Sapphire HD 7970 Vapor-X GHZ Edition Reviewccokeman -
Category: Video Cards, CPU's
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The HD 7970 has proven to be a capable video card that can deliver excellent frame rates at high end settings. Just a couple moths ago AMD and its partners upped the ante with the introduction of the GHz edition cards that featured increased clock speeds along with a special "Boost" clock speed that offered a further increase. The first "GHz" Edition card I looked at from Sapphire was the Toxic Edition that delivered a massive boost clock of 1200MHz on the 28nm core and 1600MHz on the memory at the push of a button. The Sapphire HD 7970 6GB Toxic with its 6GB of onboard memory and clock speed overhead delivered excellent gaming results. Included as part of the package was Sapphire's excellent Vapor-X cooling solution first seen on the HD 3870 Atomic version seen here on OCC back in 2008. Since that time Sapphire has used the cooling solution as a point of difference allowing its signature video cards to deliver excellent thermals and increased overclocking margins.
The Toxic Edition is a custom card that carries a steeper price tag than the reference cards but has the unique feature set, looks, and performance to command that price tag. A small step down the performance ladder is the new HD 7970 Vapor-X GHz Edition that comes in both 3GB and 6GB models. Using the latest version of its Vapor-X cooling solution, the Vapor-X edition is delivered with a stock clock speed of 1000MHz on the core and 1500MHz on the 3GB of memory on the card I will be testing. When you push the Dual BIOS button on the card you can experience a boost in clock speed via PowerTune Dynamic Boost up to 1050MHz on the core. Pressing it as a means to boost performance is even easier than pushing the Staples easy button. Packed full of all that Sapphire has to offer in terms of improved build quality, the Sapphire HD 7970 3GB Vapor-X uses Black Diamond chokes, DirectFet technology, and an eight phase power design all on a custom PCB. Selling at a more aggressive price point than the 6GB version at $469, the HD 7970 Vapor-X offers price and performance in one shot. That's a $10 premium over Sapphire's non-GHz OC Edition card.
Let's see if the Sapphire HD 7970 3GB Vapor-X is a strong followup to the Toxic Edition.
Featuring a new look, the HD 7970 Vapor-X packaging shows Ruby in arctic gear on the white, silver, and black themed artwork. The arctic theme conveys the cold imagery well. The front of the package has highlights for all of the technologies and features associated with this card from the Vapor-X cooling, EZ OC button, Dual BIOS, DisplayPort, Crossfire, and Eyefinity. The fact that this card is a GHz edition is boldly placed under the card name. The back side shows a montage of all the awards Sapphire has accumulated over the years as well as a lengthy list of the features of the HD 7970 including its 28nm Graphics Core Next architecture, 3GB of system memory, Crossfire and Eyefinity support, PCIe 3.0 support, and AMD HD3D technology.
Internally the packaging is what I have come to expect from Sapphire in terms of packaging. A plain cardboard box contains the card in a formed cardboard tray with the accessory bundle in a box underneath. The accessory bundle will get you most of the way there when hooking up the card. Inside is a registration manual, quick start guide, driver disk, a single Crossfire Bridge connection, DL DVI to VGA adapter, six foot High Speed HDMI cable, Dual 4-pin Molex to 6-pin PCIe connector, and a single 4-pin Molex to 6-pin PCIe cable to power the HD 7970 Vapor-X. One thing missing is a full size Displayport to DVI adaptor to take advantage of the Eyefinity capabilities of the card. Other than that one faux pas the bundle is sufficient to get the card installed and running,
Sapphire's Vapor-X cooling solution works using a simple concept in a high tech package. The basic premise is that a medium (pure water) is used to transfer the heat load away from the core through vaporization where it is cooled and condenses back to a liquid state. At this point the liquid returns to the heat source through capillary action in the wicking medium to follow the process again. What allows the water to vaporize at lower temperatures is that the vapor chamber works in a very low pressure state allowing the water to vaporize earlier. Below is a graphic that illustrates the process.
Fully equipped the Sapphire HD 7970 Vapor-X is ready to see if it will deliver excellent performance for the price point.