Sapphire HD 4890 Toxic/Vapor-X Review

ccokeman - 2009-05-08 07:36:30 in Video Cards
Category: Video Cards
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: June 4, 2009
Price: Toxic $259, Vapor-X $239


Usually there is a lag time between the introduction of factory overclocked cards as well as those with specialized cooling solutions. Then Sapphire stepped right into the fire and introduced their HD 4890 Atomic Edition just a month after the introduction of the HD 4890 roll out. Now just a month later Sapphire has let loose with 2 more HD 4890 models, the Toxic and Vapor-X models. As seen with the Atomic Edition the Sapphire derivatives are a bit above the curve when it comes to component selection, cooling capabilities and performance. The Atomic is the first 4890 clocked at a 1000MHz core clock speed while the Toxic is not far behind with a core clock speed of 960MHz. The Toxic comes to us using the same Vapor-X based cooling solution shown to be effective at harnessing the thermal load of the Atomic Edition. The first question I asked Sapphire when the HD 4890 was introduced, was will there be a Vapor X version? Obviously the answer was 'yes' as this card is designed much the same as the 4870 Vapor X Edition we looked at earlier this year.

Both the HD 4890 Toxic Edition and Vapor-X cards are based upon the R790 core with 800 shader cores built on the same 55nm process and architecture as the R770 core used on the HD 4870. Both carry 1 GB of GDDR 5 memory on a 256 bit bus using an improved memory management architecture. Higher clock speeds are the result of the improvements to the R790 core. Lets take a look at both of these new offerings from Sapphire to see just how well they compare to the existing offerings to see if there is indeed a performance advantage with the special features of these cards from Sapphire.


Closer Look:


The packaging of the Toxic is quite different from the rest of the Sapphire line up. The mascot on the front has changed with the move to the HD 4890 series to what looks much like the Sith lord in the last few Star Wars movies. Features of note on the front panel include the fact that the Toxic is an overclocked model using Vapor-X technology. Along the bottom is the list of software included with the Toxic that includes two titles from Cyberlink as well as your own copy of the popular benchmark 3DMark Vantage from Futuremark. The rear panel goes into detail about some of the features such as Crossfire X technology, Direct X 10.1 support and UVD 2.0 for use when watching HD content. The theme on the front of the Vapor-X HD 4890 represents the cooling ability of the Vapor-X cooling solution with the arctic theme and white, blue and silver coloring. Prominently mentioned is the Vapor-X cooling solution employed on this card. Features mentioned include the 1GB of GDDR5 memory, the fact that this card has both display port and HDMI ports native. The bottom of the front panel shows the software package is the same as what is included with the Toxic with 2 title from Cyberlink and the 3DMark Vantage benchmark from Futuremark. The rear panel is much like that of the Toxic in how it describes the features of the Vapor-X.




Both the Toxic and Vapor-X HD 4890s are packaged identically. The inner packaging opens to reveal a plastic shroud that holds the cards with foam blocks taking up the rest of the space not occupied by the cards. Pulling the plastic shroud up and away reveals the box containing the accessories for each card. It looks as though Sapphire is doing their part for the environment by using recycled cardboard for the boxes.





The accessory bundles are similar but not the same. Both cards come with the manual, two software titles from Cyberlink including Power DVD and your very own copy of the DX 10 benchmark 3DMark Vantage from Futuremark. Where the bundles differ is in the hard parts that are included. Both include power adapters, 2 molex 4 pin to 6 pin PCIE on the Vapor-X and a 1 4 pin Molex to 6pin PCIE and a dual 4 pin to 8 pin PCIe for the Toxic. Both cards come with a crossfire bridge connector. The biggest difference comes with the display adapters. The Toxic comes with DVI to HDMI, DVI to D-sub and an HDTV out dongle. The Vapor-X on the other hand only comes with an HDMI to DVI dongle - no its not the same as your DVI to HDMI adapter. The reason for the lack of adapters is clearly evident when you look at the Vapor-X. It does not need them with 4 different outlet types.




