Sapphire HD 4850 X2Nov 19th, 2008 | By Simon
Sapphire HD 4850 X2
: 11/19/08 – 01:21:39 AM
: Video Cards
Page 1 : Index
: Sapphire Technology
It felt like just yesterday when Sapphire mailed me the Sapphire Toxic HD 4850 and it was only a few days ago when Jared completed his review of the Sapphire HD 4550. Sapphire has made a grand entrance with two great products for us to look at and today they top themselves by sending a HD 4850 X2.
The last dual GPU card we looked at was the HD 3870 X2 and while it feels like ages ago, only 9 months has actually passed. Technology has come a long way since then and we're excited to see what the HD 4850 X2 has to offer.
Page 2 : Package & Content
The Sapphire HD 4850 X2 arrived in a large retail box measuring 15′x10′x4′. The box follows all the themes of your usual enthusiast package – shiny box with your female character wielding a weapon of some sort. The front of the box covers all the key features along the perimeter and the backside of the box lists some product highlights. The Sapphire logo is prominently displayed at the corners and it is impossible to miss the bold HD 4850 X2 text at the bottom.
On the other useful side of the box, the system requirements and available external connectors are present. The product serial number and UPC is attached to another side with a sticker.
Once you open up the box, you need to pull out a second cardboard box before getting access to the HD 4850 X2. There is a clear warning label that auxiliary power is required for the video card; remember you're basically powering two cards in one.
Sapphire has gone the extra mile to package the accessories included with the HD 4850 X2 in a separate box below the video card. This will ensure nothing can bounce around and potentially damage your new purchase. Included in the accessory kit is a manual, several DVD programs, 3DMark Vantage, an installation CD, CrossFire connector, composite and component adaptors, DVI to HDMI dongle, DVI to VGA and two auxiliary power connectors.
Page 3 : Features and Specifications
Where do we begin with a card of this power? To start, I'll link you directly to Sapphire's product page where you can read the product specifications and features with your own eyes. However, I will make things easier on you by replicating some information below. To start, we have the product specifications. The HD 4850 X2 comes in two flavours, one with 2x1GB of RAM and the other with 2x512MB of RAM. You can bet I have the 2GB model!
Some key features:
Redefine HD Gaming
2.0 teraFLOPS of compute power
This is the most powerful graphics card available today with nearly two billion transistors and 1600 stream processors.
Extreme DirectXR10.1 Performance
Play today while preparing for tomorrow with state-of-the-art DirectX 10.1 graphics capabilities.
Unparalleled Anti-Aliasing & Anisotropic Filtering
High performance anisotropic filtering and 24x custom filter anti-aliasing (CFAA) smooth jagged edges and create true-to-life graphics, for everything from grass to facial features
Superior Scalability with dual mode ATI CrossFireX(TM) Technology
ATI CrossFireX(TM) technology with quad GPU support in dual mode offers superior scalability so you can take your game to new heights.
Go Beyond HD Video
Add an ATI Radeon HD 4870 Series GPU to your PC and watch the latest Blu-ray and HD movies play with incredible fidelity – upscale to nearly twice the display resolution of HD content.* Take full advantage of Blu-ray functionality with dual-stream, picture in picture (PIP) capabilities. Sophisticated new features within ATI Avivo(TM) HD technology provide a truly responsive experience. Support for the latest audio visual interconnects ensures you can take advantage of the latest display technology.
Unified Video Decoder 2
Unified Video Decoder 2 frees up your CPU for other tasks so you get The Ultimate Visual Experience(TM) for even the most processing-intensive content, including VC-1, H.264 and now MPEG-2. Also, take full advantage of Blu-ray functionality with dual-stream, picture in picture (PIP) capabilities.
Upscale Beyond 1080p
Watch the hottest Blu-ray movies or other HD content at full 1080p display resolution and beyond.
On-chip HDCP (High-Bandwidth Digital Content Protection) makes life easier by allowing you to playback HDCP protected content.**
Enjoy the latest audio technologies using HDMI with 7.1 digital surround sound support. Also, xvYCC support allows the user to enjoy a wider range of color when connected to a capable HDTV.
*Note: HD capable monitor required
** Note: Playing HDCP content requires additional HDCP ready components, including but not limited to an HDCP ready monitor, Blu-ray or HD DVD disc drive, multimedia application and computer operating system.
Energy Efficient Manufacturing Process
Second generation 55nm chip uses the industry's most energy efficient manufacturing process.
