The ATI Radeon HD 4850 was suggested to me by several online colleagues who had greater experience than me with the subject (I had previously bought only 2 other video cards). The consensus was that the 4850 was a balance between performance and price. Taking their advice, I bought a Sapphire Radeon HD 4850 in late November 2008 for $129.99 ($154.99 with a mail-in rebate). The card had problems when I first activated my new computer. To clarify, I have installed video cards before in other computers, so I do have some experience; I did not make any errors installing it. When I turned on the monitor, I could tell that something was wrong. There were multicolored lines (artifacts) in certain sections of the screen, which is generally a sign of failing hardware. I tested the monitor and card separately on another computer to determine which was the faulty hardware. The graphics card seemed to be the problem, so I contacted customer service to return it.
One of the major criticisms that I've heard from online forums is that Sapphire is known to charge a $15.00 fee to people who wish to return their cards. That fee is not for shipping of the card, which you also have to pay (I paid around $7.00 for shipping); it is an additional fee they charge you. They told me that the fee would be negated if the card was found to be defective in less than 3 months from the date of purchase. I was within that timeframe, so I was not charged. I consider the $15.00 payment, however, to be a potentially negative aspect of buying a product from Sapphire. I have never heard of charging a customer money for repairing a defective product that is under warranty.
They sent me a refurbished HD 4850 about 3-4 weeks after they received my damaged card, and I received it around late January 2009. I installed it and turned on my computer.
The card plays my games smoothly and without any problems. I play Left 4 Dead (2008) without any slowdown and do not hear the card fan working at full capacity like I did with my previous Nvidia 7600GT. I also play a number of older games without any problems either. I can run high graphics settings in games like CounterStrike Source (2004) quite nicely.
I cannot comment on how Blu-ray or HD films look on my computer since I do not have an appropriate monitor for viewing, nor do I have a Blu-ray player installed. I can view HD videos that are posted on YouTube though, and it shows the details of those videos very well.
On a side note, while I received my mail-in rebate check, the amount of work necessary to get it can be confusing. Most rebates require a person to fill out a form and send it to the rebate handlers with a copy of receipt and a UPC label. Sapphire required this as well, but they also needed me to register on a website with a username and everything. I also had to write down 2 specific codes on the envelope that I was sending my materials in. The time to redeem the rebate was also shorter than most, giving me only 3 weeks from the date of purchase to send my request. I would not recommend engaging in this process if you do not have the patience for it.
In conclusion, the 4850 is a satisfactory card, although my experience with it does affect the overall score a little. If you are looking for a good graphics card though, the 4850s have dropped in price quite a bit since I bought mine; I have seen deals on them for as low as $80.00 to $100.00. Sapphire did not evade my attempt to return the card and were actually understanding, but I still am wary of buying future products from them due to the mail-in rebate process and the $15.00 fee for returns. I am sure they are a fine company, but I will be researching online reviews thoroughly should I choose to buy another ATI card.