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 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.



Let's see what makes these two video cards from Sapphire a bit better than the reference design cards.


Closer Look:

Let's start off with the HD 4890 Toxic. The Toxic is built upon the R790 core manufactured using a 55nm process. It features 956 million transistors, 800 stream processors and 1GB of GDDR5 memory run through a 256 bit bus. The Toxic is meant to be used in a 16x PCIe slot and is PCIe 2.0 capable. While the stock clock speeds on the reference HD 4890 come in at 850MHz on the core and 975 on the memory the Sapphire Toxic edition comes in at a much higher level at 960MHz on the Core and 1050MHz on the 1GB frame buffer. The cooling solution employed by Sapphire to keep this card cool is the same that is seen on the Sapphire Atomic I looked at just a few short weeks ago. In fact the only difference between the cards visually is the decoration on the heatsink shroud. Its what lies underneath that make the difference.


















The front end of the Toxic had the display connections and uses what is pretty much the norm for cards coming out with 2 Dual Link capable DVI ports and an HDTV output. The rear view shows that the power requirements are a little steeper with the inclusion of both a 6 and 8 pin power plugs. With the added power I would have to expect a bit more clock speed at the top end will be available considering the already 110MHz increase in core clock speed. The fin array for the Vapor X cooling solution is just barely visible in this picture. The Toxic is CrossfireX capable evidenced by the dual bridge connections. To use this multi GPU solution you will need a motherboard that supports CrossfireX and another Toxic to make it a pair or more with the appropriate AMD 790FX based motherboard .



Once you pop the lid off of the Toxic you can see just how closely the family resemblance to the Atomic Edition HD 4890. To cool this card down you have a hybrid solution that uses a vapor chamber to pull the heat from the GPU and memory. The heat is then transferred to the heatpipes and to the aluminum fin array to be carried out the back end of the chassis. The voltage regulation circuit employs an aluminum block the benefits from the air flowing through the shroud to keep the mosfets cool under load.



The HD 4890 Toxic is based on the R790 core which uses improvements in the architecture to improve upon the successful R770 core. The 800 stream processors 16 ROP's and 55nm manufacturing process are the same throughout the line up. The clock speeds on the Toxic come in a few ticks below the Atomic at 960MHz on the core and 1050 on the 1GB of GDDR5 memory. The Memory used on the Toxic is made by Qimonda and is rated for operation at 1000MHz. The Atomic uses the same modules and the Atomic flew past 1200MHz. Hopefully the Toxic will be no different.



Hopefully the Toxic will deliver a level of performance almost equal to that of the Atomic. Let's move on to the Vapor-X model to see just what makes it that much more different as both models use Vapor Plate technology.


Closer Look:

Vapor plate cooling technology for video cards was first brought to the market with the Sapphire HD 3870 Atomic Edition card released in January of 2007. Since that time Sapphire has made use of the technology on just about all of its higher-end self designed cards to offer that additional point of difference. The technology has been proven and offers a tangible benefit when the HD 48XX series offer up plenty of heat that needs to be managed. With stock cards running into the 90's Celsius before ATI got wise and included fan speed control into the CCC there was not much in the way speeding up the fan to reduce temperatures other than an aftermarket solution or modding the XML files. The other problem with the reference cooling solutions is the fact that they are loud when you get over about 55 to 60%. So there you are the two biggest issues cleared up with one card the HD 4890 Vapor-X edition. This card is almost identical to the HD 4870 Vapor-X I looked at back in March. The differences are all under the hood. The Vapor-X uses the the same R790 core with 800 stream processors, 1GB of GDDR5 frame buffer running through a 256 bit bus. From the outside the the most noticeable differences between the Vapor-X and Toxic is the cooling solution. Where the Toxic has a hybrid heatpipe vapor plate design the Vapor-X uses a design much like that used by Intel for its heatsinks with an round aluminum fin array. The power regulation circuits are covered with an aluminum block that is passively cooled. For this route Sapphire has gone with a self designed PCB that uses improved circuitry to allow you to wring more performance from the Vapor-X, with the uses of all solid capacitors and "Black Diamond " chokes that run cooler and are more efficient.













