We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

[nextpage title=”Introduction”]

The new Radeon HD 4850 X2 that is being launched today is simply two Radeon HD 4850 video cards in a single board working in CrossFire mode, being a cheaper option to the Radeon HD 4870 X2, which is the most expensive video card available today, and priced to compete with GeForce GTX 280. How is the performance of Radeon HD 4850 X2 compared to GeForce GTX 280 and other high-end video cards? Does it provide a good cost/benefit ratio? That is what we will see in our review.

On Radeon HD 4850 X2 each GPU has 1 GB GDDR3 memory, so the card has a total of 2 GB – most Radeon HD 4850 models have 512 MB. The clocks and specs are the same.

Two things caught our eye on Sapphire’s model. First was the fact that Sapphire decided to use its own cooler instead of using the infamous standard cooler designed by ATI/AMD, which is heavy and known to heat a lot, increasing the temperature inside your PC. This cooler uses two individual aluminum heatsinks with copper base and an aluminum cover holding the two fans. This makes the card to run cooler, to be lighter and to have a more stylish design.

The second thing was the fact that this is the first video card we’ve seen with four DVI connectors. All other X2-style video cards have only two DVI connectors, just like regular video cards. So you can install up to four video monitors directly to this video card. Keep in mind that multiple monitors only work when you are not playing games, as when the system is in CrossFire mode video is generated on only one of the connectors.

Sapphire Radeon HD 4850 X2Figure 1: Sapphire Radeon HD 4850 X2.

Sapphire Radeon HD 4850 X2Figure 2: Sapphire Radeon HD 4850 X2.

Sapphire Radeon HD 4850 X2Figure 3: Sapphire Radeon HD 4850 X2.

Sapphire Radeon HD 4850 X2Figure 4: Four video connectors.

[nextpage title=”Introduction (Cont’d)”]

This video card requires the installation of one 6-pin auxiliary power connector and one 8-pin auxiliary power connector. If your power supply doesn’t have these connectors don’t worry: the video card comes with adapters.

Sapphire Radeon HD 4850 X2Figure 5: Auxiliary power connectors.

In Figure 5, you can see the video card with its cooler removed. As you can see, it uses individual aluminum heatsinks with copper base on the GPUs and aluminum passive heatsinks on the memory chips. Also notice how this video card uses only solid aluminum capacitors, which are the best kind of electrolytic capacitor.

Sapphire Radeon HD 4850 X2Figure 6: Video card with its cooler removed.

The reviewed video card has eight 1 Gbit GDDR3 memory chips from Samsung (K4J10324QD-HJ1A) around each GPU, making its 1 GB per GPU or 2 GB total. These chips support up to 1 GHz (2 GHz DDR), so there is no margin for you to overclock the memories with them still inside their specs. Of course you can try overclocking them above their labeled maximum clock rate.

In Figure 7, you can see all accessories and CDs/DVDs that come with this video card. With the accessories that come with this card you can convert the video output to VGA, HDMI, component video and composite video, plus the DVI and S-Video connectors already present on the product.

Sapphire Radeon HD 4850 X2Figure 7: Accessories.

This video card comes with three games inside a DVD called “Ruby ROM 1.1”: Call of Juarez, Dungeon Runners and Stranglehold. Programs that come with this video card include CyberLink DVD Suite (PowerProducer 4, PorwerDirector 5 Express, Power2GO 5.5, Mediashow 3 and trial versions of PowerBackup 2.5, PowerDVD Copy and LabelPrint 2), Cyberlink Power DVD 7, 3DMark Vantage Full, EarthSim and GameShadow.

Now let’s compare the Radeon HD 4850 X2 specifications to the specs of all other video cards included in our comparison.

[nextpage title=”More Details”]

To make the comparison between Radeon HD 4850 X2 and the other video cards we included in this review easier, we compiled the table below comparing the main specs from these cards. If you want to compare the specs of the reviewed video card to any other video card not included in the table below, just take a look at our NVIDIA Chips Comparison Table and on our AMD ATI Chips Comparison Table.

