Here at the GamingShogun office, we are always looking for great gaming hardware. We got our hot little hands on a Sapphire HD 4850 video card with 512MB of DDR3 RAM recently, and thought we would bring our findings to the fore so you can enjoy them as well. We know, you can thank us later.
The 4850 represents the first of the ‘next-gen’ line of graphics processing units which is pinnacled with the Radeon 4870. The 4850 is the more budget-minded of the two, retailing for roughly $180 dollars. When we first heard the price, we thought that there was no way we would be happy with a GPU like that. We came to the realization that we had believed a video card needed to be expensive in order to be good. Happily, my friends, I can say that ‘axiom’ has proven false in the 4850.
Radeon 4850 Quick Specs:
-Display Output: Dual DL-DVI-I+HDTV
-Core Clock: 625 MHz
-Memory Clock: 993MHz, 1986 Mbps.
-PCI Express 2.0 x16 bus interface
-512MB /256bit GDDR3 memory interface
-Single Slot Active Cooler
-HDMI compliant via dongle
-7.1 Audio Channel Support
-Microsoft® DirectX® 10.1 support
-Shader Model 4.1 support
Our computers here in the Shogun offices run Nvidia Gtx 280 GPUs, so we thought there was no better opponent we could pit our ‘little’ 4850 against. And I say ‘little’ because in comparison to even an Nvidia 9800gtx, the Radeon 4850 has a much thinner profile. Not only is the profile thinner, meaning it will more handily fit inside even cramped PC cases, but it also only requires one 6-pin PCI-E power connector. These are already pluses in our book, but I digress. So we are pitting it against a Gtx 280 in a severely unfair fight. One is a budget gaming GPU and the other is a flagship model. For us, if the 4850 can perform reasonably, it will have succeeded where many others have failed. Remember, the 4850 retails for $180 dollars whereas the Gtx 280 retails anywhere from $500 to $800 dollars depending on the edition you purchase.
So, we fired up our rigs and began the benchmarking goodness. For our tests, we are using 3dMark06 and 3dMark Vantage. Vantage takes advantage of alot more modern features and is capable of bringing even the latest multi-GPU setups to their collective knees. 3dMark06 is the more mainstream, forgiving test of a GPU’s capabilities. The rig we chose to test the cards on is an average dual core system:
-AMD Athlon AM2 X2 6000+ 3.0gHz Black Edition CPU
-4096 GB DDR2 800 RAM
-Asus M2N-SLI dlx Mobo
In each benchmarking applications, we ran a series of tests with different resolutions, anti-aliasing, and anisotropic filtering levels. Now that we have gotten this out of the way…FIGHT!!!
3d Mark 06 – Return to Proxyon
The Radeon performs admirably in all of these tests, only dropping to some unplayable frame rates at 8XAA and 8XAF at the 1920×1200 resolution.
3d Mark 06 – Firefly Forest
The results of the lighting-effect heavy GPU test are slightly worse than the those of Test 1, but not by much. The 4850 is still pulling its own weight at the 2XAA and 2XAF settings at the high resolution mode.
3d Mark Vantage – Jane Nash
This is where things start turning to molasses for even a Gtx 280 at the highest settings. The 3d Mark Vantage stresses every nook and cranny the GPU has. While not playable at the higher settings, the 4850 performs very well at both 1024×768 modes.
3d Mark Vantage – New Calico
New Calico is the most taxing of the new 3d Mark tests, so it is no surprise that all the scores are on the low side. This being said, even at the 1024×768 modes, the 4850 is still playable. By turning off AA and AF altogether, the performance would increase by a bit more as well.
The results of these benchmarks show that while out-gunned and out-classed on paper, the Radeon 4850 provides solid performance at most of the benchmark modes, save for the highly-advanced tests. Couple these results with the fact that two Radeon 4850s on a CrossFire build would cost roughly $360 dollars (a full $140 dollars cheaper than the cheapest Gtx 280) and you have yourself an inexpensive power house with low power requirements. Even with just one Radeon 4850, you will be able to play the latest games at varying levels of graphics detail without issue. We wish the 4850 had the DDR5 memory of its older brother but that is a very minor negative considering the 4870s are roughly $100 dollars more expensive.
We are most interested in seeing what happens to our frame rates when we put three 4850s in a rig at the same time. That configuration would only be $40 dollars more expensive than the cheapest Gtx 280! We have scored the Sapphire 4850 with high marks as we could not find a better performance-to-value GPU on the market at the time of this writing anywhere. Even Nvidia’s 9800 GTX+ models are not scoring as high according to various benchmarks.