Not only is the cooling special on the Vapor-X HD 4890 but the means of connection to your display is far from the ordinary. The card has four separate outputs, any two of which can be used at one time. The outputs include D-sub, DVI, HDMI and Display port. The vent for air to pass out of the chassis has been cut in half to make room for the connectivity options. The rear of the card is dominated by the passive heatsink. The Toxic used both a 6 and 8 pin PCIe power connections but the Vapor-X only goes with 2 6 pin plugs to get the juice to the board. The Vapor-X is CrossfireX capable with the addition of another HD 4890.




The cooling for this card is, as you may have guessed by now, the Vapor-X cooling system. The solution is a little different on this card in relation to that used on the Toxic. The cooling solution is divided into two parts the cooling for the core and memory and the cooling for the mosfets. The GPU and memory are covered with a solution using the vapor plate topped with an aluminum fin array while the mosfet cooling is handles by a finned aluminum block that relies on airflow from the fan and chassis airflow to keep cool.



The Sapphire HD 4890 Vapor-X uses the same improved version of the R770 core (now R790) as the HD 4890 Toxic that allows for higher clock speeds and features an improved memory architecture. 800 Stream processors, 956 million transistors,16 ROP's, 256bit memory interface built upon a 55nm process.The memory used on the HD 4890 Vapor-X is manufactured by Qimonda and is rated for operation at 1000MHz. A major point of difference between the Toxic and the Vapor-X is the fact that the latter card uses all solid capacitors and "Black Diamond" chokes that help reduce operating temperature and increase efficiency by 25%.




Closer Look:

To install the drivers for the Sapphire HD 4890's first pop the driver disc into your drive and the Sapphire installation GUI will auto-start. The menu has three options that you can choose from - the first option is to install the Catalyst Control Center and drivers by clicking the ATI Easy Install. The drivers used in this review are Catalyst 9.4. The options available with the installation GUI include a link to the online manual in several different languages as well as a link to download the latest Adobe Acrobat Reader.











When you click the ATI Easy Install option, the Catalyst Control Center installation will begin. This process installs all the necessary drivers needed to make the Sapphire HD 4890 fully functional. After finishing the installation, the customary reboot is required.




As an added bonus, Sapphire has included several pieces of software from CyberLink. Everyone has heard of PowerDVD, a program to play all the DVD, Blu-Ray, and HD content you desire. DVD Suite includes PowerProducer 4, PowerDirector 5, Power2Go 5.5, and [email protected] 3, as well as trial versions of Power Backup 2.5, PowerDVD Copy, and LabelPrint 2. Even though the HD 4890 is far from a typical low powered HTPC card, it does have all the necessary qualifications to be used as one. Using Power DVD to watch a couple movies, I took a quick look through the movies 300 and one of my favorites, Beerfest! CPU utilization is in the low single digits when using the HD 4890 in this capacity by offloading the decoding to the GPU. The HD4890 is not just a one trick pony.




One program that has been coming in the Catalyst driver suite lately is a distributed computing program from Stanford university called Folding @ Home. This project simulated protein folding to see where problems occur so that hopefully one day we can have a cure for diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer's, BSE (Mad Cow) disease and more. By donating your spare CPU and now GPU cycles, you can help the community as well as humanity by running this program on your system. You can find out more about [email protected] here. Just remember, if you choose to participate, Team 12772 is your team.


The one last application that Sapphire provided with the bundles is for the bench junkie in all of us. Futuremark's 3DMark Vantage is for use with Vista and is a DX 10 benchmark that is unlike its predecessors in that as the resolution (Presets) increase the reliance on the system is minimized and the performance rests solely on the GPU. So instead of paying for it through Futuremark Sapphire has included it in the bundle saving you a few more dollars.




