Sapphire HD6870 Vapor-X Reviewgotdamojo06 - February 10, 2011
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Taking the first look at the Sapphire HD6870 Vapor-X video card, the first thing that caught my attention is the very clean look of the Vapor-X cooler, it looks very classy to me. The entire cooler is a black color with silver accents running along the back edge of the cooler towards the front where Sapphire identifies the card using a silver sticker with black and gray writing. In the center of the cooler, you are going to notice a large fan installed to help actively cool the card. The fan does have the Sapphire logo printed in the center of it. Looking at the back of the card, you are going to see that the PCB is a bright blue color. You will also find six screws on the back of the card that are used to mount the large Vapor-X cooler. Four are around the GPU core and two more can be found towards the back of the card to provide extra support for the cooler. When you lay the card down flat and look at it from the top and bottom sides, you are going to see that not only does the cooler cover the entire card to provide a full coverage cooler to help cool all of the components on the card, you can also see that the cooler is going to take up an extra expansion slot in your computer (not unusual with high performance cards).
Looking at the rear IO panel of the card, you are going to find all of the different connectivity options that Sapphire gave you with the HD6870 Vapor-X card. You have two DVI outputs, an HDMI output, and two DisplayPort 1.2 outputs. Sitting above the HDMI and DisplayPort outputs, you will find a small vent area in the I/O Shield that is going to allow for air to flow out of your case to help keep the ambient air inside your case be as unaffected by the HD6870 as possible. The top left hand corner of the card is where you are going to find the Crossfire connector. This is where you would attach one of the ends of the CrossFire bridge to connect a second card to this one and help increase your graphics performance. On the top right hand corner of the card in the rear is where you will find the two 6 pin PCI-E power adapters located. You need these since the Sapphire HD6870 Vapor-X card is going to use more power than the PCI-E bus can support.
Once you get the cooler ripped off (well, not literally!) of the Sapphire HD6870 Vapor-X, you are left with a naked card. You are able to see that the GPU is located directly in the center of the bright blue PCB with eight memory chips surrounding it. You are also going to see that the back end of the card is where Sapphire decided to place all of the voltage regulators. There are some RAM heatsinks located all around the board on key components to help keep them cool during a full load. Sapphire also has their Black Diamond Chokes and Full Solid Capacitor designs integrated in the HD5870 Vapor-X graphics card. What this means is you will have improved reliability and better overclocking by using only high-polymer, aluminum capacitors which posses far superior characteristics than regular aluminum capacitors for a longer product life as well. Sapphire's patent pending choke is 10% cooler and offers 25% more power efficiency than a normal choke. Meaning, the card is going to be more reliable and save more energy when fully loaded. The GPU that is located on the Sapphire HD6870 Vapor-X is the Barts core. The core is created on a 40nm process and the die size is 255mm². At the stock GPU clock of 900MHz, the card is able to produce 29.8 GPixel/s and 52.1 GTexel/s. The memory that is installed on the card is manufactured by Hynix. They are all 128MB GDDR5 modules, giving you a total of 1024MB of memory which are all clocked in at 1050MHz on a 256 bit bus width giving you 134.4 GB/s for your bandwidth.
The Sapphire HD6870 Vapor-X video card uses Sapphire's innovative Vapor-X Cooler which is going to help cool down your video card GPU in a more effective way than the stock reference cooler, this is done by cooling the GPU with a Vapor Chamber. Vapor Chamber Technology is based on the same principles as heat pipe technology; a liquid coolant is vaporized at a hot surface, the resulting vapor is condensed at a cold surface then the liquid is returned to the hot surface. The re-circulation process is controlled by a wick system. The coolant that Sapphire uses is actually water, however because the chamber is evacuated to a very low pressure, the vaporization process occurs at a much lower temperature than the normal boiling point. I did borrow a few images from Sapphire to illustrate to you exactly how the Vapor-X Chamber works as well as how it is designed.
The actual Vapor-X chamber is all condensed and located inside of the base of the cooler, which is coated in copper to ensure maximum heat transfer occurs. There are three heatpipes that go from the base of the cooler and travel into the heatsink's fin array which has a fan located in the center to blow cooler fresh air over the fins to get the heat off of them. There is a ramsink that is located on top of the voltage regulators towards the back of the card. This is a very simple ramsink that just mounts through two holes in the PCB and helps keep the regulators cool.
Now that we know exactly what the Sapphire HD6870 Vapor-X looks like and how it works, we should take a look at the specifications and features of the card itself before we jump into the testing.