GPU Core Clock Shader Clock Processors Memory Clock Memory Interface Memory Transfer Rate Memory Price
GeForce GTX 280 602 MHz 1,296 MHz 240 1,107 MHz 512-bit 141.7 GB/s 1 GB GDDR3 USD 405 – 470
GeForce GTX 260 576 MHz 1,242 MHz 192 1,000 MHz 448-bit 112 GB/s 896 MB GDDR3 USD 240 – 310
GeForce 9800 GX2 600 MHz 1,500 MHz 128 1,000 MHz 256-bit 64 GB/s 1 GB GDDR3 USD 220 – 285
GeForce 9800 GTX+ 738 MHz 1,836 MHz 128 1,100 MHz 256-bit 70.4 GB/s 512 MB GDDR3 USD 190 – 210
GeForce 9800 GTX 675 MHz 1,688 MHz 128 1,100 MHz 256-bit 70.4 GB/s 512 MB GDDR3 USD 148 – 180
Palit GeForce 9800 GT 1 GB 600 MHz 1.5 GHz 112 900 MHz 256-bit 57.6 GB/s 1 GB GDDR3 USD 170
Radeon HD 4870 X2 750 MHz 750 MHz 800 900 MHz 256-bit 115.2 GB/s 1 GB GDDR5 USD 530 – 550
Radeon HD 4870 750 MHz 750 MHz 800 900 MHz 256-bit 115.2 GB/s 512 MB GDDR5 U
SD 290 – 310
Radeon HD 4850 X2 625 MHz 625 MHz 800 993 MHz 256-bit 63.5 GB/s 1 GB GDDR3 USD 419
Radeon HD 4850 625 MHz 625 MHz 800 993 MHz 256-bit 63.5 GB/s 512 MB GDDR3 USD 160 – 200
Radeon HD 4830 575 MHz 575 MHz 640 900 MHz 256-bit 57.6 GB/s 512 MB GDDR3 USD 130
Sapphire Atomic HD 3870 X2 857 MHz 857 MHz 320 927 MHz 256-bit 59.3 GB/s 1 GB GDDR3
Radeon HD 3870 776 MHz 776 MHz 320 1,125 MHz 256-bit 72 GB/s 512 MB GDDR4 USD 95 – 150

It is important to note that this table reflects the current prices for the listed video cards at Newegg.com, which are lower than the prices we published in other reviews, since prices tend to drop every day.

Some important observations regarding this table:

  • All NVIDIA chips are DirectX 10 (Shader 4.0), while all AMD/ATI chips are DirectX 10.1 (Shader 4.1).
  • The memory clocks listed are the real memory clock. Memory clocks are often advertised as double the figures presented, numbers known as “DDR clock.” Radeon HD 4870 and Radeon HD 4870 X2 use GDDR5 chips, which transfer four data per clock cycle and thus the “DDR clock” for these video cards is four times the value presented on this table (i.e., 3.6 GHz).
  • GeForce 9800 GX2, Radeon HD 3870 X2, Radeon HD 4850 X2 and Radeon HD 4870 X2 have two GPU’s. The numbers on the table represent only one of the chips.
  • All video cards included on our review were running at the chip manufacturer default clock configuration (i.e., no overclocking), except Sapphire Atomic HD 3870 X2. The official core clock for Radeon HD 3870 X2 is 825 MHz, while the official memory clock is 900 MHz. So this card was a little bit overclocked. We couldn’t reduce these clocks to their reference values and since we hadn’t any other Radeon HD 3870 X2 available we included this video card anyway.
  • Prices were researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this review. The exception was Sapphire Radeon HD 4850 X2, which price is the suggested price informed by the manufacturer.
  • We couldn’t find Sapphire Atomic HD 3870 X2 for sale. This model will be more expensive than cards from other vendors based on the same GPU because it features water cooling. Just for you to have an idea, prices on the regular Radeon 3870 X2 are quoted between USD 160 and USD 275.

Before going to our tests let’s recap the main features from Sapphire Radeon HD 4850 X2.

[nextpage title=”Main Specifications”]

Sapphire Radeon HD 4850 X2 main features are:

  • Graphics chip: Two Radeon HD 4850, running at 625 MHz.
  • Memory: 2 GB GDDR3 memory (256-bit interface) from Samsung (K4J10324QD-HJ1A), running at 993 MHz (“1.99 GHz”).
  • Bus type: PCI Express x16 2.0.
  • Connectors: Four DVI (with HDMI support) and one S-Video output (with component video support).
  • Video Capture (VIVO): No.
  • Cables and adapters that come with this board: S-Video to component video cable, S-video to composite video adapter, DVI-to-VGA adapter, DVI-to-HDMI adapter, CrossFire bridge, one standard 4-pin peripheral power plug to 6-pin PCI Express auxiliary power plug (PEG) adapter and one standard 4-pin peripheral power plug to 8-pin PCI Express auxiliary power plug (PEG) adapter.
  • Number of CDs/DVDs that come with this board: Five.
  • Games that come with this board: Call of Juarez, Dungeon Runners and Stranglehold (inside “Ruby ROM 1.1” DVD).
  • Programs that come with this board: CyberLink DVD Suite (PowerProducer 4, PorwerDirector 5 Express, Power2GO 5.5, Mediashow 3 and trial versions of PowerBackup 2.5, PowerDVD Copy and LabelPrint 2), Cyberlink Power DVD 7,3DMark06 Full, EarthSim and GameShadow.
  • Minimum Required Power Supply: 650 W.
  • More information: https://www.sapphiretech.com
  • Suggested price in the US:  USD 419.00

[nextpage title=”How We Tested”]

During our benchmarking sessions, we used the configuration listed below. Between our benchmarking sessions the only variable was the video card being tested.