Now that the utilities, drivers, and extras are installed, let's see if the HD 4890's can live up to the hype.


Closer Look:

The Catalyst Control Center is where all the settings for the Sapphire HD 4890 Vapor-X and Toxic are available. There's a lot that that you can dig into but I will touch on only the main screens and their funtions.

Information Center: The Information Center is where you can view everything about the hardware and software associated with the video card, such as driver versions and hardware specifications.















Display Properties: The Display Properties tab is where you can set the resolution, refresh rate override and the preferred monitor if more than one is available. In the Display options you can manually detect your display or you can choose to let the CCC do this for you.



Digital Panel: The Digital Panel is where you can set and view monitor information, HDTV settings, ATI's AVIVO color settings, and LCD Overdrive to apply LCD settings that override the monitor's settings.




3D & Color: In the 3D tab you can adjust general image quality settings as well as Anti-Aliasing, Anisotropic Filtering and color schemes. There are also a few settings for DirectX and OpenGL.



AVIVO Video & ATI Overdrive: AVIVO settings allow you to alter the color settings for better viewing. ATI Overdrive gives the user control of the GPU and memory frequencies. For novice users there is an automated clock configuration utility that will find the best overclock for your system settings.





HD 4890 Vapor-X

HD 4890 Toxic

I/O Output:
Display Port+HDMI+DL-DVI+VGA
Core Clock:
Memory Clock:
1050 MHz, 4.2 Gbps
1050 MHz, 4.2 Gbps

Bus Interface

PCI Express 2.0 x16
PCI Express 2.0 x16

Memory Type/ Quantity

1024MB /256bit GDDR5 memory interface
1024MB /256bit GDDR5 memory interface
Dual Slot Vapor-X Cooler
Dual Slot Vapor-X Cooler with Heatpipes

HDMI Compliance

HDMI compliant via dongle


7.1 Audio Channel Support
7.1 Audio Channel Support

Direct X

Microsoft® DirectX® 10.1 support
Microsoft® DirectX® 10.1 support

Shader Model

Shader Model 4.1 support
Shader Model 4.1 support



Sapphire HD 4890 Toxic:


Sapphire HD 4890 Vapor-X





All information courtesy of Sapphire @


Testing the HD 4890 Toxic and Vapor-X Editions will consist of running the card through the suite of games and synthetic benchmarks to test the performance of the Matrix against many popular competitors to gauge its performance. The games used are some of todays popular titles to give you an idea on how the cards perform relative to each other. The system specifications will remain the same throughout the testing. No adjustment will be made to the respective control panels during the testing with the exception of the 3DMark Vantage testing where Physx will be disabled in the Nvidia control panel. Clock speeds on each card are left at the as delivered speeds. I will test the HD 4890s at both stock speeds and then overclocked to see how much additional performance is available when you choose to overclock the cards.


Comparison Video Cards:



Overclocked settings:

Lets talk about the HD 4890 Toxic first. As a factory overclocked card there was still enough headroom over the 960/1100 factory clock speeds to make the enthusiast happy. Looking at the fact that the Atomic Edition was able to reach 1060MHz on the R790 core and 1255MHz on the memory, that's where I decided to start the overclocking. Well there is a reason the Atomic is the higher end card. After a re-boot I set the clock speeds a little more conservatively at 1050/1200 and this speed was stable at lower resolutions without AA and AF turned on. But that just wont do now will it because the reason you buy a card like this is so you can play with the eye candy on. I started lowering both the core and memory speeds 5Mhz at a time until i reached a point where I was able to run through a few benchs that I use to check for basic stability ending with 3DMark 06 looping at 2560x1600 with both AA and AF enabled. The end result was 1035 or an increase of almost 8%. The memory saw an increase of 120MHz or an increase of almost 12%. Not too bad for an already overclocked card. In fact this card is clocked 10Mhz less than the standard reference HD 4890 gave up. All told this is a 185MHz increase over what a stock HD 4890 is delivered with. Not too shabby!

