
  3. Bioshock
  4. Call of Duty 4
  5. World in Conflict
  6. Call of Jaurez
  7. 3DMark 06 Professional


Crysis is a very new game that poses a threat to every video card with its extremely demanding graphics.






















Looks like the Sapphire 3850 Ultimate Edition isn't performing quite as well as the Diamond 3850.


PT Boats: Knights of the Sea is a new DirectX10 title that features its own graphics engine. Test your battle skills at sea!


The settings we will use are below:



















The Sapphire HD 3870 dominated the Diamond 3850 - which got stomped on by this game.


BioShock is a very new DirectX 10 game on the market. This game can make a system beg for mercy with its demanding graphics.






















The Sapphire 3850 performed a few frames per second better than the Diamond 3850 both cards tied in the final resolution.


Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is a great first person shooter that allows you to play as a U.S. Marine or British S.A.S. trooper.


The settings used are listed below:



















The Sapphire 3870 does almost twice as well as the Sapphire 3850 and Diamond 3850.


World In Conflict is a new DirectX10 real time strategy game that simulates a World War 3-like war.


The settings we will use are listed below:



















Looks like the Sapphire HD 3850 Ultimate Edition performes a few frames per second better than the Diamond HD 3850 again a tight race.


Call of Juarez is a Wild-Wild-West-style first person shooter that is very addicting!


The settings we will use are listed below.


















The Diamond HD 3850 didn't stand a chance at any of the resolutions.


Company of Heroes (Opposing Fronts) is a demanding DirectX 10 WWII game that can make or break a video card.





















The Sapphire HD 3870 Ultimate Edition beat the Diamond HD 3850 yet again by a few frames.


3DMark06 is an extremely popular benchmarking program that always comes up during bragging contests.




















The overclocked Sapphire HD 3850 Ultimate just edged out the Diamond 3850.


The Sapphire HD 3850 Ultimate Edition did better than the Diamond HD 3850 in almost every benchmark by only a few frames per second. This card was dead silent due to the fact that it has no fan on it. The heatsink on the top of the card is quite large, so I'd be sure to check to make sure that it won't touch an after-market CPU cooler. Not only was this card silent, but it was also a very cool-running card. It idled at 21 degrees Celsius! That's very impressive for a card that doesn't have an onboard fan. When I overclocked this video card, I was able to push it pretty far. I got the core clock from 670MHz to 715MHz and the memory clock from the stock 830MHz to 945MHz. If you ask me, that's a good overclock for a video card. If you're considering getting a mid-range card, definitely take a look at the Sapphire HD 3850 Ultimate Edition! It's silent, runs cool, overclockable, and it performs a little better than other cards that have the same GPU. The only downside is the price over a normal 3850 is almost $50 more in some cases, but if you don't mind paying for a card to be silent and to get a few extra frames, this is a card to look at.