Hardware Configuration

Software Configuration

  • Windows Vista Ultimate 32-bit
  • Service Pack 1

Driver Versions

  • nForce driver version: 15.17
  • AMD/ATI video driver version: Catalyst 8.5
  • AMD/ATI video driver version: Catalyst 8.6 + hotfix (8.501.1.0, 6/21/2008) (Radeon HD 4850, HD 4870)
  • AMD/ATI video driver version: 8.520.0.0 (Radeon HD 4870 X2)
  • AMD/ATI video driver version: 8.10 (Radeon HD 4830)
  • AMD/ATI video driver version: 8.542.0.0 (Radeon HD 4850 X2)
  • NVIDIA video driver version: 175.16
  • NVIDIA video driver version: 177.34 (GeForce GTX 260, GTX 280)
  • NVIDIA video driver version: 177.79 (GeForce 9800 GT, 9800 GTX+)

Software Used

Resolutions and Image Quality Settings

Since we were comparing very high-end video cards, we ran all our tests under three 16:10 widescreen high resolutions: 1680×1050, 1920×1200, and 2560×1600. We always tried to run the programs and games in two scenarios for each resolution, one with low image quality settings and then maxing out the image quality settings. The exact configuration we used will be described together with the results of each individual test.

Error Margin

We adopted a 3% error margin; thus, differences below 3% cannot be considered relevant. In other words, products with a performance difference below 3% should be considered as having similar performance.

[nextpage title=”3DMark06 Professional”]

3DMark06 measures Shader 3.0 (i.e., DirectX 9.0c) performance. We run this software under three 16:10 widescreen resolutions, 1680×1050, 1920×1200, and 2560×1600, first with no image quality enhancements enabled – results we call “low” on the charts and tables below –, then setting 4x anti-aliasing and 16x anisotropic filtering. See the results below.

Radeon HD 4850 X2
3DMark06 Professional 1.1.0 – 1680×1050 – Low Score Difference
Radeon HD 4870 X2 17557 4.95%
Radeon HD 4850 X2 16729  
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2 16260 2.88%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI 16221 3.13%
GeForce 9800 GX2 15623 7.08%
GeForce GTX 280 14904 12.25%
Radeon HD 4870 14215 17.69%
GeForce GTX 260 13701 22.10%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ 13355 25.26%
GeForce 9800 GTX 12759 31.12%
Radeon HD 4850 11842 41.27%
GeForce 9800 GT 11471 45.84%
Radeon HD 4830 10898 53.51%
Radeon HD 3870 10694 56.43%
Radeon HD 4850 X2
3DMark06 Professional 1.1.0 – 1920×1200 – Low Score Difference
Radeon HD 4870 X2 17414 6.87%
Radeon HD 4850 X2 16294  
GeForce 9800 GX2 15547 4.80%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2 15489 5.20%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI 15486 5.22%
GeForce GTX 280 14215 14.63%
Radeon HD 4870 13017 25.17%
GeForce GTX 260 12668 28.62%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ 12206 33.49%
GeForce 9800 GTX 11631 40.09%
Radeon HD 4850 10691 52.41%
GeForce 9800 GT 10253 58.92%
Radeon HD 4830 9787 66.49%
Radeon HD 3870 9454 72.35%
Radeon HD 4850 X2
3DMark06 Professional 1.1.0 – 2560×1600 – Low Score Difference
Radeon HD 4870 X2 15920 12.59%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI 14146 0.05%
Radeon HD 4850 X2 14140  
GeForce 9800 GX2 13015 8.64%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2 12315 14.82%
GeForce GTX 280 11766 20.18%
Radeon HD 4870 10159 39.19%
GeForce GTX 260 9894 42.91%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ 9365 50.99%
GeForce 9800 GTX 8743 61.73%
Radeon HD 4850 8077 75.06%
GeForce 9800 GT 7679 84.14%
Radeon HD 4830 7308 93.49%
Radeon HD 3870 6823 107.24%
Radeon HD 4850 X2
3DMark06 Professional 1.1.0 – 1680×1050 – High Score Difference
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2 16260 8.42%
Radeon HD 4870 X2 16134 7.58%
Radeon HD 4850 X2 14997  
GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI 13946 7.54%
GeForce 9800 GX2 13900 7.89%
GeForce GTX 280 12157 23.36%
Radeon HD 4870 11063 35.56%
GeForce GTX 260 10617 41.25%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ 9391 59.70%
GeForce 9800 GTX 8981 66.99%
Radeon HD 4850 8881 68.87%
Radeon HD 4830 7943 88.81%
GeForce 9800 GT 7899 89.86%
Radeon HD 3870 6915 116.88%
Radeon HD 4850 X2
3DMark06 Professional 1.1.0 – 1920×1200 – High Score Difference
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2 15489 12.17%
Radeon HD 4870 X2 15313 10.89%
Radeon HD 4850 X2 13809  
GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI 13091 5.48%
GeForce 9800 GX2 12213 13.07%
GeForce GTX 280 10991 25.64%
Radeon HD 4870 10014 37.90%
GeForce GTX 260 9450 4
6.13%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ 8144 69.56%
Radeon HD 4850 7972 73.22%
GeForce 9800 GTX 7811 76.79%
Radeon HD 4830 7109 94.25%
GeForce 9800 GT 6826 102.30%
Radeon HD 3870 6114 125.86%
Radeon HD 4850 X2
3DMark06 Professional 1.1.0 – 2560×1600 – High Score Difference
Radeon HD 4870 X2 12479 14.97%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2 12315 13.46%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI 10893 0.36%
Radeon HD 4850 X2 10854  
GeForce 9800 GX2 9829 10.43%
GeForce GTX 280 8704 24.70%
Radeon HD 4870 7550 43.76%
GeForce GTX 260 7285 48.99%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ 6065 78.96%
Radeon HD 4850 5896 84.09%
GeForce 9800 GTX 5774 87.98%
Radeon HD 4830 5213 108.21%
GeForce 9800 GT 5045 115.14%
Radeon HD 3870 4319 151.31%

