Sapphire HD 5770 Vapor-X Overclock Edition Reviewccokeman -
Category: Video Cards
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By now everyone should know about the capabilities of the ATI 5 series video cards. If not you have probably been living under a rock. ATI took a swing for the fences and hit a home run in terms of the performance delivered by the Sapphire HD 5870 when compared to the best single GPU card that Nvidia had to offer at the time, the GTX 285. The follow up, the Sapphire HD 5850, just about cleaned house as well. Building on that performance lead they solidified the high end stranglehold with the Sapphire HD 5970 that really just crushed the GTX 295 and HD 4870x2. With the high end covered the mid range was not forgotten about with the introduction of the 5700 series that included the Sapphire HD 5770 and 5750. The 5 series of cards are the first true Direct X 11 video cards to market but at launch really did not have any games ready to show off this technology. This has now changed with more than a few games ready with many more in the wings from a slew of developers. Sapphire as ATIs largest partner always brings something interesting to the table after the release of the reference or ATI cards. Sapphire has a few lines that are geared more towards the enthusiast with the Atomic, Toxic and Vapor-X series. Each offers better component usage and some innovative cooling solutions. For instance there was the use of a self contained liquid cooling system on the Sapphire HD 4870x2 Atomic and the first use of the Vapor-X technology from Microloops on the Sapphire HD 3870 Atomic back in January 2008.
From that point forward Sapphire has made use of the technology not only on the Vapor-X line but in the Toxic and Atomic lineups to bring out the best cooling and noise performance from their video cards. The cooling is only part of the Vapor-X package. The Sapphire HD 5770 Vapor-X comes equipped with not only the additional cooling but is built using solid high polymer capacitors and "Black Diamond" chokes that use a built in heat spreader to drop the operating temperatures by 10% while increasing the efficiency by 25%. So what does this really get you net? Because of the cooling used Sapphire ups the clock speed by 10Mhz on the Juniper 40nm core going from 850MHz to 860MHz but no increase on the GDDR5 memory clocks. At this point you have a card with better cooling, better component selection and higher clock speeds. Lets see if that translates in to better performance and overclocking. If the past history is any indication this card should do well.
The packaging of the Vapor-X series has evolved over the past year. The front panel shows this as a card that is part of the Vapor-X lineup. The two icons on either side point out the fact that this card is an "Overclocked" edition card that is equipped with Sapphire's Award winning Vapor-X technology. The Direct X 11 game Dirt 2 and Sim HD plug in software are part of the bundle. Along the bottom of the front panel you have a list of the attributes of the Sapphire HD 5770 Vapor-X that include Eyefinity support, On board HDMI and DisplayPort connectivity, Crossfire X and ATI Stream technology ready. The rear panel expands on the some of the attributes listed on the front panel and goes into some detail on others such as the Black Diamond chokes, GDDR5 Memory and the HDMI audio capabilities. Along the bottom is Sapphire's commitment to going green with their packaging. Just to the left you get a glimpse of the awards the Vapor-X series has won.
Opening up the packaging you have an inner box that contains the bundle and Sapphire HD 5770 Vapor-X. The card comes in a bubble wrap anti-static bag and is set into a form fitting cardboard enclosure to keep the card secure in transit. On the left hand side of the lid you can see the small recyclable symbol. The bundle of accessories are stored both on top of and in a separate compartment from the card.
The bundle is as usually with a Sapphire card better than the norm containing everything you need to get the HD 5770 Vapor-X installed as well as the bonus of the Direct X 11 title Dirt 2 and Sim HD software. You get the manual, driver disk, the software, a molex to PCIe power adapter, HDMI to VGA adapter and a single Crossfire bridge connector.
Besides the basics, the one thing the cards have in common is the method of cooling the on board 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. I will touch on that 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 3XXX and 4XXX series of video cards from Sapphire. Let's see how the technology works on the 5800 and 5700 series of cards. My guess is that it is up to the task.
The Vapor-X technology has matured to the point it is now even used on the HD 5970 straight from the factory to manage the thermal load on that beast. Lets dig a little deeper into the Sapphire HD 5770 Vapor-X.