Sapphire HD4870 Toxic Review

gotdamojo06 - 2008-09-23 12:49:49 in Video Cards
Category: Video Cards
Reviewed by: gotdamojo06   
Reviewed on: October 6, 2008
Price: TBA


Have you been looking for the hottest video card out on the market? What about something that is going to significantly increase those benchmarking scores or give you those extra few FPS in your games at the highest of resolutions? Well you may be in luck with the Sapphire HD4870 Toxic. This card not only utilizes the most up to date core by ATI, it also is part of Sapphire's Toxic line, meaning it comes factory overclocked! That's right, you will gain a few extra MHz on both the core and the memory without having to do all of the hard work of testing for stability every few increases! Not only that, but the Toxic comes with a non reference cooler using heatpipes and Vapor X cooling. Higher clock speeds and improved cooling straight from the factory! I am very interested to see what this card looks like as well as how well it is going to be able to compare against some of the other cards that are currently out on the market, so let's take a look at the Sapphire HD4870 Toxic!


Closer Look:  

The packaging for the Sapphire HD4870 Toxic looks very simplistic and elegant with the Sapphire badge sitting in the upper left hand corner of the package. The right hand corner of the package is where you are going to find the Vapor-X badge letting you know that the cooling solution on the Sapphire HD4870 Toxic has vapor chamber technology incoperated in it. Underneath that, there is the "OC Overclocked" logo letting you know that you are getting the overclocked edition of the card, which will run faster and may have higher temperatures than usual. The bottom right hand corner is where you are going to find where Sapphire put the 512MB GDDR5 memory logo as well as the PCI-E 2.0 logo; the ATI badges along with the HDMI logo are on the bottom left hand corner. Right in the middle of the package is where the actual Sapphire HD4870 Toxic logo is located, right atop a large picture of a silver man that has quite a bit of shadowing and texturing detail to him. When you take a look at the back of the package, you are going to see the same man, but his whole body, right in the center of the package with the highlights of the card on the right side of the box and on the left there is a list of the main features. On one of the sides of the box you are going to find a list of all the system requirements for you to be able to fully use the Sapphire HD4870 Toxic card. The other side of the package is where you are going to find the bar-coding label letting you know the serial number and other shipping information.







When you open up the packaging, you are going to find a brown box that is not only holding everything in place but also adding protection to the card as well as all of the accessories that comes packaged with it. The card is wrapped in an anti-static bag and kept in place by some foam material that has been cut out to fit the card. At the bottom of the box is where all the accessories are; there is also a cut out for them.



There are quite a few different accessories that came with the Sapphire HD4870 Toxic edition, including  different five CDs, which are the Driver Installation, Ruby ROM, DVD Suite, PowerDVD, and 3DMark Vantage discs along with an installation manual, in case this is your first video card that you are going to be installing and you need a little help. There are also a few cables that came with the Sapphire HD4870 Toxic, the 6-pin PCI-E power cable to 4-pin Molex adapters, in case your power supply doesn't have the necessary number of PCI-E power cables. There are two dongles included as well, the DVI to HDMI and DVI to Analog, along with an S-Video adapter and the S-Video to RCA cable. In case you were wanting to run this Sapphire card in Crossfire, included is a Crossfire bridge as well.




Well now that we know how the Sapphire HD4870 Toxic is packaged and what comes with the card, it's time to take a nice close look at the card itself!

Closer Look:  

When you get the Sapphire HD4870 Toxic pulled out of the packaging, you are going to see a few different things; the first thing that you are going to see is that Sapphire has wrapped the entire card in an anti static bag to help keep the card safe during the shipping process, by preventing it from obtaining any scrathes on the active cooling solution as well as to help protect it from any static energy discharges during the shipping process or when you are opening up the box. When you get to take a nice look at the card outside of any packaging you are going to see that it has a very large active cooler to help keep the heat that is generated during operation to a minimum, which with the 4800 series is very important as they run quite warm. The cooler is colored black and stands out very well from the dark blue PCB of the card. When you look at the back of the card you can see the backing plate that Sapphire has used on its HD4870 Toxic card along with the other mounting screws.









