Sapphire Toxic HD 4850

Sep 22nd, 2008 | By

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Sapphire Toxic HD 4850

: 09/22/08 – 02:44:27 AM


: Video Cards

Page 1 : Index

: Sapphire Technology

Sapphire Technology is a brand easily recognized in the graphics card and mainboard industry. For over ten years we've known them as manufacturers of ATI video cards. With a production capacity of over 1.8 million units a month, it's obvious why they are a major manufacturer for tier 1 OEMs.


Today we get the opportunity to review Sapphire's Toxic HD 4850 video card. The HD 4850 is targeted towards NVIDIA's 9800GTX and after its initial response, there was a sudden drop in the MSRP of NVIDIA video cards. The HD 4850 with its $200 price bracket makes it an ideal budget card with ample punch. Sapphire Technology has upped the ante by adding the famous Zalman heatpipe fan to provide more efficient cooling than the stock ATI cooler. How well does this card really perform? You're just clicks away from finding out.

Page 2 : Package & Contents

Sapphire Technology shipped me the Toxic HD 4850 in its retail from their Canadian office which allowed me to get a jump start on the review. The box is glossy black and covers all basic details that you'll want to read about in a retail store. There's not a whole lot in terms of pictures, not even eye candy. This is where I think Sapphire Technology could make a small change. A picture of the product would greatly increase my appeal to the card, especially when I see it uses a nice Zalman cooler.

package package

One side of the box gives you the graphics controller name (HD 4850), system requirements, and external connectors. We also get a copy of the UPC code.

package package package

Opening up the box, we're able to pull out all of the contents and there's surprisingly a fair bit to it. Opening the brown box we see the video card wrapped in an anti-static bubble wrap and below the card we have the accessories: CrossFireX connector, DVI to VGA, DVI to HDMI, HD Composite cables, power adapter, S-video adapter, multilingual manual, 3D Vantage, Power DVD, AMD Ruby ROM, DVD Suite and Installation Driver CD. Not a bad collection if you ask me. I personally like how they have included a DVI to HDMI (female) adapter as these retail for 30 bucks at Monster Cable!

package package package

The last thing to pull out in the package is the card, so here it is!

package package

Page 3 : Specifications

As I mentioned earlier, the Sapphire Toxic HD 4850 is no regular ATI HD 4850. The most obvious point of difference is the Zalman copper heatpipe and fan. In addition to that, it comes overclocked by the factory with a core clock speed of 675 MHz and a memory operating speed of 1100 MHz. This is up from the stock 625/933 configuration. Browsing Sapphire Technology's website, we get a very detailed synopsis of the card, including some of their own benchmarks.




You can learn more about the entire ATI Radeon 4800 Series family here.

Removing the heatsink we get quick access to the core:


We quickly see that the core was made in week 24 of 2008. From what I can see, there's nothing explicitly stating the core is a 4850.

Gaining access to the memory IC is a little more work than undoing 4 screws. I used a CD to pry off the heatsink but it took off some of the letter. Under the lamp I could see it was a Samsung week 25 build with K4J52324QH-HJ08 as the model. The serial appears to be AHE049P2. The latest claims this kit is good to 1.2Ghz at 2.05V. Seeing as this kit is clocked at 1100Mhz, that gives us a little more room to play with.


Page 4 : Product Tour

The first thing I noticed when I pulled out the Toxic 4850 is how long it is. It's approximately the same length as my 8800GT OC2 which was not the easiest squeeze into my Antec 900. The Zalman cooler is a healthy size and should provide sufficient cooling to the already overclocked core.


The cooler is held down by four spring-loaded screws. It doesn't create much additional bulk to the back but the Zalman cooler already makes it a two-slot card.

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In addition to the Zalman cooler, if you take a close look at the card, you'll see memory and PWM are cooled by their own blue anodized aluminum heatsink. The reference design has as a separate PWM heatsink but the memory chips are cooled by the same copper heatsink that cools the RV700 GPU. The split design allows the memory IC to cool themselves whereas the joint heatsink may cause the GPU to heat up the memory. A thermal image would be required to confirm my suspicion, but I bet this setup by Sapphire is superior to the reference design.

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From looking at the card, it would appear there is good contact between the core and the heatsink. The same can be said about the heatsinks for the memory. We'll see how the temperatures look after when I start benchmarking and stress testing. The card may come clocked above the reference design, but that doesn't mean we won't shoot for higher.

