Sapphire HD 5870 and HD 5750 Vapor-X Reviewccokeman -
Category: Video Cards
Price: HD5870 $399 HD5750 $150
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By now the world knows that ATI and its partners came out and dropped a bomb on the Nvidia camp with the release of the first DirectX 11 capable video cards, the HD 5800 series, which includes the Sapphire HD 5870 and Sapphire HD 5850. To add insult to injury, they followed up with the HD 5700 series that includes the Sapphire HD 5770 and 5750.The performance of the HD 5800 series scaled well and truly beat up on the GTX 285, which was the reigning top-of-the-line single GPU video card. Its palace at the front of the line is now occupied by the HD 5870. If you have not heard, Sapphire is ATI's largest partner and usually comes up with something unique for its video cards once the BBATI cards are launched. Cooling, as well as construction enhancements, are usually part of the package. In the past there have been the Atomic series, the Toxic series, and the Vapor-X series of cards - each with a specific target. The Vapor-X line uses Sapphire's Vapor Chamber Technology, coupled with an improved cooling solution to have the GPU core and memory run as cool as possible, while attenuating the noise problems with the reference cooling design. By doing this, Sapphire can give the cards a small boost in performance by upping the clock speeds on the memory and GPU core. The first card to use the Vapor-X technology supplied by Microloops was the Sapphire Atomic HD 3870, first seen on OCC back in January of 2007. Since then, the technology has become mature - easily handling all of the cooling needs of the Vapor-X line up.
Thanks to its innovative cooling solution, the Sapphire Vapor-X HD 5870 gets a 20MHz bump on the RV870 core to 870MHz with a 50 MHz jump on the 1GB of GDDR5 memory to 1250Mhz, while the Vapor-X HD 5750 gets a 10MHz bump on both the core and memory to 710MHz and 1160MHz, respectively. Not as dramatic as on the HD 5870, but a bump nonetheless. Better cooling capabilities are not the only calling card of the Vapor-X series. What you get is a card that is built using better components like solid high polymer capacitors and Sapphire's own Black Diamond chokes, which have integral heatsinks that allow the chokes to run 10% cooler and 25% more efficiently than normal chokes. Let's see, so far Sapphire has a series of video cards in the Vapor-X series that run cooler, have higher clock speeds, run quieter, what's not to like about that! Let's take a look at what the Vapor-X 5870 and 5750 have to offer in terms of gaming and cooling performance.
The packaging on the 5 series has changed from that used on the 48XX series Vapor-X cards. For the HD 5870, the front panel has gone all white, while the HD 5750 retains the previous look, but carries all of the information specific to the 5 series video cards. The features listed on the front panel of each card are fairly similar. Each video card comes with a download certificate for the DirectX 11 title, Dirt 2, which should be available in early December. Support for CrossfireX, DirectX 11, Eyefinity multi-display technology, On board HDMI and DisplayPort connectivity, and Stream technology are all listed features. Both rear panels have expanded descriptions for the supported technologies listed on the front panel, a synopsis of the attributes of a Sapphire Vapor-X card, a listing of the many awards the company has received for there products, and, in the bottom center of each back panel, a notice that the packaging used on the cards is all recyclable. Corporate responsibility is a good thing.
When you pull the inner carton out of the main packaging, you have the same packaging, a plain cardboard box with a recycling icon on the bottom left of the lid - as a reminder that the packaging used on these cards is recyclable. The cards sit in formed cardboard trays, and while the bundled accessories are in a box under the HD 5870, the bundle is stored with the HD 5750.
The bundles are fairly similar, with the main differences being the inclusion of the game, Battle Stations Pacific on the HD 5870 Vapor-X and Arcsofts Sim HD software plug in for IM and the power adapters. Everything else is the same and you get the manual, driver disk, the coupon for the DirectX 11 game Dirt 2, CrossfireX bridge connector, and a DVI to D-sub adapter. As usual, Sapphire provides a nice software and hardware package.
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. 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 and has been proven to work. Let's see how the latest cards from Sapphire and ATI using this technology perform.