[nextpage title=”3DMark Vantage Professional”]

3DMark Vantage is the latest addition to the 3DMark series, measuring Shader 4.0 (i.e., DirectX 10) performance and supporting PhysX, a programming interface developed by Ageia (now part of NVIDIA) to transfer physics calculations from the system CPU to the video card GPU in order to increase performance. Mechanical physics is the basis for calculations about the interaction of objects. For example, if you shoot, what exactly will happen to the object when the bullet hits it? Will it break? Will it move? Will the bullet bounce back? Notice that we didn’t upgrade the PhysX to the latest version, which would make the physics calculations for CPU Test 2 to be made by the GPU instead of the CPU on NVIDIA video cards (since we aren’t considering CPU or 3DMark scores this change wouldn’t produce any increase in our results anyway).

We ran this program at three 16:10 widescreen resolutions, 1680×1050, 1920×1200, and 2560×1600. First we used the “Performance” profile, and then we used the “Extreme” profile (basically enabling anti-aliasing at 4x, anisotropic filtering at 16x, and putting all detail settings at their maximum or “extreme” value. The combination of 2560×1600 resolution with extreme settings didn’t produce reliable results according to the program, so we aren’t going to add them here. The results being compared are the “GPU Scores” achieved by each video card.

Radeon HD 4850 X2
3DMark Vantage Professional 1.0.1 – 1680×1050 – Performance Score Difference
Radeon HD 4870 X2 11697 45.30%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI 8725 8.39%
Radeon HD 4850 X2 8050  
GeForce GTX 280 7695 4.61%
GeForce 9800 GX2 6990 15.16%
Radeon HD 4870 6193 29.99%
GeForce GTX 260 5898 36.49%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2 5651 42.45%
Radeon HD 4850 4797 67.81%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ 4499 78.93%
Radeon HD 4830 4220 90.76%
GeForce 9800 GTX 3805 111.56%
GeForce 9800 GT 3691 118.10%
Radeon HD 3870 2977 170.41%
Radeon HD 4850 X2
3DMark Vantage Professional 1.0.1 – 1920×1200 – Performance Score Difference
Radeon HD 4870 X2 9472 49.05%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI 6545 2.99%
Radeon HD 4850 X2 6355  
GeForce GTX 280 6106 4.08%
GeForce 9800 GX2 5379 18.14%
Radeon HD 4870 4880 30.23%
GeForce GTX 260 4582 38.69%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2 4336 46.56%
Radeon HD 4850 3725 70.60%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ 3370 88.58%
Radeon HD 4830 3301 92.52%
GeForce 9800 GT 2951 115.35%
GeForce 9800 GTX 2891 119.82%
Radeon HD 3870 2269 180.08%
Radeon HD 4850 X2
3DMark Vantage Professional 1.0.1 – 2560×1600 – Performance Score Difference
Radeon HD 4870 X2 5542 32.05%
Radeon HD 4850 X2 4197  
GeForce GTX 280 3549 18.26%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI 3482 20.53%
GeForce 9800 GX2 2910 44.23%
Radeon HD 4870 2728 53.85%
GeForce GTX 260 2640 58.98%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2 2382 76.20%
Radeon HD 4850 2050 104.73%
Radeon HD 4830 1837 128.47%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ 1815 131.24%
GeForce 9800 GT 1638 156.23%
GeForce 9800 GTX 1557 169.56%
Radeon HD 3870 1244 237.38%
Radeon HD 4850 X2
3DMark Vantage Professional 1.0.1 – 1680×1050 – Extreme
Score Difference
Radeon HD 4870 X2 8405 22.54%
Radeon HD 4850 X2 6859  
GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI 6195 10.72%
GeForce GTX 280 6005 14.22%
GeForce 9800 GX2 4858 41.19%
GeForce GTX 260 4531 51.38%
Radeon HD 4870 4360 57.32%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2 3567 92.29%
Radeon HD 4850 3445 99.10%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ 3201 114.28%
Radeon HD 4830 2982 130.01%
GeForce 9800 GT 2741 150.24%
GeForce 9800 GTX 2703 153.76%
Radeon HD 3870 1855 269.76%
Radeon HD 4850 X2
3DMark Vantage Professional 1.0.1 – 1920×1200 – Extreme Score Difference
Radeon HD 4870 X2 6916 24.52%
Radeon HD 4850 X2 5554  
GeForce GTX 280 4732 17.37%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI 4415 25.80%
GeForce GTX 260 3576 55.31%
GeForce 9800 GX2 3508 58.32%
Radeon HD 4870 3490 59.14%
Radeon HD 4850 2753 101.74%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2 2669 108.09%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ 2399 131.51%
Radeon HD 4830 2349 136.44%
GeForce 9800 GT 2136 160.02%
GeForce 9800 GTX 2038 172.52%
Radeon HD 3870 1439 285.96%

