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HIS and Sapphire Radeon HD 4850 Face Off
Date: Oct 07, 2008
Author: Robert Maloney

With the recent run of newer and more affordable graphics cards from ATI, it's almost easy to forget that there's already a sub-$200 frame-rate cruncher called the Radeon HD 4850.  Based on the same RV770 chip as the more powerful, yet more expensive HD 4870, the HD 4850 ships with the same 800 stream processors, 40 texture units, and 16 ROPs that have made these cards such hot items.  The main area where they differ, other than clock speeds, is in regard to memory.  While the HD 4870 ships with high-end GDDR5 memory chips, the HD 4850 finds itself loaded with 512 MB of more mainstream GDDR3.

A major caveat with the Radeon HD 4850 that has arisen, however, is the excessive heat that gets produced by the RV770 GPU.  It seemed the single slot reference cooling solution had a tough time handling the heat output of the RV770.  With heat being a concern, and manufacturers having more time to tinker with their cards, we weren't surprised to find out that two of ATI's major partners, HIS and Sapphire, had two new cards waiting in the wings, each with their own ramped up clock speeds but with some superior cooling thrown in as well.  Before we get down to comparing these two head-to-head, let's take a quick look at the basic specifications of the Radeon HD 4850. 

AMD ATI Radeon HD 4800 Series
Specifications and Features

  • 956 million transistors on 55nm fabrication process
  • PCI Express 2.0 x16 bus interface
  • 256-bit GDDR3 memory interface
  • Microsoft DirectX 10.1 support

    • Shader Model 4.1
    • 32-bit floating point texture filtering
    • Indexed cube map arrays
    • Independent blend modes per render target
    • Pixel coverage sample masking
    • Read/write multi-sample surfaces with shaders
    • Gather4 texture fetching
  • Unified Superscalar Shader Architecture

    • 800 stream processing units

      • Dynamic load balancing and resource allocation for vertex, geometry, and pixel shaders
      • Common instruction set and texture unit access supported for all types of shaders
      • Dedicated branch execution units and texture address processors
    • 128-bit floating point precision for all operations
    • Command processor for reduced CPU overhead
    • Shader instruction and constant caches
    • Up to 160 texture fetches per clock cycle
    • Up to 128 textures per pixel
    • Fully associative multi-level texture cache design
    • DXTC and 3Dc+ texture compression
    • High resolution texture support (up to 8192 x 8192)
    • Fully associative texture Z/stencil cache designs
    • Double-sided hierarchical Z/stencil buffer
    • Early Z test, Re-Z, Z Range optimization, and Fast Z Clear
    • Lossless Z & stencil compression (up to 128:1)
    • Lossless color compression (up to 8:1)
    • 8 render targets (MRTs) with anti-aliasing support
    • Physics processing support
  • Dynamic Geometry Acceleration

    • High performance vertex cache
    • Programmable tessellation unit
    • Accelerated geometry shader path for geometry amplification
    • Memory read/write cache for improved stream output performance
  • Anti-aliasing features

    • Multi-sample anti-aliasing (2, 4 or 8 samples per pixel)
    • Up to 24x Custom Filter Anti-Aliasing (CFAA) for improved quality
    • Adaptive super-sampling and multi-sampling
    • Gamma correct
    • Super AA (ATI CrossFireX configurations only)
    • All anti-aliasing features compatible with HDR rendering
  • Texture filtering features

    • 2x/4x/8x/16x high quality adaptive anisotropic filtering modes (up to 128 taps per pixel)
    • 128-bit floating point HDR texture filtering
    • sRGB filtering (gamma/degamma)
    • Percentage Closer Filtering (PCF)
    • Depth & stencil texture (DST) format support
    • Shared exponent HDR (RGBE 9:9:9:5) texture format support
  • OpenGL 2.0
  • ATI PowerPlay
  • Advanced power management technology for optimal performance and power savings
  • Performance-on-Demand
    • Constantly monitors GPU activity, dynamically adjusting clocks and voltage based on user scenario
    • Clock and memory speed throttling

    • Voltage switching

    • Dynamic clock gating

    • Central thermal management – on-chip sensor monitors GPU temperature and triggers thermal actions as required

  • ATI Avivo HD Video and Display Platform

    • 2nd generation Unified Video Decoder (UVD 2)