The first thing that I want to take a look at is the active cooling solution for the HD4870 Toxic card, with this removed, we can take a good look at the other parts of the card. The top of the cooler houses a very large fan that is going to be able to blow an adequate volume of air through the the fins that are attached by the large and thick heatpipes. Venting this volume of air out the rear vents of the Toxic makes sure that the cooler does not increase the inner case air temperature like some cooling solutions do. Speaking of the heatpipes, there are three solid copper heatpipes that are attached to the solid copper base of the cooler, which is going to allow for maximum heat transfer from the ever so hot GPU core. There is a Sapphire and an ATI Radeon HD4870 logo on the left hand side of the cooler and a Toxic and a Vapor-X logo on the right, to allow you to identify the card. The back side of the cooler is where you are going to see how large the copper base of the cooler is, it more than covers the GPU and is almost large enough to cover the RAM modules on the card. Inside of this large copper base is where the "vapor chamber" is located, this is Sapphire's new way of cooling its video cards, it relies on the GPU heating up the gases inside the camber and allowing the gases to rise to the top of the chamber and releasing its engergy or heat to the other side of the chamber where the fan/fins/heatpipes are located.



With the cooler removed, you can see the entire card and what comes on it. In the center of the card, you'll notice the GPU, which is the brains of the card. The back side of the card is where all of the electrical parts are located that allocate where the power is going to be going and regulate exactly what parts get how much volts. Along the outside of the GPU there are a total of eight RAM modules that are made by Qimonda, the part numbers for the modules located on the card are IDGV51-Q5A1F10-40X and FV21476. The GPU core, RV770, was drenched in thermal paste that looked like a little mess; I do not trust the stock paste, so I removed it and replaced it with Arctic Silver 5. There was a RAM sink that coverd the voltage regulators toward the back of the card, as these chips get hot on the card; however, to better show you the card and chips, it is not displayed.




The next part of the card that I want to take a look at are all of the places of connection that are on the Sapphire HD4870 Toxic card, these include the internal along with the externals. The first place that I want to look at is the PCI bracket, this is where you are going to be able to plug your monitors into using either a DVI cable or the DVI to analog dongle. You are also able to install an HDTV using an HDMI cable via the DVI to HDMI dongle or the S-Video adapter. On the exact opposite end of the card is where you plug the two PCI-E 6-pin power cables. The other connections are the exact same as other ATI cards, at the bottom of the card there is a PCI-E connection that allows you to add the card to your motherboard and at the top there are two Crossfire connectors allowing you to make full use of two of the same cards for added performance.





After taking a nice close look at the Sapphire HD4870 Toxic, I am very impressed with the detail and time the company has spent in designing the cooler and the way that it is going to be installed.



The first step is getting the Sapphire HD4870 Toxic to work properly, and we will need to place the CD in the optical drive and wait for the software to start up so that we will be able to begin installing it. The drivers that came with it are an outdated version of the Catalyst Control Center. So I went online and dowloaded the most recent version, 8.8, which are the drivers that I will be using.  


The first screen that you come to is the Welcome screen, where you are supposed to select which language you wish to install, obviously I will be using English. When you click the next button, you get the option of whether you wish to install the drivers or uninstall them. This screen will make it easier if you need to uninstall an older version and start over with fresh drivers. The following screen is where you are able to choose if you wish to install the drivers using the Express option or the Custom option. The Express option is the one that will install the most commonly chosen features, while with the Custom option you are able to install only the features you want. I will choose the Custom option to show you what features you can install, which are on the next screen. Check the options you wish to install and click the next button at the bottom.






There is an End User License Agreement that you must accept before you are able to begin the installation. After the installation is complete you will be prompted with the "Finished" screen.  



Now that we have the drivers installed on the computer, it's time to open it up and configure the system to use the HD4870 properly and effectively.