[nextpage title=”Call of Duty 4″]

Call of Duty 4 is a DirectX 9 game implementing high-dynamic range (HDR) and its own physics engine, which is used to calculate how objects interact. For example, if you shoot, what exactly will hapen to the object when the bullet hits it? Will it break? Will it move? Will the bullet bounce back? It gives a more realistic experience to the user.

We ran this program at three 16:10 widescreen resolutions, 1680×1050, 1920×1200, and 2560×1600, maxing out all image quality controls (i.e., everything was put on the maximum values on the Graphics and Texture menus). We used the game internal benchmarking feature, running a demo provided by NVIDIA called “wetwork.” We are putting this demo for downloading here if you want to run your own benchmarks. The game was updated to version 1.6. The results below are the average number of frames per second (FPS) achieved by each card.

Radeon HD 4850 X2
Call of Duty 4 – 1680×1050 – Maximum Score Difference
Radeon HD 4870 X2 134.6 12.17%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI 127.7 6.42%
Radeon HD 4850 X2 120.0  
GeForce 9800 GX2 106.2 12.99%
GeForce GTX 280 105.3 13.96%
Radeon HD 4870 93.4 28.48%
GeForce GTX 260 91.0 31.87%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2 75.7 58.52%
Radeon HD 4850 72.4 65.75%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ 72.2 66.20%
GeForce 9800 GTX 69.1 73.66%
Radeon HD 4830 65.8 82.37%
GeForce 9800 GT 61.3 95.76%
Radeon HD 3870 43.0 179.07%
Radeon HD 4850 X2
Call of Duty 4 – 1920×1200 – Maximum Score Difference
Radeon HD 4870 X2 120.6 14.10%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI 110.7 4.73%
Radeon HD 4850 X2 105.7  
GeForce 9800 GX2 94.5 11.85%
GeForce GTX 280 91.7 15.27%
GeForce GTX 260 77.1 37.09%
Radeon HD 4870 76.4 38.35%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2 61.3 72.43%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ 59.5 77.65%
Radeon HD 4850 59.1 78.85%
GeForce 9800 GTX 57.7 83.19%
Radeon HD 4830 52.6 100.95%
GeForce 9800 GT 50.8 108.07%
Radeon HD 3870 35.4 198.59%
Radeon HD 4850 X2
Call of Duty 4 – 2560×1600 – Maximum Score Difference
Radeon HD 4870 X2 83.8 18.87%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI 74.3 5.39%
Radeon HD 4850 X2 70.5  
GeForce 9800 GX2 64.8 8.80%
GeForce GTX 280 64.8 8.80%
GeForce GTX 260 53.5 31.78%
Radeon HD 4870 48.1 46.57%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2 40.6 73.65%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ 39.7 77.58%
GeForce 9800 GTX 38.3 84.07%
Radeon HD 4850 36.7 92.10%
Radeon HD 4830 33.4 111.08%
GeForce 9800 GT 33.3 111.71%
Radeon HD 3870 22.4 214.73%

[nextpage title=”Crysis”]

Crysis is a very heavy DirectX 10 game. We updated this game to version 1.2.1 and used the HOC Crysis Benchmarking Utility to help us collecting data. Since we don’t think the default demo based on the island map stresses the video card the way we want, we used the HOC core demo available with the abovementioned utility. We ran this demo under three 16:10 widescreen resolutions, 1680x
1050, 1920×1200, and 2560×1600, first with image quality set to “low” and then with image quality set to “high.” Since all video cards achieved a number of frames per second below 10 at 2560×1600 with image details set to “high,” we are not including this test as the results aren’t reliable. We ran each test twice and discarded the first result, as usually the first run achieves a lower score compared to the subsequent runs since the game loses time loading files. The results below are the average number of frames per second (FPS) achieved by each card.