      • Enabling hardware decode acceleration of H.264, VC-1 and MPEG-2
      • Dual stream playback (or Picture-in-picture)
    • Hardware MPEG-1, and DivX video decode acceleration

      • Motion compensation and IDCT
    • ATI Avivo Video Post Processor

      • New enhanced DVD upconversion to HD new!
      • New automatic and dynamic contrast adjustment new!
      • Color space conversion
      • Chroma subsampling format conversion
      • Horizontal and vertical scaling
      • Gamma correction
      • Advanced vector adaptive per-pixel de-interlacing
      • De-blocking and noise reduction filtering
      • Detail enhancement
      • Inverse telecine (2:2 and 3:2 pull-down correction)
      • Bad edit correction
      • Full score in HQV (SD) and HQV (HD) video quality benchmarks
    • Two independent display controllers

      • Drive two displays simultaneously with independent resolutions, refresh rates, color controls and video overlays for each display
      • Full 30-bit display processing
      • Programmable piecewise linear gamma correction, color correction, and color space conversion
      • Spatial/temporal dithering provides 30-bit color quality on 24-bit and 18-bit displays
      • High quality pre- and post-scaling engines, with underscan support for all display outputs
      • Content-adaptive de-flicker filtering for interlaced displays
      • Fast, glitch-free mode switching
      • Hardware cursor
    • Two integrated DVI display outputs

      • Primary supports 18-, 24-, and 30-bit digital displays at all resolutions up to 1920x1200 (single-link DVI) or 2560x1600 (dual-link DVI)
      • Secondary supports 18-, 24-, and 30-bit digital displays at all resolutions up to 1920x1200 (single-link DVI only)
      • Each includes a dual-link HDCP encoder with on-chip key storage for high resolution playback of protected content4
    • Two integrated 400MHz 30-bit RAMDACs

      • Each supports analog displays connected by VGA at all resolutions up to 2048x1536
    • DisplayPort output support

      • Supports 24- and 30-bit displays at all resolutions up to 2560x1600
    • HDMI output support

      • Supports all display resolutions up to 1920x1080
      • Integrated HD audio controller with up to 2 channel 48 kHz stereo or multi-channel (7.1) AC3 enabling a plug-and-play cable-less audio solution
    • Integrated AMD Xilleon HDTV encoder

      • Provides high quality analog TV output (component/S-video/composite)
      • Supports SDTV and HDTV resolutions
      • Underscan and overscan compensation
      • MPEG-2, MPEG-4, DivX, WMV9, VC-1, and H.264/AVC encoding and transcoding
      • Seamless integration of pixel shaders with video in real time
      • VGA mode support on all display output
    • ATI CrossFireX Multi-GPU Technology

      • Scale up rendering performance and image quality with two GPUs
      • Integrated compositing engine
      • High performance dual channel bridge interconnect


  • While the specs above give you a detailed technical overview of what makes the HD 4850 tick, it doesn't cover all of the nuances that you might be looking for.  However, since we've already extensively covered the technology behind not only the HD 4850, but the HD 4870 as well, we won't rehash that information here again. If you want to learn more about the technologies employed by ATI, please take a look at the following previous articles, which cover them in detal:

    Once up to speed, we'll take a closer look at our two entries in today's HD 4850 Face-off: the HIS Radeon HD 4850 IceQ4 TurboX and Sapphire's Toxic Radeon HD 4850.

    HIS Radeon HD 4850 IceQ4 TurboX


    HIS' newest card based on the Radeon HD 4850 (their sixth overall) features the highest clock speeds as well as the latest revision of their IceQ brand of coolers, unimaginatively titled "IceQ4".  Reminiscent of the Fantastic Four's logo, the number '4' is prominently featured on the front of the box along with a sticker in the upper right denoting this card as the TurboX variety - 10MHz faster than just plain "Turbo".


    Although a majority of manufacturers like to slap on some graphics and call it a day, HIS takes full advantage of the opportunity to showcase their card and the changes that the IceQ4 cooler bring with, including a larger heatsink area, bi-directional air channels and an overall new design using dual heatpipes, which should improve cooling performance while removing excess weight.  Contained within the box is the card itself, encased within a plastic mold, along with an S-Video cable, DVI-I to VGA and DVI to HDMI adapters, a CrossFire bridge as well as the driver CD-ROM and Installation Guide.  A specially branded multi-purpose screwdriver with built-in level and light source also adds some extra value to the bundle.


