The fight between the two heavyweights – the Sapphire HD 4850 X2 and Leadtek WinFast GTX 280 – is over and it’s time to name the overall winner. Alas, the Leadtek left the ring without much glory. Having a comparable retail price, it is inferior to the Sapphire card in nearly each of our tests. The specifications of these cards coincide with those of the reference Radeon HD 4850 X2 and GeForce GTX 280, so we can acknowledge yet another defeat of Nvidia.
Let’s now discuss the fight in more detail.
At a resolution of 1280x1024 the Sapphire HD 4850 X2 wins nine tests, its advantage varying from 4 to 43%. It also has three draws and three losses, but only one loss is considerable (in Dead Space). We should acknowledge, however, that Red Alert 3 is the only game where the Leadtek WinFast GTX 280 failed completely. Otherwise, it is not much worse than the Sapphire in terms of delivering comfortable gaming conditions in most of the games. Moreover, the Leadtek card is quieter and thus more comfortable for your ears.
At the next resolution the Radeon HD 4850 X2 enjoys 11 wins and has only 1 draw and 3 losses. The average advantage over the GeForce GTX 280 grows from 10 to 16%. Besides Red Alert 3, Nvidia’s solution cannot deliver a comfortable speed in Mass Effect and X³: Terran Conflict.
If you have a 23 to 27-inch monitor, the choice is obvious: the Radeon HD 4850 X2 loses only in Dead Space due to the lack of support for CrossFire technology. It wins the rest of the tests confidently, enjoying an average advantage of 20% over the GeForce GTX 280. The only thing that can mar the victory is the high level of noise of the Sapphire card.
It is clear that the resolution of 2560x1600 pixels is a summit Nvidia’s single-PCB solutions are yet to conquer. This task lies with the upcoming dual-processor GeForce GTX 295. The current flagship GeForce GTX 280 ensures good speed in some games but is unable to compete with the Radeon HD 4850 X2. The Sapphire HD 4850 X2 is about 27% faster than the Leadtek WinFast GTX 280 on average but there were problems with bottom speed in Far Cry and the second GPU did not work in Dead Space.
So, the red team claims victory, but what is its price? With all its advantages, the Sapphire HD 4850 X2 2G/1G GDDR3 has two fundamental drawbacks. It has a poor design of the cooler, which leads to high level of noise. Moreover, the cooler doesn’t exhaust the hot air out of the system case. Your mainboard, hard drives and other components won’t like to have those 200 watts of heat staying inside. The support for four monitors simultaneously is an interesting feature, but we don’t think that many gamers will use it.
So, if you don’t mind the noise and your gaming system is roomy and well ventilated, the Sapphire HD 4850 X2 2G/1G GDDR3 may be a good buy because it is cheaper than the Radeon HD 4870 X2 but faster than the GeForce GTX 280 in most of today’s games. Otherwise, the Leadtek WinFast GTX 280 can make a good buy, too, especially if the card’s speed at the resolution of 2560x1600 pixels is unimportant for you.
Sapphire HD 4850 X2 2G/1G GDDR3 Summary
- Excellent performance in contemporary games;
- Outperforms Nvidia GeForce GTX 280 in most benchmarks;
- Wide range of supported FSAA modes;
- Best edge detect CFAA quality in the industry;
- 1600 ALU, 80 texture processors and 32 RBE;
- DirectX 10.1 and Shader Model 4.1 support;
- Fully-fledged hardware HD video decoding;
- High-quality HD video post-processing with scalability;
- Built-in 8-channel audio controller with HD support;
- Sound over HDMI.
- Maximum performance depends on software CrossFire support;
- High power consumption and heat dissipation;
- Not the best cooling system design;
- High noise;
- No HD video player among included software.
Leadtek WinFast GTX 280 Summary
- Pretty good performance in contemporary games;
- Performance doesn't depend on software multi-GPU support;
- Wide range of supported FSAA modes;
- Minimal effect of enabled FSAA on performance;
- 240 shader processors, 80 texturing units, 32 RBE;
- PhysX acceleration support in the GPU;
- Hardware HD-video decoding support;
- S/PDIF sound over HDMI;
- Relatively low power consumption;
- Relatively low level of generated noise.
- Yields significantly to ATI Radeon HD 4850 X2;
- Performance shift towards TMU and RBE;
- No DirectX 10.1 and Shader Model 4.1 support;
- Incomplete support of VC-1 decoding;
- No integrated sound core;
- No software for playback of HD video content bundled with the card.