Sapphire Toxic HD4850 Review

ccokeman - 2008-07-28 20:11:26 in Video Cards
Category: Video Cards
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: July 31, 2008
Price: $214.99


With so many HD4850 models out now, what's the best one to buy? With the heating problems that many of the HD4850 cards with reference coolers have, the best bet would be one with an aftermarket solution already on the card. There are starting to be more and more of these available, as the AMD/ATI partners are fielding the many complaint calls. One such card available right now is the Sapphire Toxic Edition HD4850. Not only does it come with an aftermarket cooling solution, it comes pre-overclocked to take advantage of the additional cooling capability of the aftermarket Zalman heatpipe cooler. Is this well known cooling solution going to stand up to the heat load from the Toxic Edition HD4850? We will have to see. We have all seen the performance numbers from a multitude of HD4850 video cards; the performance per dollar spent has been the selling point on this series of cards. With a price just slightly higher than the reference card, will the Toxic separate itself from the masses and provide that added performance for the added dollars? Let's find out.

Closer Look:

The simple, basic, black themed box reminds me a little bit of the Metallica black album, with the alien as a ghosted image that's barely visible. The front panel proudly states that this is something special by way of the Toxic logo. Highlights include the HDMI capability and the bundled suite of software that includes Futuremark's latest, 3DMark Vantage. The rear panel highlights the features and capabilities of the HD4850, as well as some of the awards that Sapphire has earned for its products.








Opening this batch of toxicity, you find a plain cardboard box. Inside, the Toxic is shipped with 2 layers of protection - foam on the outside, as well as a bubble wrap anti-static bag. Under the foam layer, you will find the large bundle of accessories that Sapphire has provided.



The bundle includes software from CyberLink, Futuremark, the driver disk, Ruby ROM, DVI to D-sub, and DVI to HDMI adapters. Also making appearances are a CrossFire bridge connector, a power adapter, and several adapters to send the video signal out to a display. All in all, a pretty substantial offering.




Now we know what comes with the card, so let's have a look at what makes the Toxic so special.


Closer Look:

The Sapphire Toxic HD4850 is PCI-E 2.0 compliant, and supports DirectX 10.1 and Shader Model 4.1. The installation of the aftermarket Zalman cooler means that this card takes up two slots on the motherboard while only physically interfacing with one PCI-E x16 slot. Clock speeds for this little bit of evil are 675MHz on the 55nm GPU core and 1150MHz on the 512MB GDDR3 memory. Both are 50MHz+ increases over the stock clock speeds.









The business end of the Toxic HD4850 contains two DVI ports and one HD-out port. The two DVI ports are Dual-Link capable, and are also able to be used for an HDMI-out signal with the supplied adapter. The rear of the Toxic houses the power circuits which are covered with a large aluminum sink to dissipate the heat from these components. The Toxic HD4850 uses a single 6-pin PCI-E power connection. This card is CrossFireX capable and should provide a nice boost running two of these cards in Crossfire mode. There are two bridge connections, although only one is needed for a two card CrossFire setup.


The heatsink used on the Sapphire Toxic HD4850 is manufactured by Zalman, and is designed to offer better cooling and less noise than a stock cooler - both things I can appreciate. With this additional cooling capacity should come additional performance. The base is mirror-polished to provide a better interface with the GPU core. The blue fan sadly does not light up, but that would not make any contribution to the cooling performance anyhow. The fan blows down over the individual RAMsinks to provide additional cooling that the reference design lacks. With that large block of copper, any heat discharged by the core will heatstroke the components, and end your overclocking adventures a little early. I'm glad to see Sapphire pick a tried and true cooling solution.



So just what's under the Zalman cooler? The RV770 core of course. The RV770PRO core is built on a 55nm process with 965 million transistors, 800 unified shader cores and is clocked at 675MHz. There's 512MB of GDDR3 memory running through a 256-bit bus clocked at 1150MHz. The Samsung memory is rated at a maximum frequency of 1200MHz, which was reached and surpassed!


Closer Look:

To install the drivers for the Sapphire Toxic HD4850, 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 Catalyst 8.6, but remember that there is a hotfix available from ATI - which is unsupported - that is said to increase performance for the HD4800 series cards. 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 Toxic 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 Toxic can do.


Closer Look:

The Catalyst Control Center is where all of the settings for the Sapphire Toxic HD4850 are available. There's a lot that you can change and set, but I am only going to go over the main parts.