    At first glance, the IceQ4 cooler doesn't seem all that different from earlier versions; a dual-slot cooler using clear blue plastic to funnel air from a rear-mounted fan outside the chassis.  That being said, picking up the card proved the opposite.  Whereas the IceQ3 cards had some considerable heft to them, the IceQ4 based HD 4850 felt light for its size.  At the core of the system, a large copper plate covers the GPU, which then rises upward as a series of fins leading outward to the bracket.  Two heatpipes run directly over the core, pulling heat away from the hottest point to be cooled later on as they run back down through the finned area towards the left edge.  Memory is cooled by a completely separate plate, preventing any transfer of heat from one component to the next.  Additionally, a smaller plate sits over the MOSFETs at the end of the card, providing some bonus cooling and helping keep the pre-overclocked card running stable.


    The majority of HD 4850s (including this one) ship with 512MB of GDDR3 memory, which is the major difference between these cards and the higher-end HD 4870.  However, other than the memory change and slower speeds, the rest of the architecture including the same number of stream processing and texture units making these cards a nice investment if bleeding edge products are not necessarily in your budget.


    To increase airflow, the shroud surrounding the fan is not only open in the front, but has slots along the back to let additional air in.  The fan then pushes air along the plastic channel and exhausts out the back of the PC.  HIS claims that the IceQ4 operates at a reduced noise level than previous models, and in our testing we didn't notice any high levels of noise output even when overclocked or under a heavy load.


    Gold plated dual-link DVI ports and S-Video output are found on the double-sized bracket.  We also found two CrossFire connectors on the top of the board, which can be used to connect up to four discrete boards in a CrossFireX configuration when using a compatible motherboard.

    Sapphire Toxic Radeon HD 4850 512M


    In what we are sure is a completely unintentional coincidence, the Sapphire Toxic HD 4850 ships in a smaller black box adorned by what almost appears to be the Silver Surfer -- a character seen in the last Fantastic Four movie. 


    Inscribed underneath are the words, "Legends Never Die" apparently referring to the level of success that Sapphire has had with the Toxic series, with some specs listed below including 512 MB of GDDR3 memory, factory-overclocked speeds, and cooling provided by Zalman's VF900 HSF.  Furthermore, decals placed on the front of the box point out the software in the bundle, including Cyberlink's PowerDVD v7 and DVD Suite v5, Futuremark's latest benchmark: 3DMark Vantage Advanced, and a disc called Ruby Rom which contained demos of John Woo's Stranglehold and Call of Juarez as well as a few wallpapers and screensavers.  The rest of the bundle mirrors HIS for the most part, with HDMI and VGA adapters, 6-pin power cable, and a CrossFire bridge cable with an extra S-Video to component video conversion cable thrown in for good measure.


    Although a majority of Radeon cards used to come with a red PCB, both of today's units ship on green-blue boards instead.  While this might have been less noticeable with the HIS version due to the oversized IceQ4 cooler, on Sapphire's Toxic HD 4850 the color scheme is quite prevalent, with matching blue heatsinks placed over the memory and MOSFETs.  Rather than large, bulky heatsinks, the ones used here are all isolated from one another and rely on airflow from the fan directly above it for cooling. 


    If there's one company you can point out that produces some of the better performing, yet quieter operating coolers, it would have to be Zalman, and we find that Sapphire has tapped their resources here as well.  Zalman's copper-based VF900 rises directly off of the surface of the GPU, using two heatpipes that curl away and form the circular shape that you see above.  Heat is dissipated by the air pushed from the central fan over the copper fins surrounding the heatpipes.  Unlike other designs, including HIS' IceQ4, this heat is simply radiated out into the chassis rather than expelled out the back, so proper airflow mechanics within the case are a must.  Even without a plastic channel to funnel the air, however, the size of the VF900 make this a dual-slot solution as well.


    Normal operation of the Radeon HD 4850 alone wouldn't warrant the use of a more exotic cooler, but Sapphire's Toxic cards go one better and raise the core speed from the reference speed of 625 MHz to 675 MHz.  Memory speeds also get a nice boost from default speeds of 993 MHz to 1100 MHz.