Best Performance Per Watt
The ATI Radeon HD 4850 X2 graphics cards deliver up to 2x the performance per watt of the previous generation
- PCI ExpressR based PC is required with one X16 lane graphics slot available on the motherboard
- 650 Watt or greater power supply with one 2×3-pin PCIeR power connector and one 2×4-pin PCIeR power connector is required (1K Watt with two 2×3-pin and two 2×4-pin connectors for ATI CrossFireX(TM) technology in dual mode)1
- Certified power supplies are recommended. Refer to http:/ati.amd.com/certifiedPSUfor a list of Certified products
- Certified system cases with good airflow and cooling are recommended. Refer to http:/ati.amd.com/certifiedcases for a list of Certified products
- Minimum 1GB of system memory
- Installation software requires CD-ROM drive
- DVD playback requires DVD drive
- Blu-ray(TM) / HD DVD playback requires Blu-ray / HD DVD drive
- For a complete ATI CrossFireX(TM) system, a second ATI Radeon(TM) HD 4870 X2 graphics card, an ATI CrossFireX Ready motherboard and one ATI CrossFireX Bridge Interconnect cable per graphics card (included) are required
Page 4 : Product Walk Through
I was quite excited to receive the HD 4850 X2 and it didn't take very long before the box was opened and the card ready to go into my PC. However, before we dive into installation and performance details, let's take a closer look at the card.
The most obvious feature on the X2 card are the dual GPU fans. Obviously with two processors on board, you'll be generating a lot of heat. The easiest way to dissipate this is through a heatsink and fan combination. The HD 4850 X2 certainly has a lot of metal on it, but don't be decieved by the large black shroud. It doesn't do much but add weight as it's not in contact with the actual heatsink; more on this later. What the shroud does do is make it easy to tell that this is a custom cooler that's unlike what ATI typically bundles with their cards.
Once the shroud is removed, you can see that Sapphire has made a very good attempt at maximizing each heatsink's surface area by the sheer number of fins. The heatsink is made from aluminum with a copper insert that contacts the GPU. The copper insert is unpolished but still flat.
The second most obvious feature that makes this video card stand out from the rest are the
DVI outputs available. Real time strategy games will never be the same with four 30′ LCDs hooked up!
Apart from these two differences, there isn't much to the card. External power supply connectors are located at the back like every other card on the market.
There is a small heatsink on the underside and on top for PWM cooling but all 2GB of memory are located on the topside. The memory modules are cooled only by a small flat metal plate – no fins for extra surface area and active cooling only by what air is blown overtop from the GPU cooler.
The rest of the backside is bare – with a couple stickers, one which provides the SKU, product number and of course name.
Just so you know if the card will fit inside your case, the card measures 11.25′ long and is 1.75′ thick with heatsinks on both sides of the card.
After stripping the shroud off, the next step for me was to pull off the heatsink and look under the cover. Four spring loaded screws hold each GPU cooler down. The first 1GB block of memory was cooled by a flat heatsink held down with 3 push pins. On the picture below, both GPU heatsinks have been stripped and the heatsink has been removed on the left bank of RAM.
There's just your usual information on the 4850 core. I was more interested in the Samsung memory modules as they'll tell me what kind of memory overclocking headroom I'll have. The make is a Samsung K4J10324QD-HJ1A and the memory has a listed maximum of 1000 MHz, just above the 993 listed on the Sapphire HD 4850 X2.
Page 5 : Installation, Overclocking & Temperatures
Installation is simple for most video cards, but when you package two cores onto one PCB, you create a long card. That's exactly the problem with the Sapphire HD 4850 X2. The 11.25′ span will make it a very tight squeeze in most cases. It's unfortunate that AMD has not updated their certified case list to ensure it fits inside your existing chassis.
When installed in my Antec 900, the card butted into the hard drive bay. Lucky for me there wasn't anything in the way. I installed the drivers that were available on the included CD – Catalyst 8.11 (8.542 RC1).
To overclock the video card, you're very limited with the Catalyst Control Center. The maximum setting is 700/1200 which isn't a lot. To maximize your potential, download the latest version of GPU-Z and 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 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 25 MHz and then 5 to fine tune. Once you have a stable core setting, do the same for the memory until you've achieved your maximum overclock. At the end of the day, I hit the wall at 720/2220. This is up from 685/1986. It's a modest gain of 5% on the core and 11.8% on the memory.
To find the maximum temperature, I opted to use FurMark. A popular OpenGL benchmark, if you don't get artifacts after 1 hour of running this badboy, your overclocked card is definitely stable. Going to the extreme, I let FurMark run for four hours and after that my temperatures were the following:
Many early reviews stated that this card is extremely loud. However, a recently received BIOS flash fixes that problem. At idle the card is just as loud as my HD 4850 IceQ, which isn't very. From the temperatures above, you shouldn't need to worry about overheating with the new BIOS even at full loud as the fan will pick up then. Just to note, all of my tests were done with the new BIOS. The old BIOS was geared towards performance but won't be representative of what's likely available in stores.
Page 6 : Test Setup
Here is a complete list of the hardware that will be used for benchmarking and was used for stress testing.
