Closer Inspection and Image Quality
The Sapphire Radeon X850 Pro graphics card follows the ATI reference design to a "T". In fact, the only discernable difference was the Sapphire label on the cooler. The R480 core of the Sapphire model comes clocked slower than the reference 520MHz though, dialing in at 506MHz. Additionally, the 256MB of GDDR3 memory was clocked at 1040MHz DDR, 40MHz slower than ATI's reference specifications of 1080MHz. We're not entirely sure what the reasoning was for Sapphire's conservative approach to clock speed, but as we'll address at the end of this review, there could be a fair degree of confusion that will ultimately leave the end user coming up short.
The heatsink/cooling package was a slim design that drew air in at the fan and exhausted toward the rear of the card, ejecting the warm air into the path of case fan airflow. The assembly was a three piece design that consisted of fan and base on the one side and memory plate and retention clip on the other. The base was mainly aluminum with a copper core over the GPU. The memory modules and GPU had an even layer of thermal pasted applied to help with proper heat conductivity. Overall, the fan was fairly quiet and effective, although under load, the card got quite warm to the touch.
The memory chips installed on the card were Samsung K4J55323QF-GC16s rated for 1200MHz DDR, meaning we should have a little extra headroom available in the overclocking department. The VIVO features of the Sapphire Radeon X850 Pro 256MB were handled by ATI's Rage Theater chip mounted on the rear of the PCB. The front of the card sported the familiar combination of VGA, DVI and VIVO ports, while the rear end was equipped with a single power input which married up to the power adapter included in the package.
Before we segue into the benchmarking segment of this review, let's take a moment to assess image quality with the Sapphire Radeon X850 Pro 256MB. To do this, we loaded FarCry, a house favorite here at HotHardware, in an effort to demonstrate quality with various filtering methods enabled.
|X850 Pro - No AA / No Aniso
||X850 Pro - 4X AA / 8X Aniso
||X850 Pro - 6X AA / 16X Aniso
With the first image we can see the effects of no Antialiasing or Anisotropic Filtering being applied. We see jagged edges on the top of the gun, where the glove edge meets the wrist and the island shores, especially visible on the left of the image. When we turned on 4X Antialiasing and 8X Anisotropic Filtering, we saw a marked improvement in all three areas and the forest in the distance also gained more detail. With the setting set to their maximum, the image sharpened nicely, with the highest level of detail and much sharper edges throughout the image.