    Beyond the Zalman cooler and blue heatsinks, the rest of the card consists of a mostly standard layout.  Twin CrossFire connectors are placed towards the front end of the board and a single 6-pin power connector lies at the other end.  Output consists of dual-DVI connectors with a single S-Video port placed in between.

    Test System and 3DMark06 Results


    e tested all of the graphics cards used in this article on an ASUS Striker II Formula nForce 780i SLI motherboard powered by a Core 2 Duo E6850 dual-core processor and 2GB of low-latency Corsair DDR2 memory. The first thing we did when configuring the test system was to enter their BIOS and set all values to their "optimized" default settings. Then we manually configured the memory timings and disabled any integrated peripherals that wouldn't be put to use. The hard drive was then formatted, and Windows Vista Ultimate and the latest DX10 update was installed. When the installation was complete, we then installed the latest chipset drivers available, and installed all of the other drivers necessary for the rest of our components.  Auto-Updating and System Restore were also disabled and the hard drive was defragmented.

    The HotHardware Test System
    Core 2 Powered


    Motherboard -

    Video Cards -

    Memory -

    Audio -

    Hard Drive

    Hardware Used:
    Core 2 Duo E6850 (3GHz) 

    Asus Striker II Formula
    nForce 780i SLI chipset

    Sapphire Radeon HD 4870
    Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870
    Diamond Radeon HD 3850
    EVGA GeForce 8800 GT OC
    PNY GeForce 8800 GTS 512
    Gigabyte GeForce 9800 GT
    ECS GeForce 9800 GTX+
    HIS Radeon HD 4850 IceQ4 TurboX
    Sapphire Toxic Radeon HD 4850

    2048MB Corsair PC2-6400
    2 X 1GB

    Integrated on board

    Western Digital Caviar SE16

    250GB - 7,200RPM - SATAII

    OS - 

    DirectX -

    Video Drivers

    Synthetic (DX) -

    Synthetic (DX) - DirectX9 -

    DirectX10 -
    DirectX10 -
    OpenGL -

    Relevant Software:

    Windows Vista Ultimate

    DirectX 10

    NVIDIA Forceware v177.19 (98xx)
    NVIDIA Forecware v175.19 (88xx)
    ATI Catalyst v8.9

    Benchmarks Used:
    3DMark06 v1.0.2
    3DMark Vantage
    Half-Life 2: Episode 2
    Company of Heroes
    Enemy Territory: Quake Wars*

    * - Custom Test
    (HH Exclusive demo)

    Performance Comparisons with 3DMark06 v1.0.2
    Details: www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark06

    3DMark06 is a synthetic benchmark, designed to simulate DX9-class game titles. This version differs from the earlier 3Dmark05 in a number of ways, and includes not only Shader Model 2.0 tests, but Shader Model 3.0 and HDR tests as well.  Some of the assets from 3DMark05 have been re-used, but the scenes are now rendered with much more geometric detail and the shader complexity is vastly increased as well. Max shader length in 3DMark05 was 96 instructions, while 3DMark06 ups that number to 512. 3DMark06 also employs much more lighting and there is extensive use of soft shadows. With 3DMark06, Futuremark has also updated how the final score is tabulated. In this latest version of the benchmark, SM 2.0 and HDR / SM3.0 tests are weighted and the CPU score is factored into the final tally as well.


    The two Radeon HD 4850s showcased in this review start off in a virtual tie with only 21 total 3DMarks separating them.  Their collective performance puts them right on par with the GeForce 8800 GTS 512 and overclocked 8800 GT from EVGA, and just ahead of the newer (in name, if not in specs) 9800 GT.  There's still a little room, however, between these cards and the more powerful HD 4870 and 9800 GTX+.   


    When it came time to look at the individual shader model scores, the HD 4850s from HIS and Sapphire didn't fare as well in the SM 2.0 test.  Hovering near 5000 points each, the only two cards that were bested here were the ones getting replaced - the HD 3850 and HD 3870 models.  The good news is that in the SM 3.0 testing, the complete opposite held true.  Both cards zipped right to the top, beating out even the GeForce 9800 GTX+, although ultimately still a good deal behind the HD 4870.

