During a busy June 2008 both NVIDIA and AMD debuted their next-generation graphics cards - GeForce GTX 268/280 and AMD Radeon HD 4850/4870, respectively.
AMD's partners were instructed to release reference cards for the first few weeks, with AMD actually controlling sampling of the product. Doing so created a level playing field that was marred, as far as we were concerned, by homogenous products selling at near-identical prices.
With the reference embargo now lifted, partners are free to market their own in-house-designed models, so we expect to see a bunch of cards with different coolers - getting rid of that annoying fan on the reference card - and, most likely, with pre-overclocked core and memory speeds to boot.
Sapphire, the biggest AMD AIB of them all, has been one of the first to release a non-reference Radeon HD 4850 card. Let's welcome the TOXIC model that promises better aural characteristics combined with higher performance, bringing a potent salvo to the well-received GPU.