Radeon HD 4850 X2
Crysis 1.2.1 – 1680×1050 – Low Score Difference
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2 125 8.70%
GeForce GTX 280 125 8.70%
Radeon HD 4870 X2 120 4.35%
Radeon HD 4850 X2 115  
Radeon HD 4870 101 13.86%
GeForce GTX 260 99 16.16%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI 91 26.37%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ 91 26.37%
GeForce 9800 GTX 84 36.90%
Radeon HD 4850 84 36.90%
GeForce 9800 GX2 75 53.33%
GeForce 9800 GT 75 53.33%
Radeon HD 4830 74 55.41%
Radeon HD 3870 71 61.97%
Radeon HD 4850 X2
Crysis 1.2.1 – 1920×1200 – Low Score Difference
Radeon HD 4870 X2 119 3.48%
GeForce GTX 280 115 0.00%
Radeon HD 4850 X2 115  
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2 108 6.48%
Radeon HD 4870 84 36.90%
GeForce GTX 260 83 38.55%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI 76 51.32%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ 76 51.32%
GeForce 9800 GTX 69 66.67%
Radeon HD 4850 67 71.64%
GeForce 9800 GX2 63 82.54%
GeForce 9800 GT 61 88.52%
Radeon HD 4830 61 88.52%
Radeon HD 3870 58 98.28%
Radeon HD 4850 X2
Crysis 1.2.1 – 2560×1600 – Low Score Difference
Radeon HD 4870 X2 103 19.77%
GeForce GTX 280 95 10.47%
Radeon HD 4850 X2 86  
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2 71 21.13%
Radeon HD 4870 53 62.26%
GeForce GTX 260 52 65.38%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI 49 75.51%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ 49 75.51%
GeForce 9800 GTX 44 95.45%
Radeon HD 4850 43 100.00%
GeForce 9800 GX2 42 104.76%
GeForce 9800 GT 39 120.51%
Radeon HD 4830 38 126.32%
Radeon HD 3870 35 145.71%
Radeon HD 4850 X2
Crysis 1.2.1 – 1680×1050 – High Score Difference
Radeon HD 4870 X2 57 21.28%
Radeon HD 4850 X2 47  
GeForce GTX 280 42 11.90%
Radeon HD 4870 37 27.03%
GeForce GTX 260 32 46.88%
GeForce 9800 GTX 29 62.07%
Radeon HD 4850 29 62.07%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ 29 62.07%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI 28 67.86%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2 26 80.77%
GeForce 9800 GX2 25 88.00%
GeForce 9800 GT 25 88.00%
Radeon HD 4830 25 88.00%
Radeon HD 3870 19 147.37%
Radeon HD 4850 X2
Crysis 1.2.1 – 1920×1200 – High Score Difference
Radeon HD 4870 X2 47 20.51%
Radeon HD 4850 X2 39  
GeForce GTX 280 34 14.71%
Radeon HD 4870 30 30.00%
GeForce GTX 260 26 50.00%
Radeon HD 4850 23 69.57%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ 23 69.57%
GeForce 9800 GTX 22 77.27%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI 21 85.71%
GeForce 9800 GX2 21 85.71%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2 20 95.00%
GeForce 9800 GT 20 95.00%
Radeon HD 4830 20 95.00%
Radeon HD 3870 16 143.75%

[nextpage title=”Unreal Tournament 3″]

Unreal Tournament 3 is the latest installment from this famous first person shooter franchise, supporting DirectX 10 graphics when installed on Windows Vista with a DX10 compatible card. We upgraded Unreal Tournament 3 to version 1.2 and benchmarked it with the help of HOC UT3 benchmarking utility using the “Containment” demo, maxing out image quality settings (image quality at “high” and anisotropic filtering at x16). It is important to note that we haven’t applied the PhysX mod to this game, which would transfer PhysX processing from the
CPU to the GPU on NVIDIA cards. The results below are the average number of frames per second (FPS) achieved by each card.

