Sapphire HD 4670 Ultimate Edition Review

ccokeman - 2009-01-21 15:55:30 in Video Cards
Category: Video Cards
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: February 18, 2009
Price: $89.99

Introduction:

When it comes time to build your new computer choosing the graphics card usually is a source of frustration and agony over just what do you need, versus what you want and what fits your budget. It's easy to blow a big chunk of your budget on a graphics card and then short yourself on the rest of the peripherals, such as the motherboard, processor and power supply. Ultimately you have to make a choice! That choice usually involves some form of compromise. Do you game? If so, at what level? What's the maximum resolution you will play at? What level of eye candy is right for you? All valid things to consider! You say you don't play games (blasphemy), but are more interested in building a nice quiet running computer that will serve as the family computer/media center. You want something powerful enough to play some not too intense games, while being able display the latest High definition content on that new plasma screen television you just bought.

Well, Sapphire has you covered on all fronts with the HD 4670 Ultimate Edition video card. It can play most of the latest games with some eye candy on running at clock speeds of 750MHz on the GPU core and 873MHz on the memory, but better yet, it can do so without the noise penalty associated with the latest video cards from ATI. The Sapphire HD 4670 Ultimate Edition is equipped with a custom passive cooling solution that helps cool the RV 730 XT core and 512MB of GDDR3 memory. This cooler uses two heatpipes running to an over sized fin array to have the heat dissipated via the airflow through the chassis. Let's find out if this rendition of the HD 4670 from Sapphire really is the Ultimate Edition HD 4670!

 

 

 

 

 

Closer Look:

Sapphire has gone and changed the packaging on this rendition of the HD 4670 from the black boxes seen on the majority of cards I have worked with, to a silver on white background. It does not have the visual pop that the black boxes have, but does contain all of the pertinent information about the Ultimate Edition HD 4670. The front panel shows that there are several software applications included, as well as the fact that this card has an HDMI output and CrossfireX capability.

 

 

Pulling out the box containing the Ultimate Edition 4670 you can see that it is not packed in foam, as is the case with just about all of the Sapphire cards I have used. Instead, the Ultimate edition comes in a plastic shell with cardboard wrapped around it for support. Soon enough the reason for this becomes evident. The bundle of accessories for this card is limited to the Ruby Rom CD, the software from Cyberlink, the driver disk and the instruction manual. Pretty slim from what I am used to seeing from Sapphire, but again the reasons become evident once the card is pulled from the shipping box.

 

 

 

Let's see just what the HD 4670 Ultimate edition from Sapphire has to offer in terms of usability, as well as performance.

 

Closer Look:

The Ultimate Edition HD4670 is designed with silence as well as performance in mind. Sporting a large passive heatsink to dissipate the thermal load from the RV 730XT GPU core and 512MB of GDDR3 memory, makes noise a non-issue. The Ultimate Edition features clock speeds of 750MHZ on the GPU and 873MHz (1.746GHz effective) on the 512MB of GDDR3 memory. The RV730 XT core uses 320 stream processing cores with the memory running through a 128 bit bus. The design of the PCB differs slightly from the standard Sapphire HD 4670 reviewed earlier this year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The reason the Sapphire has not sent a ton of adapters for use with the HD 4670 Ultimate Edition, is that is has quite a bit of connectivity built in to it. For outputs, you have the standard VGA out, a single DVI output and last but not least, an HDMI output for those who really want to display high definition video with support for 7.1 digital surround sound. The back-end of the HD 4670 Ultimate Edition is dominated by the two large heatpipes that run from the GPU core up to the fin array.

 

 

One thing that is clear right away is the missing CrossfireX bridge connection that has been a fixture on just about every video card put out by ATI. The HD 4670 Ultimate can be run in Crossfire mode via software instead of the hard linking of the cards via the bridge connector. The fin array on the Ultimate Edition is large enough that it did interfere with the on-board X-FI sound card on the MSI Eclipse.

 

 

The heatsink used on the Ultimate Edition HD 4670 is a passive design. This means that its sole means of discharging the thermal load, is to rely on the temperature differential between the air in the chassis and the heatsink itself. Of course better case airflow will allow the heatsink to be more effective. Sapphire has come up with creative solutions for cooling ATI based video cards over the past year with the Toxic and Atomic series of video cards. Vapor Chamber cooling and water cooling are two of the avenues they have explored successfully. But now on the Ultimate Edition, the silent heatsink uses two heatpipes attached to a copper plate to and aluminum block and fin array. As large as the heatsink is, it should prove to be effective at cooling this series of cards.