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The card sports two DVI outputs which really should be standard these days. I still see cards with a VGA output and I scream ‘why?!’ in my head. If they include a DVI to VGA converter, you're good to go. The Toxic HD 4850 includes both DVI to VGA and DVI to HDMI which is a godsend for my system.


We've got a pretty good visual of this card now, so let's get to installation, overclocking and benchmarking!

Page 5 : Installation and Overclocking

Much like any video card in the market, installation is very simple. Pull out your old video card, install the Sapphire Toxic HD 4850, plug in the supplemental PCIe power, connect the appropriate displays and boot.

install install

Once you're into Windows, download the latest AMD ATI drivers and install. You'll need the latest .NET framework if you want to use the Catalyst Control Center.


To overclock the video card, you're very limited with the Catalyst Control Center. The maximum setting is 700/1200 which is not nearly enough for this card. Go do yourself favour and download the latest version of GPU-Zand AMD GPU Clock Tool. Overclocking is a manual process with AMD GPU Clock Tool as ATI Tool doesn't support the newer cards. However, get a copy to as you'll want to do a stress test and make sure your new settings are stable. Slowly increase the core speed until ATI Tool's stress test starts giving you artifacts. I work in increments of 15 MHz and then 5 to fine tune. Once you have a stable core setting, do the same for the memory. At the end of the day, I was capped out at
. This is a moderate gain from the 675/1100 stock and I'm pleased to say its 40Mhz over the specifications of the Samsung memory modules. To ensure 100% stability, I made sure this new setting was able to run every benchmark I could throw at it. It also passed 10 hours of ATI Tool Scan for Artifacts, a bit of an overkill but stability is king in my books. Generally 4-5 hours is more than enough.


To find the maximum temperature, GPU-Z reports the sensor readings and with overclocked conditions, the GPU Temp (DISPIO) hit a maximum temperature of 78.5°C, the GPU Temp (MEMIO) hit a maximum temperature of 86.5°C and the GPU Temp (Shadercore) hit a maximum of 80°sC. It's pretty warm but not at dangerous levels.

Page 6 : Test Configuration

Here is a complete list of the hardware that will be used for benchmarking and was used for stress testing.

Video Cards

  • Sapphire Toxic HD 4850 Catalyst 8.8

  • Diamond Multimedia HD 4850 Catalyst 8.8
  • Biostar 9500GT 512MB GeForce 177.79
  • BFG NVIDIA GeForce 8800GT OC2 512MB GeForce 175.19

The benchmarks we'll take a look at include the following:

  • Futuremark 3DMark Vantage

  • Futuremark 3DMark 2006
  • Futuremark 3DMark 2005
  • Futuremark 3DMark 2003
  • Cinebench Open GL Standard Test
  • Lightsmark @ 1920×1200, 1920×1080, 1680×1050

Gaming Benchmarks

  • Unreal Tournament III (DX 10) @ @ 1920×1200, 1920×1080, 1680×1050

  • Crysis (DX 10) @ 1920×1200, 1920×1080, 1680×1050
  • World in Conflict (Very High Detail) @ 1920×1200, 1920×1080, 1680×1050

8X Anti-Aliasing and 8X Anisotropic Filtering Gaming Benchmarks

  • Unreal Tournament III (DX 10) @ @ 1920×1200, 1920×1080, 1680×1050

  • Crysis (DX 10) @ 1920×1200, 1920×1080, 1680×1050
  • World in Conflict (Very High Detail) @ 1920×1200, 1920×1080, 1680×1050

Page 7 : Futuremark, Cinebench & Lightsmark

The first four benchmarks I ran were from the Futuremark 3DMark family. We all know what Futuremark products are for, so I won't go over them. The Sapphire HD4850 takes a commanding lead in the new 3DMark Vantage, nearly 1600 points in front of the BFG 8800GT OC2 at stock speeds. From there, mathematically the NVIDIA card takes the lead but the difference is negligible. If we look at the overclocked Toxic HD4850, the race isn't even close – Sapphire HD4850 hands down.


The second benchmark I looked at was Cinebench's OpenGL Standard Test. Cinebench is a real-world suite that assesses your computers performance using Maxon's Cinema 4D software. Cinebench runs two tests but we're only interested in the second one:

The second test measures graphics card performance and is run inside the 3D editor window. The project file used can test all graphics cards that support the OpenGL standard. In this scene, only the camera was animated. This scene places medium to low demands on graphics cards and tests the maximum speed with which the scene can be properly displayed.

