Who says you can't have a half-decent graphics card withough being defended?
Any product referring to itself as the ULTIMATE Edition of anything should always be taken with a pinch of salt, but in the case of Sapphire’s latest graphics card, I’m going to let that standard slip because I’m a sucker for a pretty heatsink. Passively cooled cards may not usually win in the performance stakes, but they sure are attractive and for HTPC builders pretty much a necessity – unless you find the drone of a GPU fan enhances your film-watching experience.
Previously the best passive cards we’ve seen have been based on nVidia GPUs, so it’s also nice to see an AMD board partner join the fray, although unlike the 8600 GT Fatal1ty (pronounced fatal-one-ity – honest) edition we looked at, this card isn’t overclocked. On the other hand, there hasn’t been any reduction from the default 668MHz core and 1.66GHz memory clock speeds to keep within thermal restraints; which is good as you won’t be sacrificing performance in favour of silence. The 3850 also includes all of AMD’s UVD features, for offloading video processing to the GPU, which is again beneficial in a media PC.
This card is a dual slot cooler design, but unlike cards such as the 2900 XT and 8800 GTX, which wouldn’t fit in some SFF systems which have the PCI express slot at the bottom of the motherboard, the extra space is taken up on the back of the graphics card. Therefore it should fit into almost all cases, assuming you’re happy to sacrifice the second expansion slot. Pricing isn’t confirmed yet, but there should only be a small premium over the standard model and cards will be available ‘soon’ – a helpfully specific date.