 

 

Underneath the passive heatsink we have the RV730 XT core that features 320 stream processors has 514 million transistors and is built on a 55 nanometer process. The 512MB of GDDR3 memory on the Ultimate Edition is supplied by Hynix and carries part number H5RS5223CFR-N0C and is rated for operation at 1000MHz.

 

 

Putting the Sapphire HD 4670 Ultimate Edition into the test system presented only one challenge. That being the fact that the on-board sound solution on the test system uses a Creative X-Fi PCIe sound card that resides in the top 1x PCIe slot just above the HD 4670. The large passive heatsink does not allow this card to stay in the uppermost slot, so I pulled out the standard PCI X-Fi and moved on forward to get the card installed. No additional power is needed for this card, so the PCIe slot will provide all the juice it needs to run.

 

Now that this card from Sapphire is installed lest see how it performs in the OCC benchmark suite.

 

Closer Look:

To install the drivers for the Sapphire HD 4670 Ultimate Edition, first pop the driver disk into your drive, and the Sapphire installation GUI will auto-start. The menu has three options that you can choose from - the first option is to install the Catalyst Control Center and drivers by clicking the ATI Easy Install. The drivers used in this review are the Catalyst 9.1. The options available with the installation GUI include a link to the online manual in several different languages as well as a link to download the latest Adobe Acrobat Reader.

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When you click the ATI Easy Install option, the Catalyst Control Center installation will begin. This process installs all the necessary drivers needed to make the Sapphire HD 4670 Ultimate Edition fully functional. After finishing the installation, the customary reboot is required.

 

 

As an added bonus, Sapphire has included several pieces of software from CyberLink. Everyone has heard of PowerDVD, a program to play all the DVD, Blu-ray, and HD content you desire. DVD Suite includes PowerProducer 4, PowerDirector 5, Power2Go 5.5, and Medi@Show 3, as well as trial versions of Power Backup 2.5, PowerDVD Copy, and LabelPrint 2. Since the HD4670 Ultimate Edition is designed for the quiet computing crowd as well as the HTPC crowd, I would use Power DVD to watch a couple movies, as the HD 4670 is capable of scaling to 2560x1600. I took a quick look through both the movie '300' and one of my favorites, 'Beerfest'! If you take a look at the screen shot from 'Beerfest', you can see the CPU loading is in the 1 to 2% mark meaning the HD 4670 is doing all of the decoding work.

 

 

 

Last, but not least, is the Ruby ROM Version 11 disk. This disc contains game demos, wallpapers, screen savers, and several applications for you to use.

 

 

 

Now that the utilities, drivers, and extras are installed, let's see if the HD 4670 Ultimate Edition can live up to its name.

 

Closer Look:

The Catalyst Control Center is where all the settings for the Sapphire HD4870 are available. There's a lot that you can change and set, but I am only going to go over the main parts of it.

Information Center: The Information Center is where you can view everything about the hardware and software associated with the video card, such as driver versions and hardware specifications.

 

 

  

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Display Properties: The Display Properties tab is where you can set the resolution, refresh rate override and the preferred monitor if more than one is available. In the Display options you can manually detect your display or you can choose to let the CCC do this for you.

 

 

Digital Panel: The Digital Panel is where you can set and view monitor information, HDTV settings, ATI's AVIVO color settings, and LCD Overdrive to apply LCD settings that override the monitor's settings.

 

 

 

3D & Color: In the 3D tab you can adjust general image quality settings as well as Anti-Aliasing, Anisotropic Filtering and color schemes. There are also a few settings for DirectX and OpenGL.

 

 

AVIVO Video & ATI Overdrive: AVIVO settings allow you to alter the color settings for better viewing. ATI Overdrive gives the user control of the GPU and memory frequencies. For novice users there is an automated clock configuration utility that will find the best overclock for your system settings.

