Sapphire Radeon HD4850 512MB Graphics Card Review

by Michael "SKYMTL" Hoenig     |     July 1, 2008

The Current ATI Lineup

From the last time we looked at it about a month ago to today, there have been some serious changes in ATI’s lineup. Even though the lower-end stays the same with the HD36xx-series which aren’t included in the chart above, there has been a huge shakeup at the mid to upper end of their product range. To begin with, there have been steep price cuts instituted in order to bring down the price of the HD3870 512MB to a very, very affordable $140 while the HD3850 becomes even more appealing for HTPC users at $110. Meanwhile the HD3870X2 has officially become an End of Life product after meeting with some good success in the enthusiast category.

The past and the present

The new kids on the block are the R770 cards in the guise of the HD4870 and the HD4850. Both of these are priced to move while offering a whooping 800 stream processors where reports indicated that they had only 480. There has also been a ramp in the number of texture units to 40 which should improve performance by leaps and bounds even though the ROPs stay at 16. Both of these GPUs are fabricated using TSMC’s 55nm manufacturing process and feature a bevy of features including HDCP, native HDMI support and DX10.1 compatibility.

No matter how impressive they look on paper, the one thing that stands out about the new cards is the HD4870’s inclusion of the new GDDR5 memory. Some people have said this is a bit of a risk on ATI’s part since using a new technology is a gamble in the extreme when a whole graphics card launch schedule is based off of its proper implementation. Luckily for ATI, from all the information we have it seems like the producers of GDDR5 (Qimonda, Samsung and Hynix) are loving ease by which they can manufacture GDDR5 so supply is not a problem. In addition to this, the fact that there are three manufacturers competing for the market will also drive down prices very quickly.

Meanwhile the, HD4850 makes due with somewhat less impressive specifications but they are nonetheless perfect for the price bracket it is targeting. The GDDR3 memory is naturally clocked quite a bit slower than the lightning-fast GDDR5 on the HD4870 and the core (which is the same as the one used on its bigger brother) gets downclocked quite a bit as well.

All in all, if ATI and their partners can keep the channel stocked with cards we see no problem with both the HD4850 and the HD4870 becoming the cards to have for the next few months.

*Please note that programs like GPU-Z and the Catalyst Control Center will read the memory speed as 900Mhz due to the fact that GDDR5 operates different from all other DDR memory types. Basically, there are two “banks” of memory each operating at 900Mhz SDR (1800Mhz DDR) and these programs will only read one of these banks. The two banks combine for a total of 3600Mhz DDR memory speed.

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