ATI once again falls behind in the driver seat with relatively poor OpenGL results, being bested by both the 8800GT OC2 and the much newer but slower 9500GT. Perhaps one of these days the driver issue will be resolved and ATI's performance in OpenGL well be on par with Direct3D.


The final benchmark for this chapter is with Lightsmark, a realtime global illumination and penumbra shadows enabled benchmark. Natural lighting makes artificial graphics life-like. Computers get faster, but rendering more polygons doesn't add value if lighting looks faked, so insiders know that the next big thing is proper lighting aka Realtime Global Illumination. Typical workloads in realtime rendering will shift. Lightsmark simulates it. Global Illumination renders often take hours. Is your computer fast enough for realtime?

Lightsmark is another OpenGL based benchmark so we once again see the pattern of sub-par performance on the behalf of ATI. This time, however, the Sapphire Toxic HD4850 does get to call itself champion at the higher resolutions. However, at 1680×1050 even the overclocked Toxic is no match to the stock BFG 8800GT OC2.


So far we've seen a very close race. The Sapphire Toxic HD4850 goes toe to toe against the BFG 8800GT OC2 in all the benchmarks but manages to stay ahead at the higher resolutions. The higher stock settings on the Toxic HD4850 push it well beyond the reference ATI card, making it a clear winner when looking at HD4850 cards only.

Page 8 : UT III, Crysis & World in Conflict Benchmarks

Video games, the real reason why so many of us spend thousands of dollars on building the ‘perfect’ PC balacing power to price. There are countless games in the world that we could play and to benchmark them all would simple take a lifetime. I have selected to compare the results between three titles, some newer than others and some more demanding than others. Starting with Unreal Tournament III, this game was released in 2007 and the Unreal Engine has been popular with many games but isn't the most demanding. Under DirectX 10 performance, we see some really high numbers, even with 8xAA and 8xAF enabled.


I suspect the AA and AF configurations between ATI and NVIDIA are slightly different, which is why we see the NVIDIA numbers higher than the ATI but not when everything is disabled.


Even with 8xAA and 8xAF enabled, the performance doesn't dip below 80 frames per second.

Moving over to Crysis, this 2007 title uses CryEngine 2 and is the follow-up to the popular FarCry. The CryEngine 2 engine is extremely brutal, clearly making your video card the weakest link with playing Crysis or any game using the CryEngine 2 engine. Even when overclocked, the Sapphire Toxic HD4850 only managed an average of 16.71 frames per second, this is already 4 more than the BFG 8800GT OC2.


Once 8xAA and 8xAF are enabled, the Sapphire Toxic HD4850 doubles the output of the 8800GT OC2. While the picture may look beautiful, it won't be smooth. I managed to crack above 20 FPS only when overclocked and at a resolution of 1680×1050.


The final game I benchmarked with is World in Conflict at very high detail. World in Conflict came out last year and uses the Masstech Game Engine. It's a demanding engine but not to the extent of Crysis. The Toxic HD4850 still managed in the 30 frames per second range with only a small performance drop when enabling Anti-Aliasing and Anisotropic Filtering.



Overall, the Sapphire Toxic HD4850 performed well. The stock overclock gives it the added edge over the reference design. Where the card falls behind is in OpenGL performance, but depending on your needs that may or may not be a concern.

Page 9 : Conclusion

Another review comes to a close at Overclockers Online and the Sapphire Toxic HD 4850 has left a lasting impression. Overclocked from the factory and paired with a great Zalman cooling system means we can get a little more power out of the card without sacrificing performance. The cooler provides a lower operating temperature and the copper shines so very well against the blue PCB. More importantly, the integrated 7.1 HDMI Audio, included HDMI adapter, DirectX 10.1 support, etc is a great bundle to find built onto the blue circuit board. It's simply amazing to see how far engineering has gone these past few years.


Priced under $200USD at time of review, this card offers great bang for your buck. It rivals the once popular 8800GT and it's safe to say ATI is making a comeback in the graphics industry. This card comes with a fabulous set of features and should definitely be at the top of your list when considering a graphics upgrade on a tight budget.


  • Factory overclocked with additional headroom

  • Great bundle including superior cooling
  • Good price


  • Didn't win all the benchmarks

Overclockers Online would like to thank Sapphire Technology for making this review possible.

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