- CPU: Intel C2D Q6600 (G0 SLACR L731B434) @ 2.71 GHz
- CPU Cooling: Thermalright HR-01 w/ 120mm Antec Tri-Cool Fan
- MB: Asus P5E3-Dlx Wifi-AP Edition
- RAM: Aeneon 2x2GB XTune DDR3-1600
- PWM Cooling: Stock
- NB Cooling: Stock
- SB Cooling: Stock
- PSU: Cooler Master Real Power Pro 850W
- HD: Seagate SATA 250 GB 8MB NCQ
- OS: Windows Vista x64
- Sapphire HD 4850 X2 Catalyst 8.11
- HIS HD4850 IceQ 4 TurboX Catalyst 8.8
- 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
- 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 graph below clearly shows the performance difference one 4850 and the X2, there's approximately a 50% gain in performance with 3D Vantage and 3D2003 but the performance increase is not as high when comparing again 3D2006 and 3D2005.
The second benchmark I looked at was Cinebench's OpenGL Standard Test. Cinebench is a real-world suite that assesses your computer's 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.
Surprisingly, it requires an overclocked 4850 X2 to beat the 8800GT OC2, only because of driver performance. You'll also notice that there's limited gain against a single 4850.
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. It doesn't appear as if Lightsmark has capitalized on the dual core as performance is proportional to the single core clock speed.
While we're half done the benchmarks, the game has really only begin as we fire up some games.
Page 8 : UTIII, Crysis & World in Conflict
Video games, the real reason why so many of us spend thousands of dollars on building the ‘perfect’ PC balancing 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 decided 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.
The Sapphire HD 4850 X2 pulls ahead by breaking the 200 FPS mark. With the overclocked card, the gain is roughly 50 FPS.
With AA and AF enabled, we really do get twice the performance out of the HD 4850 X2. We're off to a very good start with the HD 4850 X2 being able to take any settings you want to throw at it with UTIII.
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. The HD 4850 X2 flexes its muscle by doubling its framerate against a single HD 4850.
Even with AA and AF enabled, the HD 4850 X2 performs well and exactly where I would expect it to be given the performance without AA and AF.
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. Given the performance of the past two games, its no surprise that the HD 4850 X2 comes out on top with another 50% gain.
Much like the single cored HD 4850, the performance drop with AA and AF enabled is minimal with WIC.
Overall, the HD 4850 X2 performed extremely well against the 8800GT and single cored HD 4850. Once again, ATI falls behind with OpenGL performance but buyers of this card certainly won't mind as the DirectX performance is simply amazing.
Page 9 : Conclusion
The Sapphire HD 4850 X2 delivers stellar performance, performance that would rival a pair of individual HD 4850s in CrossFire. Those who thought ATI was out of the graphics card market are clearly wrong. The latest family of ATI hardware has flexed some serious muscle.
One of my biggest issues with high performance is the high levels of heat generated and that often means loud cooling. I'm completely surprised by how well the HD 4850 X2 cools itself, I was skeptical that the two tiny heatsinks would be able to do the trick, especially when there's probably more metal on the shroud than with the heatsink. However, with the latest BIOS flashed onto the card, Sapphire has managed to balance performance, heat and cooling noise. I was still able to achieve a modest overclock while staying at reasonable temperatures and quiet cooling. When the fan does hit high gear, it is loud; however, when the card isn't being stressed to the max, it is actually fairly quiet – no louder than the HD 4850 IceQ I have.
One thing I didn't address in great detail is the card's HD capabilities. Sapphire has you covered with 4 DVI outputs and has even included a DVI to HDMI dongle. To top it off, the accessory pack includes DVD playback for you to fully enjoy every moment of your HD 4850 X2 when hooked up to a big screen TV. Overall, Sapphire is the first to market the HD 4850 X2 and it will certainly be a huge hit. If a single HD 4850 isn't good enough and the HD 4870 X2 is a little too rich for your blood, you will not be disappointed by the performance of Sapphire's HD 4850 X2.
- Excellent performance
- Good cooling performance with updated BIOS
- 4 DVI output for multi-panel display
- Modest overclocking headroom
- Large size may not fit all cases
- Unbearably loud without updated BIOS
Overclockers Online would like to thank Sapphire for making this review possible.
Page 10 : Sapphire 4850X2 2GB Silent Bios
Update March 14 2009
There have been many requests for the Silent BIOS I made reference to in my review.
I have uploaded the version I obtained from Sapphire to share with you:
These BIOS parameters will make the card much quieter – NOTE – you can install this with ATIWinFlash You must flash both master and slave BIOS before restart.
Overclockers Online takes no responsibility for any damage done to your card or system as a result of updating your BIOS. Sapphire and Overclockers Online cannot provide any support to you. These drivers were not intended for public release
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