Sapphire HD 5770 Vapor-X Overclock Edition Review

ccokeman - 2009-12-15 19:14:58 in Video Cards
Category: Video Cards
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: December 24, 2009
Price: $174.99


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.










Closer Look:

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.


Closer Look:

The HD 5770 series are based on the 40nm "Juniper" core that carries just shy of half the transistor count of the HD 58XX series at 1.04 Billion. Since this is an overclock edition card the base clock speed to the 800 stream processors comes in at 860MHz, 10 MHz higher than the base models. The memory used totals 1GB of GDDR5 running at 1200MHz on a 128bit bus. Additional specs include 40 texture units and 16 ROPs. The first thing you notice is that this card differs substantially in appearance from the reference ATI versions. The heatsink is radically different but the PCB is the same black color. A change for the Vapor-X series. On the back side of the card you can see half of the memory modules.
















For connectivity you get what is pretty much standard across the HD 5XXX line up with two Dual Link DVI ports, a single HDMI port that supports HDMI 1.3 and up to 7.1 surround sound through the connection and a single DisplayPort connection so you can take advantage of the Eyefinity capabilities of this card with a resolution up to 7680x1600 when you use a total of 3 -30 inch monitors. Ultimately with this amount of connectivity the bundle is a little short on adapters but really do you need them at this point. Power is supplied to the Sapphire 5770 Vapor-X by means of the 6-pin PCIe connection at the back of the card. You can use this card with up to 3 more for a nice little CrossfireX setup if your motherboard has the ability to support that many cards.



Besides the component selection the feature that sets this card apart from the reference versions is the use of Sapphires Vapor-X cooling. The implementation on this card is pretty much the same one used on the HD 5750 I looked at last month. The cooling solution is comprised of a Plate style Vapor Chamber that contacts the heat source(GPU core) and pulls the heat from core which is in turn sent into the aluminum fin array to be dissipated by the airflow across the fins. You can see where the the chamber has been sealed much like a heatpipe since in reality they operate on the same principles. The cooling assembly looks much like what you would find used on a CPU from the top. The fan blows down over the fins which in turn helps keep the on board components and VRM circuit cool.



The Juniper based 40nm core comes equipped with 800 stream processors, half that of the amount used on the HD 5870 running at 860MHz. Transistor count comes in at 1.04 Billion with 40 texture units and 16 ROPs all around half of what the HD 5870 has. The 1GB of GDDR5 memory is from Hynix and is rated for use at 1250MHz (5000Mhz effective) on a 128 bit bus, this is just over the speed used on the card so it looks like you should have a little overhead for overclocking. Of course your results may vary. This all totals up to compute performance over 1.36 Tflops if you plan on using this card for stream computing.



Lets see how this card performs head to head with its contemporaries.

Closer Look:

Before you can start fragging you have to install the drivers so that you don't sit there utterly disappointed by the graphics performance of this shiny new card. Thankfully, Sapphire has included a disc to get you started although the manufacturer website is a great alternative. I will browse through the disc to see what is included.

After you insert the disc and allow the autorun to start the process you end up with the Sapphire GUI on the desktop. There are three options to choose from, ATI Easy install, Online Manual and Adobe Reader. Of course, the ATI Easy install is for installing the drivers and proprietary software to gain the most functionality from your new purchase. You have a choice of operating systems to choose from so just choose the appropriate OS and you get to start the ATI driver install wizard. The Online Manual is a link to download the manual while Adobe Reader links to Adobe's website to so you can download the latest version of Adobe Reader.














When you choose to install the drivers from the disc just move forward through the process and check the options best suited for your needs. You have two options; you can choose either the Express install that manages the whole process for you or the Custom Install that allows you to choose what software you will install from a list. Agree to the EULA and let the wizard finish and do the customary reboot to finish the installation.





One of the big knocks on the 5 series cards is the fact that there were really no games available at launch to showcase the DX 11 technology. Fast forward 3 months and you have a few games to play. Dirt 2 was just released and Battle Forge has been out and patched for DX 11. As has been the case with all of the cards I have looked at from Sapphire this one too includes Dirt 2 as part of the bundle. With Battle Forge you can play online for free if you like.


