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Sapphire HD 4890 Atomic Edition Review

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The Sapphire HD 4890 Atomic Edition is a ready to be a prime time player. In the single GPU field, the GTX 285 has been the undisputed king of the mountain, and usually carries the title of the fastest single GPU card on the market. It now has competition in this category, as the HD 4890 Atomic puts a serious dent in the performance gap between ATI and Nvidia. So much so that when pushed, the Atomic HD 4890 even pulled ahead of the factory overclocked GTX 285 in more than a couple tests. Not quite there, but getting much closer. What makes this card appealing to me is the fact that Sapphire has once again gone out and produced a video card using their own PCB, with improved voltage regulation, added their own Vapor-X cooling, and delivered a factory overclocked video card that serves notice that ATI will not allow Nvidia to rest on its laurels. Usually you wait months for a card like this to appear, but Sapphire wasted no time bringing this one to market. The Vapor-X cooling design is different from that seen on the Vapor-X Edition HD 4870 2GB card I recently looked at; while different, it is just as effective. The stock HD 4890 peaked at 71 degrees Celsius under load in the Armor+ case, with the drivers controlling the fan speed. On the other hand, the Atomic only reached 59 degrees Celsius with the driver controlling the fan speed. The Atomic is running with a GPU core speed of 1GHz, so all the cooling is needed to keep this card happy. The stock card needed the fan speed bumped to 100% just to reach a 970MHz core speed when it was overclocked. To reach the maximum overclock on the Atomic, I needed to keep the fan speed right around 70%. The noise difference between the reference cooling solution and Sapphire's Vapor-X design is amazing - the high pitched hair dryer is no longer present on the Atomic version! While much less noisy than reference solution, the noise of the fan when pushed to 100% is still audible and can be annoying - much more than the design of the heatsink on the Vapor-X HD4870. The cooling performance at this noise level is much better than that delivered by the reference solution. With the fan at 100%, temperatures never rose above 54 degrees Celsius in my 25 degree Celsius room. All in all, a great improvement over the reference design. At this point I think Sapphire has hit a home run in the performance department with the HD 4890 Atomic Edition that will raise the stakes in the single GPU video card market. You could say that the shot has been fired over the bow. I want to sit back and see the next step from both ATI and Nvidia, as the Atomic Edition HD 4890 is the fastest single GPU card from ATI that I have tested. As a step up from standard cards, Sapphire's Atomic Edition cards always offer that extra bit of performance and cooling that make them the card to buy, even though they carry a price premium. You do get what you pay for! Increased performance, custom PCB design, and excellent cooling - what else do you need?



  • 1GHz core clock
  • Still has overclocking headroom
  • Vapor-X cooling
  • Excellent performance
  • Cooling solution quieter than stock



  • Cooling solution louder than previous Vapor-X design


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