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Sapphire HD4870x2 Atomic Review

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Not having any prior knowledge about what to expect, I was intrigued when I saw that Sapphire had chosen to water cool the Atomic HD4870x2. What I wasn't expecting was that it was not just the card but the processor being cooled as well. The single 120mm radiator and 60CFM fan and 1/4 inch tubing made me instantly skeptical about just how well this Atomic system was going to work. My skepticism turned into joy when I actually put it into the system and fired it up. Having forgotten that I was pushing a 1 gig overclock on my Q9450 with close to 1.375 volts on the CPU, I was pleasantly surprised to see idle temps in the low 30 Celsius range in my 27 degree Celsius room. Even better was that when loaded with two instances of [email protected] load temperatures did not exceed 53 degrees Celsius. To test the cooling on the Atomic HD4870x2 I looped 3Dmark06 at 1920x1200 with the settings maxed out and only reached 57 Celsius on the GPU cores while running Prime 95 on all four CPU cores. The CPU temperature maxed at 62 Celsius in this test. Pretty impressive for an all-in-one system cooling solution.

Installation of the Atomic HD4870x2 system is pretty straightforward, the HD4870x2 goes in the top PCI-E x16 slot and the radiator assembly mounts in the rear of the chassis where your 120mm exhaust fan resides. If the case of your choosing does not have a 120mm fan in the rear or top of the chassis, you may need to obtain a new case before you complete your build. When it comes to exhausting the heat generated by the two GPU cores and CPU, the fan chosen by Sapphire does an adequate job. Pulling 60 CFM of air at full speed, it moves enough air to keep things cooler than the much louder stock cooling solution. The load temperatures are 40 degrees cooler than the stock solution with the driver controlling the fan. That kind of cooling performance is not what I was expecting while cooling a hot quad core and two GPUs. Looks can be deceiving. That heat has to go somewhere, and it does, straight out the back of the chassis. When running the full load testing I saw air temperatures out the back of the case of 46 Celsius using my trusty Kestral 4100 showing the system does indeed work. Running two of the Atomic cards is possible in a CrossfireX configuration but you would not be utilizing the additional CPU block. That's OK because you can always save a few bucks and get a standard HD4870x2 from Sapphire as well. The single slot design actually opens up some possibilities, if you need to use the PCI slots on your motherboard, you can slap that sound card or RAID card in without a fuss. The only issue I had with the whole system was the rigidity of the tubing that made for some interesting routing to keep the tubes away from the two 220mm fans on the side of my case. Easily solved, but a more flexible tube would be nice.

Performance-wise the Sapphire HD4870x2 Atomic is the king of the high resolutions in the games that have Crossfire profiles. In some of the games it falls down and gets beat by the single GPU solutions from the green camp. In games where the profiles are on the money like Bioshock, Call of Duty 4, 3DMark06 and 3Dmark Vantage, it can't be touched up top by any single slot GPU solution. Featuring all the goodies like HDCP compliance, HDMI over DVI with the supplied adapter, second generation Unified Video Decoder, a single slot cooling solution, two GPUs, 2GB of GDDR5 memory, 1600 stream processing cores, water cooling for the masses, all tied up into one Limited Edition package, you have a video card that looks good, performs great and it comes in its own briefcase. So the real question is what's the price of admission for all that the Atomic has to offer? I'm not quite sure yet, but the phrase "if you have to ask" was mentioned! For what it does and does well, it just might be worth the price of admission.

Keep an eye out for this card to be tested on newer games titles as well as the I7 as we begin to upgrade our testing platforms.



  • Cooling performance
  • Water cooling "system"
  • Performance
  • Overclocking
  • Single slot cooling
  • Low noise
  • Great bundle
  • Limited Edition
  • HDCP compliant
  • HDMI over DVI
  • It comes in its own suitcase



  • Tubing is semi-rigid
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