    3DMark Vantage

    Futuremark 3DMark Vantage
    Synthetic DirectX10 Gaming

    3DMark Vantage

    The latest version of Futuremark's synthetic 3D gaming benchmark, 3DMark Vantage, is specifically bound to Windows Vista-based systems because it uses some advanced visual technologies that are only available with DirectX 10, which y isn't available on previous versions of Windows.  3DMark Vantage isn't simply a port of 3DMark06 to DirectX 10 though.  With this latest version of the benchmark, Futuremark has incorporated two new graphics tests, two new CPU tests, several new feature tests, in addition to support for the latest PC hardware.  We tested the graphics cards here with 3DMark Vantage's Performance preset option, which uses a resolution of 1280 x 1024.


    The DX10-based 3DMark Vantage is completely dominated by the RV770-powered cards.  None of the earlier cards from either camp really even comes close, including the GeForce 9800 GTX+, one of the heavy hitters for NVIDIA before the release of the GTX 260 and 280 cards.  Again, we find that within the scope of our review, the two HD 4850s are almost indistinguishable from each other, performance-wise. 

    Frame rates in the individual GPU tests don't seem to be as drastically one-sided as a the overall score was, but in reality the 2-4 frame difference in the rates between either of the HD 4850s and the closest runner-up, the 9800 GTX+, is equivalent to between a 13-23% improvement.  When compared to the HD 38xx series, the 4850s are running nearly twice as fast.

    Half-Life 2: Episode 2

    Half Life 2: Episode 2
    DirectX9 Gaming Performance

    Half Life 2:
    Episode 2

    Thanks to the dedication of hardcore PC gamers and a huge mod-community, the original Half-Life was one of the most successful first person shooters of all time. And courtesy of an updated game engine, gorgeous visuals, and intelligent weapon and level designs, Half Life 2 became just as popular.  Episode 2 - the most recent addition to the franchise - offers a number of visual enhancements including better looking transparent texture anti-aliasing. These tests were run at resolutions of 1280 x 1024 and 1600 x 1200 with 4X anti-aliasing and 16X anisotropic filtering enabled concurrently.  Color correction and HDR rendering were also enabled in the game engine as well.  We used a custom recorded timedemo to benchmark all cards for these tests.


    Sapphire and HIS' Radeon 4850s went toe-to-toe with each other, and with the GeForce 9800 GTX+ as well.  And while they couldn't keep up with the faster HD 4870, they did mop up the rest of the compeition from NVIDIA, including the 8800 GTS 512 and an overclocked 8800 GT.

    Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts

    Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts
    Details: www.companyofheroesgame.com

    Company of Heroes

    Relic Entertainment's World War II era real-time strategy game Company of Heroes was originally released as a DirectX 9 title for Windows.  But recent upates to the game have incorporated support for new DirectX 10 features that improve image quality and enhance the game's finer graphical details.  The game features a built-in performance test which which we used to attain the results below. Our Company of Heroes tests were run at resolutions of 1280 x 1024 and 1600 x 1200 with 4X anti-aliasing and all of the game's image-quality related options set to their maximum values.


    Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts wasn't kind to the Radeons.  This DX10-based war title was murder on not only the HD 4850 cards, but on the HD 4870 as well.  At 1280x1024, the HD 4850s found themselves anywhere from 10% behind the 9800 GT, to almost 30% compared to the 9800 GTX+.  Things fared better at 1600x1200, but both cards still lagged behind the others.





    If you're at all into enthusiast computing, the highly anticipated single player demo of the hot, new, upcoming FPS smash-hit Crysis, should require no introduction. Crytek's game engine visuals are easily the most impressive real-time 3D renderings we've seen on the computer screen to date.  The engine employs some of the latest techniques in 3D rendering like Parallax Occlusion Mapping, Subsurface Scattering, Motion Blur and Depth-of-Field effects, as well as some of the most impressive use of Shader technology we've seen yet.  In short, for those of you that want to skip the technical jib-jab, Crysis is HOT.  We ran the SP demo with all of the game's visual options set to 'High' to put a significant load on the graphics cards being tested.


    Crysis more or less evened the playing field once again, and this time the two HD 4850s find themselves in the middle of the pack.  The lead overall went to the HD 4870, just nudging past the 9800 GTX+ at 1280x1024 but dominating at 1600x1200.  Both of the HD 4850s trailed immediately after these top two, with minute leads achieved by Sapphire's Toxic model.