The HD 4890 Vapor-X already comes overclocked straight from Sapphire as well, not just to the level of the Toxic or Atomic versions. With this card I went for the gusto since it had Solid Capacitors and Sapphire's proprietary "Black Diamond" chokes. I figured 1000MHz on the GPU core and 1200 MHz on the GDDR 5 memory would be a good place to start but sadly this resulted in an instant lock up and reboot. Scratch off the 1000MHz level for the core. I went and dropped the clock speed to 975 MHz on the core and left the memory at 1200 and could run almost all of the benchmarks(Crysis warhead just would not pass) at this level so further reducing the clock speeds to 970MHz and 1195MHz resulted in stability through all of the benchs and a 1 hour session of Call of Duty World at War. I think the cooling and better voltage control and maybe some extra binning helped this card along to a clock speed 10 MHz higher on the core and over 100MHz higher on the memory than I was able to get out of the stock HD 4890s from Sapphire and Powercolor. The overclocked results on the core fall a bit short of the Toxic but the memory results were actually better than those of the Toxic, Both cards overclocked extremely well. To push the max speeds I maxed ou the fan at 100% to provide the most cooling possible for this test. At this fan level the fan used on the Vapor-X was much quieter than the stock hair drier. An improvement your ears will thank you for. As far as temperatures go when overclocked I peaked at 70 degrees Celsius with an idle temperature of 42 Celsius. Not bad at all for an improved cooling solution.


The HD 4890 Vapor-X

  1. Far Cry 2
  2. Crysis Warhead
  3. BioShock
  4. Call of Duty World at War
  5. Dead Space
  6. Fallout 3
  7. Left 4 Dead
  8. 3DMark 06 Professional
  9. 3DMark Vantage



Far Cry 2:

Featuring a new game engine named Dunia, this game looks to be another one to stress your video card. Built especially for Far Cry 2, this engine allows for real time effects and damage. This next generation First Person Shooter comes to us from Ubisoft surprisingly - not from Crytek. The game is set in a war-torn region of Africa where there is a non-existent central government and the chaos that surrounds this type of social environment. If you have seen the movie Blood Diamond, you know the setting. Ubisoft puts the main storyline of the game into focus with these statements: "Caught between two rival factions in war-torn Africa, you are sent to take out "The Jackal," a mysterious character who has rekindled the conflict between the warlords, jeopardizing thousands of lives. In order to fulfill your mission you will have to play the factions against each other, identify and exploit their weaknesses, and neutralize their superior numbers and firepower with surprise, subversion, cunning and, of course, brute force." In this version of the game, you don't have the beautiful water, but instead the beauty and harshness of the African continent to contend with. Most games give you a set area that can be played through, while Ubisoft has given the gamer the equivalent of 50km2 of the vast African continent to explore while in pursuit of your goals. The settings used are just a few steps below the maximum in-game settings and offer a good blend of performance vs. visual quality.









The HD 4890's from Sapphire hold the lead above the stock and overclocked GTX 275 until the performance between the Toxic and overclocked GTX 275 are equal at 2560x1600 with the Vapor-X just 2 fps behind. The GTX 285 is just two FPS faster than the Toxic when overclocked. All in all pretty close when you consider the GTX 285 is a factory overclocked card. The Vapor-X model just flat-out delivered when overclocked.




Crysis Warhead is a standalone expansion pack situated in time with the story line of the original Crysis. As Sergeant "Psycho" Sykes, you have a secret mission to accomplish on the far side of the island. Along the way there are EMP blasts and aliens to contend with, as you hunt down the KPA chief. This game uses an enhanced version of the CryEngine 2.














It appears that the HD 4890's pretty much fall within 1 FPS of the GTX 285 all the way through the scale. It does take a bit of an overclock to best the GTX 285. The GX 275 falls under the performance of the Toxic 4890 all the way through the resolutions.



