Sapphire Radeon HD4850 512MB Graphics Card Review

by Michael "SKYMTL" Hoenig     |     July 1, 2008

Sapphire Radeon HD4850 512MB Graphics Card Review

Product Number: 100242
Price: Click Here To Compare Prices
Warranty: 2 year
Manufacturer's Product Page: SAPPHIRE HD 4850 512MB GDDR3 PCI-E

If you think back to a few years ago (circa 2002 to 2003), ATI was flying high with the release of some of the best graphics cards on the market with the 9800 and 9700-series which were considered to be the crème de la crème at the time. These cards were competing against a somewhat mixed bag in the Nvidia lineup which included the solid 4-series and the lackluster 5-series. At this point you may be wondering why we are talking about relics from a bygone generation in a review about a brand new product. The reason for this is that once again we see a 9-series and a 4-series part vying for our attention and hard earned dollars but this time ATI is marketing their 4800 cards while it is Nvidia with the 9800 name. Neither of these series is geared towards the high end but rather the burgeoning performance class which offers the best possible performance at a palatable price. It is in this $150 to $300 price range that the new battles for market dominance are being fought which not only benefits the consumers but also forces the manufacturers to find new ways to market their products.

Over the last year or so there has been a significant shift away from the high end parts that had long been the staples of any GPU manufacturer. While the margins on these high end parts may bolster the bottom line, the Big Two (ATI and Nvidia) have to contend with a struggling economy, soaring gas prices and a subprime mortgage fiasco in the USA. While none of these economic issues is rooted in the high-tech world, they each contribute to whittle away at the consumer’s purchasing power and with it their likelihood of buying a $700 graphics card. Economics may be an odd thing to be talking about in a graphics card review but in this day and age it takes a huge toll on what can be sold in the current marketplace. So, Nvidia took a gamble with their $650 GTX 280 and brought in a card which performs well enough to take the overall performance crown but ATI has taken a significantly different route with their recent releases. We believe that ATI has priced their cards perfectly for this new market but the proof is in the pudding so to speak and only time will tell if this marketing strategy pays off for them.

The HD4850 is a product which is aimed straight for the throat of Nvidia’s 9800GTX and has actually incited a quick and dramatic response from the boys in green. After the initial performance reports of this card were released, Nvidia quickly knocked nearly $100 off the MSRP of their then $300 GTX so it could compete mono a mono with ATI’s new wunderkind. Not only is the HD4850 seemingly perfectly suited for budget-minded gamers in the $200 price bracket but it also offers a bevy of other features including audio out through HDMI as well as Havok physics support. The more features the better we say.

For this review, long-time ATI board partner Sapphire sent us one of their HD4850 cards to take a look at. Sapphire has been around for longer than many of us can remember and have a history of delivering very affordable cards to consumers even though they are often devoid of any extras. One thing that has always been a plus with Sapphire is that their products have always been widely available here in Canada and abroad which means that if you look at literally any e-tailer, you will find Sapphire cards for sale. Unfortunately, like many other ATI board partners Sapphire believes it is acceptable to offer customers a meager 2-year warranty. While we understand most people will keep their cards for less than a year and while I run the risk of sounding like a broken record, seeing a longer warranty would be nice for once.

All in all, this looks like it could be a banner year for ATI so let’s get this show on the road and give you this review you have been waiting for!!


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