Sapphire Radeon HD 4850 X2 (PCI-e 2.0 review: Sapphire Radeon HD 4850 X2 (PCI-e 2.0

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The Good Best-performing card in the $300 price range; four DVI outputs let you connect up to four LCDs.

The Bad Worst power efficiency in its class.

The Bottom Line Even if it's a relative power hog, the Sapphire Radeon HD 4850 X2 brings so much speed and utility to the table it's hard for us to recommend another midrange 3D card. Only the particularly power conscious or those who play games with known multichip scaling issues should look elsewhere.

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8.0 Overall
  • Design 6
  • Features 9
  • Performance 9

AMD bestowed its ATI Radeon HD 4850 X2 graphics chips exclusively onboard partner Sapphire to bring to retail. It started at $399 when it launched back in November, but prices have come down as low as $299 for the 2GB version reviewed here. At that price especially, we find the Sapphire Radeon HD 4850 X2 the best midrange 3D hardware currently available. In addition to demonstrating very fast performance, the Sapphire Radeon HD 4850 X2 is also unique in supporting up to four displays on one PC. We recommend this card to any gamer interested in a reasonably priced investment in greater 3D power. We would also suggest it to anyone looking for a straightforward means to quadruple your screen real estate.

As with the Radeon HD 4870 X2, the 4850 X2 is a dual-chip 3D card. Powered by two Radeon HD 4850 GPUs, the X2 version is effectively a self-contained Crossfire setup. You need to connect this card directly to your PC power supply via one six-pin and one eight-pin PCI Express power input. And as a double-wide card, it also takes up a fair amount of space inside your PC. That said, no other card in this price range offers the same performance or overall capability.

  Sapphire Radeon HD 4850 X2 EVGA Geforce GTX 260 Core 216 Superclocked
Price $299 $259
Manufacturing process 55nm 55nm
Core clock 625MHz (2) 576MHz
Stream processors 800 (2) 216
Stream processor clock NA 1242 MHz
Memory 2GB 898MB
Memory speed 933MHz DDR3 2.0GHz DDR3

Nvidia has two graphics cards that compete with the Radeon HD 4850 X2. On the lower end, the updated 216 core GeForce GTX 260 comes in around $260 in an overclocked model from EVGA. You can also find the Geforce GTX 280 for about $315. Price fluctuations and rebates make it hard to pin down the exact price of any 3D card, and while the GTX 260 has consistently been the most affordable of the three tested here, the Radeon HD 4850 X2 has fluctuated from $399 at launch, to anywhere from $299 to $340 or so today, with changes occurring daily on Amazon's price has held steady at $299, this week at least, and hopefully that will remain consistent. Regardless, we expect the HD 4850 X2 and the GTX 280 will continue to compete on price for the foreseeable future.

Crysis (Assault Harbor) (DirectX 10, 64-bit, very high, 4x AA) (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Sapphire Radeon HD 4850 X2
Nvidia GeForce GTX 280

Far Cry 2 (Ranch Medium) (DirectX 10, very high, 4x AA) (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Sapphire Radeon HD 4850 X2
Nvidia GeForce GTX 280

Left 4 Dead (DirectX 9, 4x AA, 16x AF, very high) (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,440 x 900  
1,680 x 1,050  
1,920 x 1,200  
Sapphire Radeon HD 4850 X2
Nvidia GeForce GTX 280

Thanks to the Radeon HD 4850 X2's strong performance, this part of the discussion is easy. It's faster on every game we tested, and at every resolution. The Crysis scores aren't that far apart, and all three cards struggle with our admittedly aggressive image quality settings, even at 1,440x900. Dial down the antialiasing or overall image quality and you should expect an improvement by 10 frames or so across the board.

If Crysis is perhaps too demanding, Far Cry 2 is more or less the sweet spot for 3D testing right now, as it's a bit more forgiving than Crysis, but still looks great by current standards. None of these cards had trouble with our Far Cry 2 test, but the Radeon HD 4850 X2 was the fastest overall, and the only one to break the 60 frames per second barrier at 1,920x1,200, the native resolution of most current 24-inch wide-screen LCDs. If you own a 30-inch display, you may want more headroom, but for 24 inches or fewer the Radeon HD 4850 X2 has you covered for most current titles, and with a little bit of headroom to spare for games down the road.