Sapphire Radeon HD 4850 X2 Review



OH. MY. GOD.  That was my initial reaction when looking upon the new Sapphire HD 4850 X2 video card.

nVidia and ATI are constantly feuding.  These bitter PR battles have resulted in a new more powerful video cards every six months or so.  This is both good news and bad news for PC gaming enthusiasts.  On one hand, prices are kept in check because of the fierce competition.  On the other hand, performance increases so frequently that your shiny new card is obsoleted very quickly.

As soon as one manufacturer releases the new King of Performance, then the other regroups and develops a product to dethrone its competition.  ATI was not sittting idly by during the latest generation of video products.  nVidia’s GeForce GTX 280 video card is one of the top performing (and most expensive) video cards, so ATI unleashed their 4870 X2 card to defeat it.

In reaction, nVidia lowered the prices of the GTX 280… but ATI was ready for this move, and revealed it’s new Power Player: the ATI HD 4850 X2

The Sapphire HD 4850 X2 not only is a direct threat to nVidia’s flagship product, but it aims to completely dominate this generation with its easy-to-swallow price point.  PC enthusiasts don’t have to purchase a special SLI motherboard to enjoy the benefits of Crossfire or SLI.  They can slap in a single video card with two GPUs onboard (and a special bridge chip) to gain the same benefits.  Those with multiple 16x PCIe slots can even quadruple their pleasure and have four GPUs running at the same time!

Designed by SAPPHIRE, the new HD 4850 X2 comprises two complete HD 4850 graphics systems on a single PCI-Express card connected by an on-board PCI Express Gen 2 bridge chip. Each GPU has 800 stream process units and a 256-bit memory interface driving 1GB of GDDR3 memory, making a total of 2GB on-board memory. Four Dual Link DVI outputs are provided as well as TV-Out. This provides a choice of Multi-monitor operation or CrossFire mode in which 3D applications such as games use both on-board GPU’s together to deliver a single accelerated output on the Primary display. In this mode the SAPPHIRE HD 4850 X2 delivers industry leading levels of performance and achieves previously unavailable frame rates in games even at high resolutions with features enabled.

The SAPPHIRE HD 4850 X2 is implemented on a single ATX format PCI-Express card, with a dual fan assisted cooler making it a standard dual-slot configuration. This solution will have immediate appeal to performance users with only a single PCI-Express slot available. On a suitable PCI Express Gen 2.0 CrossFireX mainboard it is also possible to use two SAPPHIRE HD 4850 X2 cards in CrossFireX mode to provide even higher levels of performance.

The SAPPHIRE HD 4850 X2 incorporates the latest ATI Avivo™ HD Technology for enhanced Video display and features a second generation built in UVD (Unified Video decoder) for the hardware accelerated decoding of Blu-ray™ and HD DVD content for both VC-1 and H.264 codecs, as well as mpeg files, reducing CPU loading to a minimum. The SAPPHIRE HD 4850 X2 is HDCP ready and is compatible with the latest High Definition displays. Like other HD 4800 series products it also supports HDMI over the DVI interface with the HDMI Adapter supplied.

All SAPPHIRE’s current graphics cards are Microsoft Windows Vista™ certified and supported by the ATI Catalyst™ suite of software, ensuring customers have easy and ongoing access to software updates for performance, stability and added features.