BioShock is one of the creepier games you can play. 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 story line will wrap you up for hours on end.


Video Settings:








The GTX 275's and GTX 285 consistently delivered a higher level of performance than the HD 4890s until the 2560x1600 resolution where the performance differential non existent compared with the GTX 275's and the 285 holds a slim margin of 6 fps over the Toxic and 11over the lower clocked Vapor-X. Once the 4890s are overclocked the performance favors the Toxic and the level of performance between the 285 and Vapor-X is identical.



Activision's Call of Duty: World at War goes right back to the bread and butter of the franchise - WWII FPS action. In this rendition, you start off in the South Pacific and move through a series of missions that flip back and forth between the Russian front and the island hopping advance toward the Imperial Japanese homeland. Included is a mission on Peliliu Island, arguably one of the more difficult and costly battles in the Pacific theater. The gameplay in the single player mode is rather short, but the game makes up for this shortcoming in online gameplay. If you thought CoD4 looked nice, this game is amazing with the graphics maxed out playing at a high resolution. This game just may be my reason to move to a 30 inch monitor. I will use Fraps to measure a section of gameplay in the Semper Fi map on Makin Island to compare the performance of these video cards.













Again at the lower resolutions the 4890s deliver lower fps than the GTX 275/285's. Once you reach the 1920x1200 and 2560x1600 threshold the performance is much closer to that delivered by the green camps top-end offerings. Overclocking erases the differential at 1280x1024 but not the rest of the resolutions tested. The performance at 2560 was still playable without choppiness on both cards.



In Dead Space, as part of the crew of the USG Kellion you are headed on a repair mission to repair a ship in distress. Things go from bad to worse, starting with the crash landing and seemingly silent and "dead" ship, the USG Ishimuru. Offering a non-traditional over the shoulder viewing angle, the game gets right into the action as soon as the ventilation systems are activated. From there things get worse with the appearance of the Necromorphs. Survival now becomes a primary concern for the primary character Isaac Clarke. Survive and you may find the loved one that was aboard the Ishimuru.













Although this is a 'made for Nvidia' game, the Toxic and Vapor-X HD 4890s put in a respectable performance. At the maximum in-game settings, the game play was fluid and went without a hitch. Overclocking netted gains for both cards and increased the level of play across the board still falling short of the performance of the GTX 260 and up.



Fallout 3 takes place after the nuclear holocaust that nearly wipes out civilization and leaves the world an irradiated mess. The vault, or fallout shelter, you are born in is Vault 101, situated in the Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia area. The premise of the game is that the Vault has been sealed for 200 years, and now your father has opened the vault and escaped without a trace. The Overseer believes you are involved, so you must escape as well into the wasteland that was once our nation's capital. I find myself looking for landmarks since I am familiar with the streets of Washington DC.













The performance across the resolutions found the performance between the HD 4890s and GTX 275 to be pretty similar. Overclocking netted gains and delivered performance comparable to the inno3d GTX 275 and fell one frame short of the GTX 285 at 2560x1600.



Left 4 Dead is a new release from Valve that leaves you as part of a group of survivors in a world where an infection has rapidly turned the populace into a zombie horde. You goal is to make it to a rescue point, all the while fighting what seems like overwhelming odds. Along the way there are safe houses where you can replenish your weapons and health. The movie 'I Am Legend' comes to mind to set the stage for this game. But unlike the movie, there are four characters and not just a lone gun and his faithful companion. The horde is not at all like the typical slow walking, foot shuffling zombie. These zombies are quick and work with the pack mentality. Your job: survival!















The performance differential between the Toxic and Nvidia GTX 275 cards decreases at 1920x1200 and by 2560x1600 the performance is identical. The Vapor-X is just a few fps behind both stock and overclocked. Not that it is a bad thing, as the gameplay is easily well above what would be considered playable.