Closer Look:

The ATI Catalyst Control Center got a new look with the introduction of the 9.7 drivers so it's about time to take an in-depth look at the options and the interface to see how well the GUI is set up and how easy it is to navigate through. Since the basic view is well, basic, I will look through the Advanced panel. The first page to open with ATI Catalyst Control Center is the Welcome page, which has quick hyperlinks to check for driver updates, get in contact with customer care, to give feedback, visit the AMD website, or to join the [email protected] cause. The next page is the Information Center, which is split into two tabs, one for Graphics Software information and the other for Graphics Hardware information. These two tabs can be very handy for troubleshooting any problems that crop up while using the Sapphire HD 5700 series video cards.














The Graphics Hardware tab of the Information Center contains information about the Sapphire HD 5770 and 5750, including BIOS version and date, chipset, memory, vendor code, and so on. Most people shouldn’t need the Graphics Hardware and Software information, but it's definitely handy when a problem may occur. The next page is the Desktops & Displays page – this page is for the basic settings of the monitor(s) and desktop. Users can figure out which monitor is which and rotate the outputted image. Clicking the properties or moving along brings us to the Desktop Properties page.



The Desktop Properties page has much more control over the desktop with settings such as desktop area, color quality, refresh rate, and again, rotation. The next tab in the Desktop Properties page adjusts the color, contrast, brightness, and gamma output. This can be handy on monitors that need some help putting out the appropriate colors – back when I used a CRT a long time ago it helped keep the colors closer to true when the monitor would get aged and get a gray or yellowish tint.



The Display Options page is very short and is used just for one option – Display Detection Option. The options are automatic or manual detection of displays. The 3D page has several tabs that allow users the ability to define a custom scheme for their games. There are previews for the effects or users can power through all of the settings on the 'All' tab at the end.



The Avivo Video page has five tabs dedicated to performance and quality adjustments for video output. A preview is included of a woman with flowers and fruit. Again, just as with the 3D page, there is an 'All' tab that can adjust all of the settings for the Avivo Video at once.



The last page on the graphics menu is the ATI Overdrive. To use this feature users must first click the "lock" to unlock the program after then agreeing to some terms. The software is capable of automatically overclocking the video card through Auto-Tune, but I prefer using the manual settings. Users can test their settings using the Test Custom Clocks button. Fan speed control is relatively new to ATI Overdrive and allows users to define what speed the fan or blower runs at. Underneath and to the right of this are gauges and readouts of some of the more important data for this card – temperature, usage activity, fan speed, GPU clock speed, and memory clock speed. The test feature brings up a full screen image that is pretty basic – greenish reddish with an AMD logo in the bottom left.



The latest additional menu is the HydraVision menu. The first page is the HydraGrid page, which allows users to define a grid-like component to lock applications to a certain chunk of desktop real estate. Options such as showing the grids when moving a window and showing an icon in the tray are settable at the bottom while adjusting the grid is near the top. The grid can be previewed as the default layout is seen with white bars representing the grids. Users can customize the grid layout to whatever they desire and the keyboard shortcuts are listed out in the image while the red bar means it is the selected grid component to be adjusted.



The next page is the Desktop Manager, which does exactly what the name implies – it manages the desktop. The desktop manager can keep track of application position and size, and allow spanning across multiple displays. The last page is the Multi Desktop. This name is also suggestive to its use – this program allows users to have multiple desktops ranging from two up to nine. Users can rotate between desktops with the scroll wheel, preserve display settings, and enable another tray icon. This can be useful for those who have a ton of desktop icons as a means to separate them out – one could for instance even make a desktop for each category of their own choosing even – gaming, work, school, and whatever else.



Now that the Catalyst Control Center has been configured we can get to some gaming or take a rest and let the Sapphire 5700 do some crunching for a cure!