Radeon HD 4850 X2
Unreal Tournament 3 – 1680×1050 – Maximum Score Difference
GeForce 9800 GTX 112 14.29%
GeForce 9800 GX2 108 10.20%
GeForce GTX 260 106 8.16%
GeForce GTX 280 104 6.12%
Radeon HD 4870 104 6.12%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ 104 6.12%
Radeon HD 4850 X2 98  
Radeon HD 4850 96 2.08%
Radeon HD 4870 X2 96 2.08%
GeForce 9800 GT 95 3.16%
Radeon HD 4830 89 10.11%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2 84 16.67%
Radeon HD 3870 83 18.07%
Radeon HD 4850 X2
Unreal Tournament 3 – 1920×1200 – Maximum Score Difference
GeForce 9800 GTX 108 11.34%
GeForce 9800 GX2 106 9.28%
GeForce GTX 260 103 6.19%
Radeon HD 4870 98 1.03%
Radeon HD 4850 X2 97  
Radeon HD 4870 X2 95 2.11%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ 94 3.19%
GeForce GTX 280 91 6.59%
Radeon HD 4850 89 8.99%
Radeon HD 4830 82 18.29%
GeForce 9800 GT 80 21.25%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2 78 24.36%
Radeon HD 3870 75 29.33%
Radeon HD 4850 X2
Unreal Tournament 3 – 2560×1600 – Maximum Score Difference
GeForce 9800 GTX 92 3.37%
GeForce 9800 GX2 92 3.37%
Radeon HD 4870 X2 91 2.25%
Radeon HD 4850 X2 89  
Radeon HD 4870 78 14.10%
GeForce GTX 260 76 17.11%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ 63 41.27%
GeForce GTX 280 62 43.55%
Radeon HD 4850 60 48.33%
Radeon HD 4830 53 67.92%
GeForce 9800 GT 52 71.15%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2 51 74.51%
Radeon HD 3870 47 89.36%

[nextpage title=”Half-Life 2: Episode Two”]

Half-Life 2 is a popular franchise and we benchmark the video cards using Episode Two with the aid of HOC Half-Life 2 Episode Two benchmarking utility using the “HOC Demo 1” provided by this program. We ran the game in three 16:10 widescreen resolutions, 1680×1050, 1920×1200, and 2560×1600, under two scenarios. First with quality set to maximum, bilinear filtering and anti-aliasing set to x0. This configuration we are calling “low” on the charts and tables below. Then we maxed out image quality settings, enabling x16 anisotropic filtering and 16xQCS anti-aliasing. This configuration we are calling “high” on our charts and tables. We updated the game up to the June 9th 2008 patch. The results below are the average number of frames per second (FPS) achieved by each card.

Radeon HD 4850 X2
Half-Life 2: Episode Two – 1680×1050 – Low Score Difference
Radeon HD 4870 170.0 6.25%
Radeon HD 4850 164.9 3.06%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2 160.4 0.25%
Radeon HD 4870 X2 160.0 0.00%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ 160.0 0.00%
Radeon HD 4850 X2 160.0  
Radeon HD 4830 159.0 0.63%
GeForce GTX 260 157.0 1.91%
GeForce GTX 280 156.3 2.37%
GeForce 9800 GT 156.0 2.56%
GeForce 9800 GTX 153.8 4.03%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI 151.0 5.96%
Radeon HD 3870 145.7 9.81%
GeForce 9800 GX2 136.8 16.96%
Radeon HD 4850 X2
Half-Life 2: Episode Two – 1920×1200 – Low Score Difference
Radeon HD 4870 165.0 3.77%
Radeon HD 4850 X2 159.0  
Radeon HD 4870 X2 158.0 0.63%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2 156.7 1.47%
GeForce GTX 280 156.3 1.73%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ 155.0 2.58%
GeForce GTX 260 153.0 3.92%
Radeon HD 4850 149.8 6.14%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI 149.0 6.71%
GeForce 9800 GTX 146.9 8.24%
GeForce 9800 GT 143.0 11.19%
Radeon HD 4830 138.0 15.22%
GeForce 9800 GX2 135.2 17.60%
Radeon HD 3870 120.1 32.39%
Half-Life 2: Episode Two – 2560×1600 – Low Score Difference
Radeon HD 4870 X2 156.0 4.70%
Radeon HD 4850 X2 149.0  
GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI 147.0 1.36%
GeForce GTX 280 145.1 2.69%
GeForce 9800 GX2 130.6 14.09%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2 129.7 14.88%
GeForce GTX 260 124.0 20.16%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ 119.0 25.21%
Radeon HD 4870 117.0 27.35%
GeForce 9800 GTX 107.9 38.09%
GeForce 9800 GT 96.0 55.21%
Radeon HD 4850 93.9 58.68%
Radeon HD 4830 84.0 77.38%
Radeon HD 3870 72.8 104.67%
Radeon HD 4850 X2
Half-Life 2: Episode Two – 1680×1050 – High Score Difference
Radeon HD 4850 X2 158.0  
Radeon HD 4870 X2 157.0 0.64%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI 145.0 8.97%
Radeon HD 4870 144.0 9.72%
GeForce 9800 GTX 137.9 14.58%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2 126.1 25.30%
GeForce 9800 GX2 125.4 26.00%
GeForce GTX 260 121.0 30.58%
Radeon HD 4850 116.2 35.97%
Radeon HD 4830 101.0 56.44%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ 94.0 68.09%
GeForce GTX 280 89.3 76.93%
GeForce 9800 GT 80.0 97.50%
Radeon HD 3870 68.3 131.33%
Radeon HD 4850 X2
Half-Life 2: Episode Two – 1920×1200 – High Score Difference
Radeon HD 4870 X2 157.0 3.29%
Radeon HD 4850 X2 152.0  
GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI 131.0 16.03%
Radeon HD 4870 124.0 22.58%
GeForce 9800 GTX 116.3 30.70%
GeForce 9800 GX2 111.1 36.81%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2 106.5 42.72%
GeForce GTX 260 101.0 50.50%
Radeon HD 4850 97.2 56.38%
Radeon HD 4830 85.0 78.82%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ 74.0 105.41%
GeForce GTX 280 70.3 116.22%
GeForce 9800 GT 63.0 141.27%
Radeon HD 3870 56.8 167.61%
Radeon HD 4850 X2
Half-Life 2: Episode Two – 2560×1600 – High Score Difference
Radeon HD 4870 X2 130.0 20.37%
Radeon HD 4850 X2 108.0  
Radeon HD 4870 75.0 44.00%
GeForce 9800 GTX 71.3 51.47%
GeForce GTX 260 61.0 77.05%
Radeon HD 4850 58.4 84.93%
Radeon HD 4830 51.0 111.76%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2 50.6 113.44%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI 46.0 134.78%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ 39.0 176.92%
GeForce 9800 GX2 37.5 188.00%
GeForce 9800 GT 36.0 200.00%
GeForce GTX 280 35.5 204.23%
Radeon HD 3870 34.9 209.46%

