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Sapphire Radeon X850 XT Platinum Edition

An attractively priced powerhouse?

Proof that nothing was awry with the hardware itself came with the scores in Unreal Tournament 2004 with the Sapphire exactly matching those of the reference board. In the rest of the game results however, the Sapphire once again consistently fell behind the reference card by consistently similar margins. The big surprise though was in Half-Life 2 at high resolutions, where the card was losing around 30fps to the reference board when anisotropic filtering was applied at both 1280 x 1024 and 1600 x 1200, far below what we would have expected.

Sapphire Radeon X850 XT Platinum Edition Half-life 2

There is a possible explanation for this unusual behaviour. While the reference board was tested with a special driver supplied by ATI, the Sapphire was tested with the official 4.12 release and this appears to be less aggressive than reference board driver. That said, the results at 1600 x 1200 in Half-Life 2 are clearly anomalous and hopefully ATI will sort this out with its next driver release. It's especially puzzling as the 4.12 drivers had a positive effect of performance when we tested the X800XL.

Sapphire Radeon X850 XT Platinum Edition Doom 3

Despite this the card is still worthy of an award. At the other resolutions in Half-Life 2, the card is still faster than anything we've tested, save for the water cooled Gainward PowerPack CoolFX! GeForce 6800 card. However, that was a highly unusual card, requiring a lot of difficult installation. It will also set you back £590. So when you consider that the Sapphire is on sale in the same price bracket as a GeForce 6800 GT, there really is no contest. And while SLI may well spoil ATI's party, it's still early days for the much-hyped technology. It's also worth mentioning that even with the lower scores, the Sapphire X850 XT PE puts ATI on a more or less even keel with Nvidia in Doom 3, which is impressive considering that the Id title really does play to the GeForce 6800's strengths.


It may be disappointing that it's slower than the reference board and that there are some odd results at 1600 x 1200 in Half-Life 2, but there is still a lot to celebrate about this card. Hopefully the issues will be sorted out in the next driver release because these aside the Sapphire Radeon X850 XT Platinum Edition is one very attractively priced, powerhouse of a graphics card.
Sapphire Radeon X850 XT Platinum Edition
Rating 90%
Price £320
More info The Sapphire site

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