    Enemy Territory: Quake Wars


    Enemy Territory: Quake Wars
    Details: www.enemyterritory.com

    Enemy Territory:
    Quake Wars

    Enemy Territory: Quake Wars is Based on id's radically enhanced Doom 3 engine and viewed by many as Battlefield 2 meets the Strogg, and then some.  ET: Quake Wars also marks the introduction of John Carmack's "Megatexture" technology that employs extremely large environment and terrain textures that cover vast areas of maps without the need to repeat and tile many small textures.  The beauty of megatexture technology is that each unit only takes up a maximum of 8MB of frame buffer memory.  Add to that HDR-like bloom lighting and leading edge shadowing effects and Enemy Territory: Quake Wars looks great, plays well and works high end graphics cards vigorously.  The game was tested with all of its in-game options set to their maximum values with soft particles enabled in addition to 4X anti-aliasing and 16x anisotropic filtering.


    Enemy Territory: Quake Wars really tells us two stories here: at lower resolutions the HD 4850s weren't much competition for the majority of similarly priced GeForce cards, with the sole exception being the default clocked 9800 GT from Gigabyte.  Compared to the rest of the GeForce cards, we saw a difference of about 10-15 frames per second. However, once we cranked up the resolution to 1600x1200, the dropoff in performance was quite minimal with the HD 4850s, dropping four fps at the most.  This moved HIS' and Sapphire's cards right past all other cards except for the HD 4870.

    Overclocking Results


    Overclocking the Radeon HD 4850s
    Raising the bar even higher

    Overclocking either of the HIS or Sapphire Radeon HD 4850 cards may seem easy; just go into the ATI Catalyst Control Center and click on the Overdrive tab, right?  Well, not so fast.  Perhaps this might work on default clocked cards, but with caps set at 700 MHz for the GPU and 1200 MHz for the memory, that doesn't leave much room to work with.  Instead, we turned to the AMD GPU Overclocking Tool which let us set whatever clock speeds they want. 

    Starting with HIS first, we raised the core and memory speeds about 5 MHz at a time until we found any sort of instability or artifacting.  This resulted in a long process of raising speeds, testing, noting the results and then raising speeds once again until finally, at 780MHz on the core and 1195 on the memory we got a black screen and Vista crashed hard.  Getting back into Windows, we continued backtracking from there until we finally arrived back at 775 MHz on the GPU, and then went back to the memory overclocking.  It appears that we didn't have much further to go, as anything over 1200 MHz caused artifacts to appear when running 3DMark06.  Final results for the HIS were 775 MHz GPU and 1200 MHz memory - a 90 MHz bump for the core while gaining 100 MHz on the memory.

    Next up was Sapphire's Toxic card.  With a goal in mind, we quickly raised speeds to just under the results we got with HIS and then moved up more slowly after that.  We were only able to go about three rounds of raising speeds before hit our first snag.  Once we hit 760 MHz on the core, we would repeatedly get device driver crashes launching any of the benchmark applications.  Lowering this speed by a few MHz got us a stable system.  The memory, which was already 50 MHz faster than HIS' card to start with also sputtered out early as we were only able to gain an additional 16 MHz there before running into issues.  Our results with Sapphire's card were 756 MHz / 1166 MHz, well under what we achieved with the HIS version.  Looks like the IceQ4 cooler has earned its merits.





    HIS Radeon HD 4850 IceQ4 TurboX
    GPU: 775 MHz  Memory:  1200 MHz

    Sapphire Toxic Radeon HD 4850
    GPU: 756 MHz  Memory: 1166 MHz


    With our overclocked cards running stable, we decided to give 3DMark Vantage another run-through to see what kind of frame rate increases we might be looking at.


    Each card saw nearly a 25% increase in GPU speed and 15% on the memory over the default clock speeds of the Radeon HD 4850 (625 / 993).  As shown in the 3DMark Vantage GPU tests, that resulted in large increases in the first test's frame rates, with a more modest bump in the second test.  Overall, the results of overclocking the cards were quite favorable, giving us performance that was close to but not quite that of the pricier HD 4870.  