The next step in configuring the PowerColor HD4870 is to open up the Catalyst Control Center; using this application, you will be able to control just about every setting that is able to be changed on the video card. When you first start it up, you will have an option to choose if you want to use the Basic view or the Advanced view of the Catalyst Control Center. I chose to use the Advanced view; this will allow you to change more settings. When you go to click the next button, a pop-up will show up, letting you know that if you want to change back to the Basic view at a later time, you will be able to do so. After you accept the pop-up, Catalyst Control Center will start up on the Welcome screen; this is where you are able to view useful online links that will take you to an update checker, allow you to contact customer support, join ATI's [email protected] team, as well as other things. Under the Information Center tab, you will be able to view both hardware and software information about the graphical end of your computer. This can come in handy if you need to know which installation of Catalyst Control Center and what drivers you currently have installed.
















The next tab that I want to take a look at is the Display Manager tab; this is where you are going to be able to see how many displays you have connected to your computer, as well as what they are going to display. Not only are you able to choose what they are going to be able to display, you are able to change the resolution for each display, what the refresh rate is going to be, and if you want the color quality to be 32-bit or 16-bit. The next tab on the agenda is the Digital Panel; the first page that I want to look at under here is the AVIVO Color page. Here you are able to change the hue, saturation and the temperature of the colors that are going to be displayed. Under the Attributes page, you are going to be able to see different information about the displays that are connected to the HD4870, such as the maximum resolution the display is able to use. You are also able to enable GPU scaling and set the options for that here. The final page under the Digital Panel is called HDTV Support; this is where you are able to choose the different HD formats to use when an HDTV is connected to your HD4870.




The final section of the Catalyst Control Center that I want to look at is the ATI Overdrive page. This page is locked after you first install the program and the drivers. When you unlock this page, you are unlocking the ability to overclock your video card's core and memory clock speeds. You are able to use a slider bar to select the settings you wish to use as far as clock speeds go; there is a maximum of 1200MHz for the memory and 700MHz for the core. You are also able to use an Auto Tune feature that will do the overclocking and testing for stability for you. There are two gauges on the side that show you your GPU temperature and your GPU activity.



Now it's time to get down to business and see exactly what this card is made of!


Fabrication Process
Graphics Clock
780 MHz (OC)
Memory Clock 1000 MHz (OC) 4.0Gbps
Memory Interface 256-bit
Memory Size
Memory Type
400 MHz
Stream Processors
HDCP Support
HDMI Support
Yes (Using DVI-to-HDMI adaptor)
Connectors 2 x dual-link DVI-I 1 x S-Video Out
Bus Technology PCI Express 2.0
Form Factor Dual Slot
Power Connectors 2 x 6-pin



Redefine HD Gaming

The ATI Radeon HD 4870 Series GPUs deliver a cinematic gaming experience with unprecedented performance. The powerful new TeraScale graphics will propel you deep into your gameplay with seamless frame rates and high resolutions. Enhanced anti-aliasing (AA) and anisotropic filtering create striking graphics with unparalleled realism so you can max out the settings of the most demanding next-generation games or revitalize your favorite titles. Play today while preparing for tomorrow with tessellation, support for DirectX® 10.1 and scalable ATI CrossFireX™ technology.


Go Beyond HD Video

Add an ATI Radeon HD 4870 Series GPU to your PC and watch the latest Blu-ray and HD movies play with incredible fidelity –upscale to nearly twice the display resolution of HD content.* Take full advantage of Blu-ray functionality with dual-stream, picture in picture (PIP) capabilities. Sophisticated new features within ATI Avivo™ HD technology provide a truly responsive experience. Support for the latest audio visual interconnects ensures you can take advantage of the latest display technology.

*Note: HD capable monitor required

** Note: Playing HDCP content requires additional HDCP ready components, including but not limited to an HDCP ready monitor, Blu-ray or HD DVD disc drive, multimedia application and computer operating system.


Break-through Efficiency

Like its predecessors, the ATI Radeon HD 4870 Series GPUs offer optimal performance and break-through efficiency with platform-independent intelligent power management. ATI PowerPlay™ delivers the power needed to blaze through even the most intense games while intuitively conserving energy at idle or when demand is low.



