Sapphire HD 7970 Vapor-X GHZ Edition Reviewccokeman -
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The central feature that sets this card apart from the crowd is the use of Sapphire's Vapor-X cooling solution that time and again impresses generation after generation. This large vapor chamber equipped heat sink is capable of keeping the HD 7970 3GB Vapor-X well under the 70 °C mark both stock and overclocked. The dust repelling, sealed 90mm aerofoil blade fans push enough airflow to keep the thermals from rising too high while minimizing noise. The dust repelling design of the fans will ensure a long lifespan on them to eliminate the slow death caused by dust intrusion. Left to manage the fan speeds on its own the card delivers silent cooling. When ramped up to 100% the fans are audible outside the chassis. This is not a problem unique to Sapphire as boosting the fan speeds runs them at the upper limits of their range increasing noise. In comparison to a blower style fan used on a reference cooling solution the Vapor-X design is miles ahead in both noise and cooling performance.
Running the GPU cooler is going to increase the overclocking margins slightly and that shows with the 1193MHz core clock and 1605MHz clock speed on the memory. Both being solid increases over the baseline 1000/1500MHz clocks that delivered solid gaming performance increases. While just about every board partner has their own overclocking utility that functions well, Sapphire's TriXX utility has the ability to maximize the clock speeds of the custom in-house build. You get all the clock speed, voltage, and fan speed adjustments to deliver all the card will yield.
Using basically the same design as the HD 7970 6GB Toxic from Sapphire, the Vapor-X has a slightly less robust eight phase power circuit that seemingly does not impact the overclocking potential of the card by much. Equipped with Sapphire's own Black Diamond Chokes and DirectFet technology, the squeals under load that serve as an audible indicator of low end chokes were not evident when cranking up the clock speeds. The core will give up as much as it can but a solid 193MHz bump on the core is pretty hefty for a 28nm air cooled Tahiti core. If manually tweaking the parameters of the card is an option left unexplored, Sapphire has you covered with the inclusion of the EZ OC button that allows a quick 50MHz boost over the stock 1000MHz core clock speed. Sweet, simple, and easy to use.
On this card Sapphire changed the video output connections from what has been a standard single DL DVI, HDMI 1.4a, and a pair of mini DiplayPort connections. For most users it will seem inconsequential but for those that run Eyefinity surround setups it will mean an additional purchase of an active DisplayPort to DVI adapter to use the HD 7970 Vapor-X in that capacity. The bundle of accessories that Sapphire includes is just about everything you need to get up and running, including the TriXX utility. When it comes to technology support, the HD 7970 3GB Vapor-X supports the whole AMD ecosystem including CrossfireX, AMD HD3D, and AMD App Acceleration, and, as a GHz edition card, PowerTune Dynamic Boost.
With the Sapphire HD 7970 3GB Vapor-X you get a good looking card that delivers excellent gaming and cooling performance at a competitively priced $469. This price point is still competitive with custom cooled non-GHz edition cards offering some added value. As a follow up to the Toxic Edition, Sapphire has delivered another sterling example of what makes its custom designs ones that cannot be overlooked when upgrade time comes around. Its got the performance to back up the look and legacy.
- Cooling Performance
- TriXX Utility
- EZ OC button
- Custom PCB
- Black Diamond Chokes
- DisplayPort adapter needed for Eyefinity