HD 5770
1.04 Billion
Engine Clock
860 MHz
Stream Processors
Compute Performance
1.36 TFLOPs
Texture Units
Texture Fillrate
34.0 GTexel/s
Pixel Fillrate
13.6 GPixel/s
54.4 GSamples/s
Memory Type
Memory Clock
1200 MHz
Memory Data Rate
4.8 Gbps
Memory Bandwidth
76.8 GB/s
Maximum Board Power
Idle Board Power






All information courtesy of Sappire technology @


Testing the Sapphire HD 5770 Vapor-X will consist of running the card through the suite of games and synthetic benchmarks to test the performance against many popular competitors to gauge its performance. The games used are some of today's 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. I will test the card at stock speeds and then overclocked to see how much additional performance is available and determine if it can run with or faster than the current fastest single GPU cards on the market. Of course, all settings are left at defaults in the control panels of each respective manufacturer except where noted. I will be using the latest drivers from each manufacturer at the time of this review.


Comparison Video Cards:



Overclocked settings:

The first thing you want to do if you plan on trying for clock speeds in excess of the limits in the Catalyst control Center you should download AMD GPU Clock tool and MSI AfterBurner to make sure you get all the functionality you can. The reason for the two utility approach is that when you set the clock speeds in AMD GPU Clock Tool and apply the setting you default the fan speed to auto. If you go back into the CCC to change the fan speed you lose the clock speeds you set in the GPU Clock Tool. Goofy, but it's what happens. Enter MSI Afterburner - this application was written by the same person responsible for Riva Tuner over at Guru3d and is an easy to use interface that is already able to work with the latest cards from ATI and their partners like Sapphire. Once you have the applications installed it was a simple matter to overclock the Vapor-X HD 5770. Since I was able to hit right up at the CCC limits on the core on the reference card I pushed the fan to 90% and bumped the clock speed to 960MHz and let it rip. Sadly it did not pass my testing at this level so I dropped to 945MHz and the card proved stable through all of my benchmark testing. Seeing as how the core clock fell a little short I set the memory clock just below the reference cards maximum and continued my testing with positive results. Temperatures were not a problem when run at the stock speeds or overclocked. When overclocked and the fan at 90% the maximum temperature I reached in my testing was 64 Degrees Celsius. At the stock speeds and the fan controlled by the drivers the maximum temperature was 74 Celsius. But the fan speed peaked at only 56% during this time. Even though I fell a little short of the clock speeds I reached on the reference card the fact is the card runs a little cooler. Cooler is always good!


  1. Far Cry 2
  2. Crysis Warhead
  3. Darkest of Days
  4. Call of Duty World at War
  5. Warhammer 40,000 DOW II
  6. Batman: Arkham Asylum
  7. Resident Evil 5
  8. Left 4 Dead
  9. 3DMark 06 Professional
  10. 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.













When it comes to raw performance the slight bump in clock speed really does not pay dividends past 1280x1024. When the Sapphire HD 5770 Vapor-X is overclocked it performs almost as well as the HD 4890 Vapor-X and tops the GTX 260.


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.















The HD 5770 Vapor-X delivers performance that is comparable to the GTX 260 in all four resolutions and comes in just behind the HD 4890 Vapor-X. It looks like the HD 5770 Vapor-X can compete with cards at the below $180 price point.


What would testing be if you did not show both sides of the fence? In this test, PhysX was set to low, while leaving the remaining settings intact. You have seen time and again where the ATI cards suffer when PhysX is enabled. Mirror's Edge and Cryostasis are two prime examples. Darkest of Days is no different. What happens in this test shows that, although the game can be played by cards from the red team, the video effects and quality are diminished.

Game Settings:












Higher is Better


The Vapor-X delivers performance almost identical to the reference version and a little short of the GTX 260 until you overclock the card where it takes 3 out of 4 resolutions from the Matrix model.


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. 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.














The Vapor-X HD 5770 delivers great performance in this game. It's not as hard on the GPU as some games but this makes it appealing to a larger audience.


Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II is a Real Time Strategy game that is significantly different than its predecessor, with improved AI and an improved physics engine. You can play either as a single player in campaign mode, or in a multiplayer game where Microsoft's Live ranking system can be used.















In the first few resolutions the comparison deck is pretty tightly packed and it takes the 2560x1600 resolution to show a real difference in performance. At this level though the GTX 260, HD 4890 and 5770 Vapor-X are within 3 FPS.


Batman: Arkham Asylum is a new game that brings together two bitter foes, the Joker and Batman. The Joker has taken over Arkham Asylum, Gotham's home for the criminally insane. Your task is to reign the Joker back in and restore order. This game makes use of Physx technology to create a rich environment for you to play your trade.

Game Settings:














In Batman the HD 5770s perform closest to the HD 4890 and really do not offer a comparison to the GTX 260.


Resident Evil 5 is the sequel to one of the best selling video games of all time. You play the game as Chris Redfield, a survivor of the events at Raccoon City who now works for the BSAA. Sent to Africa to find the genesis of the latest Bio Organic agents, you meet up with another BSAA operative and work together to solve the problem. The game offers incredible 3D effects and a Co-Op gaming style.

Game Settings:













The Sapphire HD 5770 Vapor-X takes an overclock to be competitive with the GTX 260 and HD 4890. The two HD 5770s offer similar performance.


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!















Even though the HD 5770 Vapor-X is slower than the HD 4890 and GTX 260 it delivers playable frame rates even at 2560x1600. Killing Zombies is just as easy at 45 FPS. Overclocking does give measurable gains for added performance.


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.
















THe Vapor-X model is faster than the reference card in all four resolutions and delivers scores that are close to the GTX 260. Overclocking allows the Vapor-X to pull closer to the HD 4890 Vapor-X.


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.














The HD 5770 is outclassed by the faster cards in this benchmark at stock speeds. Upping the clock speeds shows a nice performance boost to get the performance level close to that of the HD 4890 and GTX 260.


When compared to the reference card the Vapor-X HD 5770 has a lot going for it. First off you get card with better components such as Black Diamond Chokes that allow the Vapor-X series to run cooler and more efficiently. You get the Vapor chamber cooling from Microloop's that helps keep the temperatures to a more reasonable level and you get a card that has some overclocking headroom. Not to mention a small clock speed bump up from the factory. The Vapor Chamber cooling kept the Sapphire HD 5770 Vapor-X down at 64 degrees Celsius under load during my overclocking testing with the fan speed at 90%. Letting the drivers control the fan speeds at the stock clock speeds the core temperature never hit 75 degrees Celsius under load. During this testing the fan speeds reached only 56%. This kept the temperatures as well as the noise in check. So you have a win/win situation where you get lower temperatures with much less noise than the reference cards. When it came time to push the clock speeds I was able to reach 945MHz on the core and 1445 on the GDDR5 memory; both of these are pretty respectable increases when you consider that they are running the factory voltages. The increase in clock speeds definitely added performance to this card enabling it to run at a level much closer to and sometimes beating the level of performance delivered by the HD 4890 and GTX 260. Pretty stout for a 175 dollar card. When the 5 series cards released a few months ago there were no games that really took advantage of DX 11 technology. Now there are several with more scheduled on the horizon so the picture looks much brighter for this feature. The HD 5700 series offer support for "Eyefinity" AMD/ATI's multi-monitor solution that promises a more immersive gaming experience. As soon as there are monitors that do not show the frames to break up the picture this could definitely become a more appealing option. Currently driving games and flight sim's look to be the best games to play with this technology. Price wise you can find this card on popular e-tailers for right around 175 bucks as of the date of this review. This is neither the lowest or highest priced HD 5770 you will find but the only one that carries these cooling and component credentials. The Sapphire HD 5770 Vapor-X does not disappoint as it performs well for the price plus you get the benefit of Sapphires R&D department making a better mousetrap. The card has top notch construction, better components and an excellent cooling solution with some room for the enthusiast to enhance the performance with some overclocking. For the price there is not much more you can ask for.