All information courtesy of Sapphire technology @


I am very interested and excited to see how the new Sapphire HD4870 Toxic from ATI will compare when it is tested using a few different video benchmarks to measure the card's performance. I will be putting the Sapphire card up against a few different video cards that are out on the market, including the PowerColor HD4850. I am also extremely interested in seeing how the cooling solution Sapphire has added to its HD4870 is going to handle the temperatures. All of the settings will be set at stock for all of the cards; I will also be overclocking the HD4870 to the maximum level so that I can compare the difference in performance when overclocked, and see how beneficial it is to overclock all components in your system.  

Testing Setup:


Comparison Video Cards:



Overclocked settings:

There is a two part answer to how well the Sapphire HD4870 Toxic was able to overclock, this is due to the fact that when you get the card, it comes overclocked from the factory at 780MHz for the core and 1000MHz for the memory. So you have a 30MHz overclock on the GPU as stock settings and 100MHz overclock on the memory as stock settings. If you go from how it comes right out of the box, I was able to get an extra 70MHz on the GPU and 200MHz on the Memory, which may not sound like all that much of a huge overclock, however when you add up what you have actually gotten over any other regular HD4870, you get an extra 100MHz on the GPU and 300MHz on the memory.

When it actually came down to the work of overclocking the Sapphire HD4870 Toxic, it was very quite simple. I was able to achieve the overclock I got by increasing the core by 10MHz every time until I hit 860MHz, it became unstable, so I backed down to 850MHz, which was where it was stable. I then moved on to the memory, which was quite simple as well; I was able to overclock using an increase of 15MHz and the maximum I was able to get stable was 1200MHz. The fan that is included with this card is very quiet, and at the 850MHz/1200MHz overclock, the highest temperature that I saw as 62°C, so the VaporX cooling solution really did do the trick in keeping the temperatures in check.



  1. Crysis
  2. Knights of the Sea
  3. BioShock
  4. Call of Duty 4
  5. World in Conflict
  6. Call of Juarez
  7. Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts
  8. 3DMark 06 Professional
  9. 3DMark Vantage


Crysis has been out for quite some time now. In that time, there's yet to be a single or multi-GPU setup that can fully showcase the graphics performance of the game.  The Crysis single player demo includes both CPU and GPU benchmarks to test the performance of your processor and video card.





















The Sapphire HD4870 Toxic card did very well in this benchmark, slightly better than the PowerColor HD4870 card.


PT Boats: Knights of the Sea is a new DX10 title that features its own proprietary graphics engine currently in development. The game is a combination of Real Time Strategy and Simulation. You have the ability to control the entire crew or just a single member. Play as the German, Russian or Allied navies, and prove your mettle on the open seas.


Video Settings:

















The Sapphire HD4870 Toxic card was able to kick some butt in the Kinghts of the Sea benchmark when it was compared against other ATI cards, though it did seem to cap out around 50 FPS. The nVidia cards, however, did do better as they didn't seem to hit a FPS wall.


BioShock is one of the creepier games out in the wild, chronicling the building of a perfect Utopian society undersea gone horribly wrong - its inhabitants driven mad with the introduction of tonics and genetic modifications. Now, Rapture is just a shadow of its former glory, with little girls looting the dead of what little they have left, while being shadowed by guardians known as "Big Daddies" It is a demanding game that will make your hardware scream for mercy. This First Person Shooter allows for an infinite number of weapons and modifications to provide a unique experience each time it is played. The environment, as well as the storyline, will wrap you up for hours on end.


Video Settings:


















When it came down to it in the BioShock benchmarking test, the PowerColor HD4870 and the Sapphire HD4870 Toxic cards had very similar scores, however the Toxic did do a little bit better.


Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is the successor to the Call of Duty crown. This iteration of the game is fought in many of the world's hot spots with modern armaments and firepower. You can play as either a US Marine or British SAS trooper. Since this game does not feature an in-game test, I will run through a section of the game and measure average FPS using Fraps 2.9.3.


Video Settings:


















When the HD4870 Toxic was put up against the other cards, it didn't even break a sweat, it was able to keep up with the other cards but was slightly outperformed by the Powercolor HD4870. But when it was overclocked, it gained some major ground.