    Power Consumption and Thermals

    We'd like to cover a few final data points before bringing this article to a close. Throughout all of our benchmarking and testing, we monitored how much power our test systems were consuming using a power meter. Our goal was to give you an idea as to how much power each configuration used while idling and under a heavy workload. Please keep in mind that we were testing total system power consumption at the outlet here, not just the power being drawn by the motherboards alone.

    Total System Power Consumption
    Tested at the Outlet

    Out of the cards we used for testing, the Radeon HD 4850s consumed the least power, especially while under load conditions.  Interestingly, the differences between the HIS and Sapphire cards is larger than one might expect.  The draw at idle conditions had Sapphire's card using 6 more watts than HIS, and 15 more under load.  With Sapphire using up more energy, let's see how the cooling fares.

    Originally, it seems that Sapphire's Zalman cooler is operating much better than the new and improved IceQ4 cooler on HIS' model.  Temperatures are pretty much in line with NVIDIA's cards, and well under those seen with the hot-running HD 4870.  While running through some hectic scenes in Crysis, we saw that the temperature on Sapphire's card spiked nearly 30 degrees winding up just shy of 70 degrees.  The IceQ4 handled the load conditions much better, with only half the increase in temps seen on Sapphire's card.

    Performance Summary and Conclusion


    Performance Summary:  In direct comparisons with its main competition, the Radeon HD 4850 finds itself in a nice spot currently - right near the top of the charts overall, and one of the elite cards in the sub-$200 price range.  That said, both of the cards featured in this article come pre-overclocked which only helps their performance even more.  The 10 MHz advantage in the HIS card's GPU speed and the 50 MHz advantage in memory speed on the Sapphire card, pretty much canceled out any advantages one card may have had over the other, and we found that the HIS and Sapphire cards ended up in a virtual tie throughout our benchmark testing. 

    HIS Radeon HD 4850 IceQ4 TurboX:  With their sixth iteration based on the Radeon HD 4850, we see that HIS isn't content with just pushing out boring reference cards.  The IceQ4 cooler that's on this card really hit the mark, offering lower temperatures than we're used to seeing for the HD 4850 without any extra heft.  HIS has also pumped up the core speed on  this TurboX model card to a speedy 685 MHz, which measurably increased its performance over a reference Radeon HD 4850.

    Of course, we were able to do some additional overclocking using AMD's GPU Clock Tool.  The final result was 775 MHz - a full 150 MHz over the reference card's specifications.  While overclocked, we managed to get tantalizingly close to numbers posted by the HD 4870, which is priced nearly $100 more than the HD 4850.  With prices currently hovering just under $200 for the HIS Radeon HD 4850 IceQ4 TurboX, we think this card is a solid buy.

    • IceQ4 Cooler
    • Great overclocking results
    • Sub-$200 card with great performance
    • Requires two slots to install
    • Runs hotter than the competition while at idle


    Sapphire Toxic Radeon HD 4850 512M: 
    Sapphire's entry, much like HIS', comes pre-overclocked and sporting a fancy dual-slot cooler.  The core speed has been raised to 675 MHz, 10 MHz slower than HIS, but the memory has been boosted up to 1150 MHz which is 50 MHz faster.  As we've seen in the benchmarks, these speed variances cancel each other out for the most part, as the two cards put up as close to similar frame rates as you'll see in a face-off such as this one.

    Even with the large copper Zalman cooler, however, we found that overclocking Sapphire's Toxic card wasn't as healthy a proposition as it was with the HIS card.  Our final results of 756 MHz for the GPU and 1166 MHz for the memory couldn't match HIS.  Additionally, in load testing or while overclocked, we saw temperatures creep up much higher than we saw with HIS' IceQ4 cooler, stopping just shy of 70'C.  While this is a definite improvement over temperatures achieved with stock reference coolers, it's still something to keep in mind.  Throw in the extra $10 dollar premium that the Sapphire Toxic Radeon HD 4850 commands over the HIS card, and it's easy to see which came out on top.


    • Uses an all copper, low noise-output heatink from Zalman 
    • Factory overclocked
    • Comes with good assortment of games and applications
    • Another dual-slot cooler
    • Not as great an overclocker as the HIS card

    Our Final Verdict:  Overall, Sapphire has put out another fine product with the Toxic Radeon HD 4850, but when push comes to shove in the crowded graphic card arena, the HIS Radeon HD 4850 IceQ4 TurboX seems to be the better buy at this time. 

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