[nextpage title=”Conclusions”]

As expected, Radeon HD 4850 X2 achieved a performance level between Radeon HD 4870 and Radeon HD 4870 X2 and being faster than GeForce GTX 280. Since Radeon HD 4850 X2 and GeForce GTX 280 cost the same thing if you are saving money to buy a GTX 280 you may want to change your mind towards the new Radeon HD 4850 X2, which is today our recommendation on the very high-end segment. The only problem is, of course, price (remember that besides the cost of the video card you also need a video monitor capable of running resolutions like 1920×1200 or 2560×1600, otherwise buying a card like this doesn’t make sense). If you are an average user looking for a high-end video card with the best cost/benefit ratio, our recommendation stands with the regular Radeon HD 4850, which costs less than a half and will produce a performance that is considerable very high for most users.

Talking specifically about Sapphire’s model, we loved the fact that Sapphire decided to use its own cooler (very stylish, by the way) instead of using ATI’s reference model, which is heavy and heats a lot. We also liked the fact that this card comes with four video outputs instead of just two as usual.

You can see detailed numbers comparing Radeon HD 4850 X2 with all current high-end video cards available on the market today in the previous pages. Below we present a quick summary comparing Radeon HD 4850 X2 to the regular HD 4850, to HD 4870 and to GeForce GTX 280.

Compared to Radeon HD 4850, the new HD 4850 X2 was up to 105% faster (more than 100% is possible because the regular HD 4850 has 512 MB memory, while X2 has 2x 1 GB). The difference in performance on 3DMark06 was between 41% and 84%, on 3DMark Vantage was between 68% and 105%, on Call of Duty 4 was between 66% and 92%, on Crysis was between 37% and 100%, on Unreal Tournament 3 it was up to 48% and on Half-Life 2: Episode Two was between 36% and 85% when we maxed out image quality settings (with no image enhancements enabled, performance difference varied a lot depending on the resolution, at 1680×1050 we saw HD 4850 being actually 3% faster than X2, but X2 being 6% faster at 1920×1200; at 2560×1600 X2 was 59% faster).

Compared to Radeon HD 4870, the new Radeon HD 4850 X2 was up to 62% faster. Partial results are like this: between 18% and 44% faster on 3DMark06, between 30% and 59% faster on 3DMark Vantage, between 28% and 47% faster on Call of Duty 4, between 14% and 62% faster on Crysis and between 10% and 44% faster on Half-Life 2: Episode Two with image quality enhancements maxed out. We only saw a significant performance on Unreal Tournament 3 at 2560×1600, where Radeon HD 4850 X2 was 14% faster.

And finally compared to
its main competitor, GeForce GTX 280, Radeon HD 4850 X2 was between 12% and 26% faster on 3DMark06, between 4% and 18% faster on 3DMark Vantage and between 77% and 204% faster on Half-Life 2: Episode Two with image quality enhancements maxed out (with image quality settings disabled both cards achieved the same performance). On Unreal Tournament 3 we only saw a significant performance difference at 2560×1600, where Radeon HD 4850 X2 was 43% faster.

The only time GeForce GTX 280 was faster than Radeon HD 4850 X2 was on Crysis with low image quality settings at 1680×1050 (9% faster). At 1920×1200 both cards achieved the same performance and at 2560×1600 Radeon HD 4870 X2 was 10% faster. With image quality set at “high” Radeon HD 4850 X2 was between 12% and 15% faster.