3DMark06 is one of the benchmarks that always comes up when a bragging contest has begun. 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.




















Really, the only cards giving the HD 4890's from Sapphire any challenge are the GTX 275's and the GTX 285. When overclocked the Toxic takes the top spot at 2560x1600, over the factory overclocked GTX 285.



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.












Even though the Toxic and Vapor-X HD 4890s are the top of the single GPU ATI food chain they still are trumped in 3DMark Vantage. The good news is that ATI and their partners keep chipping away at the performance delivered by the GT200 cards from Nvidia. At the Extreme preset, the 4890's performance is better than the GTX 260s and the best of the last generation HD4XXX series form Sapphire.



Sapphire has delivered another set of video cards that deliver performance above what the reference cards can deliver at a price point just slightly above or equal to the pricing from the rest of the ATI manufacturers. Comparatively the pricing on the GTX 275 ranges from $239 to $299 from a popular etailer depending on manufacturer and whether or not the card is a factory overclocked model. The pricing of the Toxic at $259 and the Vapor-X at $239, positions these HD 4890's at a point where you are paying equal dollars for performance that is much closer at the larger resolutions than at the lower end of the scale. A win for Sapphire and ATI. As ATI's largest partner, Sapphire seems to have a leg up on all of the other partners when it comes to bringing out in house designs with better components and better cooling solutions. Their proprietary Vapor chamber technology has graced just about all of the self designed performance models (Toxic, Atomic) since the release of the HD 3870 Atomic Edition back in January of 2007. Heck it has even spawned a new line up the Vapor-X Editions. This solution has proven to be a godsend when used with the HD 48XX series of cards, not just for the cooling performance, but the reduction in operating noise. There is no comparison when bumping the fan speeds up to 100%. The ATI reference cooler sounds much like a vacuum cleaner inside the case, while the fans used on the Vapor-Chamber cooling solution do indeed create some noise at 100% fan speed, but far from the level delivered by the reference design. It's actually not much when compred to the Scythe Kaze fans on my TRUE. The Vapor-X HD 4890 delivered temperatures when overclocked with a fan speed manually set to 100% of 42C idle and 70 C under load. When the driver controls the speed (61% max), the temperatures were slightly higher at 59C idle and 77C under load. At stock clock speeds you can expect even better performance. On the other hand, the heatpipe solution used on the Toxic delivered a 40C idle and 57C load temperature manually setting the fan to 100%, fully 13 degrees cooler than the Vapor-X. Another win for the technology used in these cards. Now, the Vapor-X is more than just a card with a better cooling solution. It uses solid capacitors and "Black Diamond" chokes that run cooler and according to Sapphire run 25% more efficiently making better use of the current supplied to the card. I think the combination of the cooling and better electrical components played a large part in the ability of the Vapor-X to reach an overclock of 970/1195 fully 100MHz higher on the core and 145MHz higher on the Qimonda memory - pretty decent considering the stock HD 4890 I looked at could not deliver these speeds. The Toxic on the other hand pushed the GPU core speed to 1035 just 25MHz short of what was delivered by the Atomic model. The memory on the other hand fell short of the clock speed delivered by the Atomic and Vapor-X models.

The connectivity on the HD 4890 Toxic is your run-of-the-mill 2 DVI and 1 HDTV output. The Vapor-X gives you a total of 4 different options to choose from, so connecting this card to just about any of the commonly used options is possible without and adapter adding to the length of the connection out the back of your PC. Just another thing that makes the Vapor-X HD4890 a more attractive option. The only issue with the 4 outputs is that you can only use 2 of them at one time. Sapphire continues to put out innovative cards that fit a market segment and deliver performance and cooling solutions better than ATI delivers on the reference cards for what are considered a reasonable upgrade price. You have to pay for performance, but it's better when the performance comes with a price that is attractive comes in below competitors pricing. Go Sapphire!


Sapphire HD 4890 Toxic





Sapphire HD 4890 Vapor-X