Sapphire HD 4870 2GB Vapor X Series Reviewccokeman - March 24, 2009
Category: Video Cards
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When it comes to the HD 4870, just about everything has been done. There have been versions that were overclocked, versions with the memory increased, custom cooled cards, non stock PCBs and they all have been pretty solid pieces. The biggest problems originally faced with the HD4800 series was not really a performance issue but rather the cooling performance of the ATI factory cooling solutions. When they ran at the stock fans speeds, we were left with cards that would literally get hot enough to burn your fingers if you left them in place long enough. I remember seeing the decals faling off one HD48xx card because it was so hot. The solution, of course, was to increase the fan speed, but you are left with the sound of a hair dryer. Neither of these two options are really favorable in light of the challenges for each problem. Sapphire took a decidedly different approach with the HD3870 Atomic card back in January 2008 with the introduction of Vapor Chamber technology to provide cooling to the latest GPUs. The company has continued to expand and improve this concept with its "Toxic" HD4870 1GB model that offered increased clock speeds on a custom PCB, as well as a tremendous decrease in the operating temperatures of the card thanks to hybrid Vapor X technology coupled with heatpipes and a large fin array.
Just when you thought there was no more to be done, Sapphire comes along with its latest HD 4870. The Sapphire HD 4870 2GB Vapor-X card is built on a self designed PCB that carries with it a host of improvements such as higher specification solid capacitors and special patent pending "Diamond Black" heatsink chokes that run cooler and are 25% more efficient. Add in the whopping 2GB of GDDR5 memory for increased performance and an Improved Vapor-X cooling solution and you have what amounts to a whole new from the ground up piece of hardware. The Vapor-X cooling solution works much the same as a heatpipe does using a liquid that is turned to vapor and transported via a series of wicks to carry away the heat where the vapor is once again liquified and the process starts all over again. However, instead of a series of pipes, this solution is flat and lays directly over the GPU core to provide the most effective cooling. With all the work done on the cooling and design of this card, it still carries the stock clock speeds of 750MHz on the RV770 core and 900MHz on the GDDR5 memory. I have no doubt that the cooling capabilities of the Vapor-X Edition will be superb, but I am curious as to the benefits that will be realized by the increase in memory as well as the overclocking potential with the newer cooling.
There is nothing on the front panel of the packaging that lets you know this is anything other than something a little special. Not even the ever present "Ruby." The Vapor-X technology is the focus here, front and center. Additional features such as the 2GB of GDDR5 memory, native HDMI output with 7.1 channel audio are listed. The rear panel includes information on the "Black Diamond" chokes that run cooler and more efficiently, as well as the fact that solid capacitors used in the construction of the Vapor-X series.
The internal packaging is again a step in a different direction. This card is housed in a molded cardboard enclosure in a bubble wrapped bag instead of a closed cell foam block. The accessories that Sapphire has included are, as usual, everything you need to get the card installed and working.
The accessories from Sapphire are always the most complete that I have seen delivered and are based on the video card's capabilities. This card features three different means of connectivity natively so there is not the mass of adapters normally associated with the bundle. However, power adapters as well as the Crossfire bridge connector are included. The added value of the bundle comes from the software that is included. Sapphire has thrown in a complete suite from Cyberlink, the Ruby Rom and for the benchers out there, a full version of 3DMark Vantage.
Let's look and see if the additional memory and cooling really separate the Vapor-X series from the reference design.