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.



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
675 MHz
Memory Clock 1150 MHz / 2300MHz 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 series 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 Toxic HD4850 compares to some of the other enthusiast video cards on the market. We'll be using both single and dual GPU models to demonstrate the performance that can be gained from a dual card solution, if any at all.  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 done with the default settings in the respective Control Panels, as well as default settings in the BIOS of the motherboard used in this test.

Comparison Video Cards:



Overclocked Settings:

With a card that is overclocked well above the standard version, there is usually very little overhead to push the video card even further without voltage or BIOS mods that, of course, void your warranty. With the additional cooling capabilities of the Toxic HD4850 I was able to max out the Catalyst Control Panel clock speeds on just the first go-round. 700MHz on the core and 1200 on the memory - not too shabby! Then I started to push further. But, to do so, I needed to download and use the AMD GPU clock tool. This utility allowed me to set clock and memory speeds above those from the CCC. The highest GPU core speed that was at least 3DMark06 stable was 740/1212; unfortunately, this was stable only for just the Futuremark benchmark. So, I started until I finally stopped at 731MHz on the GPU core and 1206MHz on the memory. This setup was good for all of our benchmark suite, as well as an extended COD4 session just to verify that the settings were indeed "good". The additional cooling that is offered by the Zalman cooler kept the temperatures in check, with a maximum temperature of 64 Celsius in my 27 Celsius room.



  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



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.  The Crysis single player demo includes both CPU and GPU benchmarks to test the performance of your processor and video card.















The Sapphire Toxic HD4850 performs on par with the standard HD4850 and HD4870 at the lower resolutions. The higher clock speeds pay dividends at the higher resolutions, where the performance is only 4 to 5 frames per second slower than the GTX280 and HD4870.



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:












From 1280x1024 on up, the higher clock speeds help the Toxic HD4850 pull away from the stock-clocked version. The performance of the Toxic is almost equal to that of the HD4870.


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:












The recurring theme is that the higher clock speeds allow the Toxic HD4850 to compete against the stronger cards.


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 in Call of Duty 4 is on par with or better than the HD4870 until the 1920x1200 resolution, where it noses over slightly. Additional overclocking of the card put its performance equal to the 4870 at 1920x1200.


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:











Performance against the Powercolor HD4850 is a wash until 1920x1200. Overclocking the Toxic further did not really help its cause in this benchmark.


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:












It seems the AMD/ATI based cards perform well in this benchmark. The Toxic HD4850 performs equal to or higher than all of the comparison cards, except the HD4870 and the GTX280.


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 close to the level of the HD4870 at the lower resolutions, while falling slightly below that of the standard HD4850 at the maximum resolution tested.


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 performance of the Toxic HD4850 is anywhere from 700 to 1000 3DMarks better than the standard-clocked card. Performance when overclocked gets closer to that of the HD4870 - a big improvement.


The biggest complaint about the HD48xx series of video cards has been the performance of the cooling system on the cards - more so the HD4850 variant than the HD4870. Load temps in the 90+ Celsius range are a little unnerving for those that pay attention to the small things. While ATI has said that the temperatures are ok, something had to be done. The Zalman GPU cooler used on the Toxic HD4850 cooled the card quite well. Idle temperatures of 35 to 38 degrees Celsius, and load temperatures of 60 to 64 Celsius - with zero noise - are a huge improvement over the standard cooling used on the 4850 series cards - no BIOS or software modifications needed. Those solutions worked for the reference cooling, but they came with a penalty - extra work and noise. The fact that the Toxic is an overclocked card means that the performance should exceed that of a non-overclocked version, which it did in 27 out of 32 benchmark tests. In four tests, the performance was equal (usually the lowest resolution tested), and it actually lost to the stock 4850 in one test. I ran the test five times to verify the results, since I was surprised to see that outcome, and it was repeatable. When it came time to overclock the Toxic, I was surprised to see that the memory and GPU core both maxed out in the Catalyst Control Center. Final clock speeds were 31 MHz higher on the GPU and 6 MHz higher on the memory than the 700/1200 in the CCC.

The inclusion of the bundled software from CyberLink and Futuremark make the price of the Toxic more appealing. Just a mere $25 more than the $190 that most HD4850 video cards are selling for just makes buying an overclocked card with a nice bundle a smart decision if you are looking for a card like this. Great price, great bundle, great cooling, and overclocked performance make the Sapphire Toxic HD4850 a winner.