World in Conflict is a newly released DX10, Real Time Strategy game that simulates the all-out war the world hopes never comes. The difference in this RTS game is that it is not the typical "generate wealth and build" type of game. Instead, you advance by conquering your foe.


Video Settings:



















The Sapphire HD4870 Toxic card was able to kick some butt in this benchmark, at both the overclocked and stock speeds.


Call of Juarez is a DX10, First Person Shooter set in the Wild West of the late 1800's. The game is inspired, in part, by the movies of the Wild West genre of the seventies and eighties. The game can be played in both single player and multiplayer modes. The game focuses on realistic graphics and gameplay designed to take advantage of the latest video cards on the market.


Video Settings:


















The PowerColor HD4870 PCS+ and the Sapphire HD4870 Toxic cards were very similar in performance when tested with the Call of Juarez benchmark.


Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts is the latest chapter in the Company of Heroes series. The scene is WWII. The mission is Operation Market Garden, the first Allied attempt to break into the Third Reich. Play as the British or Germans. This Real Time Strategy game is brought to us by Relic Entertainment.


Video Settings:



















In the Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts benchmark, the PowerColor HD4870 gave the Toxic a nice competitor, but in the higher resolutions the Toxic card did not lose its grip and kept steady.


3DMark06 is one of those benchmarks that always comes up when a bragging contest breaks out. 3DMark06 presents a severe test for many of today's hardware components. Let's see how this setup fares. The settings we will use are listed below.





















During the 3DMark06 benchmark, the PowerColor HD4870 PCS+ video card gave the HD4870 Toxic from Sapphire a run for its money, but was able to beat it out at both the stock and overclocked speeds.


Just added to the OverclockersClub suite of benchmarks is the newest from Futuremark, 3DMark Vantage. Featuring all-new game tests, this benchmark is for use with Vista based systems. "There are two all-new CPU tests that have been designed around a new 'Physics and Artificial Intelligence-related computation.' CPU test two offers support for physics related hardware." There are four preset levels that correspond to specific resolutions. 'Entry' is 1024x768 progressing to 'Extreme' at 1920x1200. Of course, each preset can be modified to arrange any number of user designed testing. For our testing, I will use the four presets at all default settings.












Once again, the Sapphire HD4870 Toxic video card was able to beat out all of the other cards in this benchmark, at both the stock and the overclocked settings.



What is there to say about the Sapphire HD4870 Toxic video card other than it is amazing? I was very surprised to see the benchmarking scores that it was able to produce. It was able to compete with and beat out the PowerColor HD4870 PCS+, which is also an overclocked HD4870 with a custom cooler. The Sapphire card was able to either compete with or beat just about every other card during both the stock and especially with the overclocked speeds, and in those it did not beat it kept the performance differential close. I was very pleased to see how well Sapphire paid attention to the little details of the card such as placing a large enough cooling solution on it to keep down the high temperatures the RV770 core has been producing, limiting the overclockability of the cards and the lifespan of them. I am a fan of the dual slot video card design, as it gives you more of a peace of mind that your card is not going to overheat and it will still be able to perform very well, however some people see it as a negative as it blocks some of the other slots that are located on your motherboard, which limits you when it comes to the upgradeability of your rig in the future.

The usage of VaporX technology also was a great addition to the cooling solution of the HD4870 Toxic, as it was able to keep the temperatures in check and allowed for quieter operation while it was idling as well as when it was under full load. I was very impressed that it was able to beat out another pre-overclocked video card of the same class. I do like that the card came overclocked right out of the box, as to someone who is not big into overclocking their video card or someone who has not done it before, will be able to see what kind of performance boost they will gain from it. The actual overclockability of the card was great as well, I was still able to add another 70MHz to the GPU and 200MHz to the memory, leaving me at 850MHz and 1200MHz, which is quite amazing! The only technical downside of the card that I have found is that it only has 512MB of GDDR5, if Sapphire had shoved in another 512MB and made it a total of 1GB, the performance of the card would be simply amazing. If you are looking to take the leap away from your older video card to something that is going to be able to give you the performance boost to your entire system, this card is what you should be looking for! I would suggest picking up at least one of these for your next build.