Sapphire HD 4890 Vapor-X 2GB Reviewccokeman -
Category: Video Cards
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Since 2007, when Sapphire released the HD3870 Atomic that was reviewed here on OCC, the company has used the Vapor change cooling concept to cool just about all of its upper end enthusiast grade video cards. The one exception that comes to mind is the HD4870x2 Atomic that was water cooled. By using this cooling solution and using better parts, Sapphire's top end cards have that extra little bit in the tank when it comes to cooling and overclocking potential when compared to the reference cards.
The Sapphire HD4890 Vapor-X 2GB model is basically the 1GB model with an additional 1GB of GDDR5 memory to try and help out on the top end resolutions. The clock speeds remain identical at 870MHz on the 55nm RV790 core and 1050MHz on the not one but two gigabytes of GDDR5 memory. If the 2GB uses the same Quimonda memory that is rated for 1000MHz, I would expect the overall performance and overclocking to be very similar. Will the extra memory memory on the HD4890 Vapor-X 2GB make a difference in performance or will it just be an added bonus to help with a bit of future proofing? Will it be harder to overclock with the extra memory? Questions that definitley need answering as I have seen more than one post in forums asking just that question. Let's find out!
The front and rear panels of the Sapphire HD 4890 Vapor-X 2GB mirror that of the 1GB model with, of course, the memory size listed in the top right corner showing 2GB. The front panel highlights the Vapor-X cooling system on the card and lists the features you can expect to use on the card. Native HDMI with seven channel sound, Crossfire-X capable with up to four cards on a supporting motherboard, Display Port output and the software titles included. The rear panel expands on this information shown on the front panel including the fact that the card uses Black Diamond chokes and solid capacitors.
When you open up the package, what you have is a box inside the liner that carries the card and all of the accessories. The Vapor-X HD 4890 2GB is stored in a plastic shell and is blocked off with foam to prevent the card from moving during shipment. It looks as though Sapphire is doing its part for the environment by using recycled cardboard for the boxes.
The accessory bundle is similar to that of the 1GB Vapor-X model and includes two software titles from Cyberlink, including Power DVD and your very own copy of the DX 10 benchmark 3DMark Vantage from Futuremark. The rest of the bundle includes a Crossfire bridge connection, HDMI to DVI dongle and two power connectors. The reason for the lack of adapters is clearly evident when you look a little closer at the Vapor-X 2GB. You really do not need a bunch of adapters when you have native connectivity with four different outlet types. Our card was delivered with two 4-pin by 6-pin power adapters. A slight faux pas when the card uses both six and 8-pin power connections. Sapphire has assured us that the correct cables will come with the retail cards.
Besides the basics, the one thing the cards have in common is the method of cooling the onboard components. While the implementation may be slightly different, the effect is the same. Both start out with a flat vapor chamber that the memory and GPU core directly contact. From there the solutions differ drastically, but that I will touch on later after seeing how the process works. The vapor plate is used to wick away heat, much the same way a heatpipe does. According to Sapphire's white paper on the vapor plate technology, the liquid inside the vapor plate is something we use each and every day - water, plain and simple. But water boils at 212 degrees F, right? Not when the pressure is reduced by pulling a vacuum. You can see the port where the vacuum was pulled, and the opening has been soldered shut to prevent vacuum loss. Rather than describe how the process works, I will let the blown-up images show just how simple the process really is. The next to last picture is a magnified image of the wicking material that is used in the assembly. From past experience the solution is quite effective at limiting the temperature increases on the HD 4XXX series of video cards from Sapphire. For more information about the technology you can visit Sapphire.
Let's see what makes these two video cards from Sapphire a bit better than the reference design cards.