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Sapphire Radeon HD 4850 X2 2GB Review - GTX 280 killer

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Manufacturer: Sapphire
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Finally the X2 card we were promised

Introduction

When AMD first came to us with new about the Radeon HD 4870 X2 and the intent the company had to retake the performance crown over NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 280 card, we were excited to see AMD getting back in the game.  The card was released in August of this year and AMD kept its promise by bringing out a new graphics card that was far and away the best performer for PC gaming.  Unfortunately the HD 4870 X2 is still far and away the highest priced graphics card on the market as well.

AMD did tell us about another compelling product at the time of the HD 4870 X2 release but that we haven't actually seen until this very review.  The product contained in this article could be the best performance card for the price for the coming holiday.  If only hadn't been four months late. 

Radeon HD 4850 X2 Overview

The technology behind the HD 4870 X2 is nearly identical that of the original Radeon HD 4870 X2.  Both cards have similar specifications, GPUs and memory sizes and really only differ in terms of clock speeds.  The HD 4850 X2 card uses the same dual-GPU technology where a pair of AMD Radeon HD 4850 RV770 GPUs are attached to a single PCB for what is essentially a CrossFire-on-a-single-card configuration.

This was the original slide we saw in our Radeon HD 4870 X2 review that discussed the HD 4850 X2.  Since this was posted the specifications on the single Radeon HD 4850 X2 card that will be released have been modified just slightly to include a 650 MHz clock speed instead of the 625 MHz listed here.  There are still 1600 total shaders (800 on each GPU), 2GB of GDDR3 memory (1GB for each GPU) and 230 watt max board power rating.

We mentioned above that the Radeon HD 4850 X2 was late as well - in fact we were told during the initial R700 release that the HD 4850 X2 version of the design would be ready by mid-September but as October and then November crept up on us, there was no offering in sight.  Just a couple of weeks ago we were told to expect to get a sample of the HD 4850 X2 but that only one of AMD's partners would be offering the part: Sapphire.



Original time line of product releases

Why would just one board partner be willing to offer such a compelling part?  There several factors that likely include the economic slump, the slight drop in prices on the HD 4870 X2 cards and inventory availability.  Even taking that into consideration I find it very confusing that AMD seems content to have this graphics card be such a low volume product.  With its great price (currently competing with NVIDIA's GTX 280 cards) and performance advantages (that you will see in our benchmarks) I really think the Radeon HD 4850 X2 could catch on in the enthusiast segment.

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