 

 

Specifications:

GPU
RV730 XT
Fabrication Process
55nm
Graphics Clock
750 MHz
Memory Clock 873 MHz
Memory Interface 128-bit
Memory Size
512MB
Memory Type
GDDR3
RAMDACs
2x400 MHz
Stream Processors
320
HDCP Support
Yes
HDMI Support
Yes (Native HDMI out)
Connectors 2 x dual-link DVI-I 1 x S-Video Out
Bus Technology PCI Express 2.0
Form Factor Single Slot Design
Power Connectors None

 

Features:

 

 

All information courtesy of Sapphiretech @ http://www.sapphiretech.com/us/products/products_overview.php?gpid=280&grp=3

Testing:

Now down to what we all have been waiting for. To test the Sapphire HD4870, we will be putting it through a series of benchmarks designed to push the card to its limits. Then to compare the performace of this edition to other current cards on the market, we will place those scores against them and see where it stands. All hardware will be run at their stock speeds, timings and voltage to avoid any errors in the scores. The NVIDIA cards will be run using driver version 180.87 and the ATI cards will be running the 8.12 release of Catalyst. Due to a monitor hardware failure, we could not run the benchmarks at 2650x1600 at this time, however they will be added once the issue has been resolved, so please check back.

 

Comparison Video Cards:

 

Overclocking:

Overclocked settings:

When it came time to overclock the Sapphire HD 4670 Ultimate Edition, I didn't know really what to expect. Is this card cool running? How effective is the cooling when it is pushed? Just how much head room will it have above the default clock speeds of 750MHz on the GPU core and 873MHz on the 512MB of Hynix GDDR3 memory? The first thing I want to say is that temperatures were never an issue with the HD 4670 Ultimate Edition. The maximum temperature I recorded on the GPU core was 58 degrees Celsius. The cooling solution does the job, and quietly at that. Unfortunately, this did not give me any luck when it came to overclocking. I was rewarded with a meagre 26 MHz over the stock clocks speeds of 750MHz at 776MHz. The memory was a little better when it came time to lean on the card and delivered, with an increase of almost 100MHz to 960MHz. The card has some legs - you just need to stretch them.

 

  1. Far Cry 2
  2. Crysis Warhead
  3. BioShock
  4. Call of Duty World at War
  5. Dead Space
  6. Fallout 3
  7. Left 4 Dead
  8. 3DMark 06 Professional
  9. 3DMark Vantage

 

Testing:

Far Cry 2:

"Featuring a new game engine named Dunia, this game looks to be another one to stress your video card. Built specially 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."

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

The Sapphire Ultimate Edition HD 4670 can meet the criteria for a playable experience with the eye candy on in Far Cry 2. It is easily the slowest card in this test, but the card is not designed to be a world-beater.

 

Testing:

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the settings I tested at, the HD 4670 Ultimate did not stand a chance at playing this game enjoyably. One Bright spot is the fact that the HD 4670 Ultimate Edition beat the 9800GX2 at 2560x1600. Through the rest of the resolutions, the performance does not match the performance of the rest of the cards.

Testing:

BioShock is one of the creepier games you can play. The building of a perfect utopian society undersea gone horribly wrong - its inhabitants driven mad with the introduction of tonics and genetic modifications. Now Rapture is just a shadow of its former glory, with little girls looting the dead of what little they have left while being shadowed by guardians known as "Big Daddys". It is a demanding game that will make your hardware scream for mercy. This First Person Shooter allows for an infinite number of weapons and modifications to provide a unique experience each time it is played. The environment as well as the story line, will wrap you up for hours on end.

 

Video Settings:

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The HD 4670 Ultimate Edition was able to play Bioshock on max settings up until the 1920x1200 resolution. A pretty solid performance from a lower-middle range card .

 

Testing:

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 large resolution. This game just may be my reason to move to a 30 inch monitor. I will use Fraps to measure a section of gameplay in the Semper Fi map on Makin Island to compare performance of these video cards.

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

COD WAW was actually playable up to 1680x1050. By reducing the eye candy, you move further towards a spot higher on the performance ladder .

Testing:

In Dead Space, as part of the crew of the USG Kellion you are headed on a repair mission to repair a ship in distress. Things go from bad to worse, starting with the crash landing and seemingly silent and "Dead" ship, the USG Ishimuru. Offering a non-traditional over the shoulder viewing angle, the game gets right into the action as soon as the ventilation systems are activated. From there, things get worse with the appearance of the Necromorphs. Survival now becomes a primary concern for the primary character Isaac Clarke. Survive and you may find the loved one that was aboard the Ishimuru.  In one frame a Necromorph is visible right before an attack from behind.

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sapphire HD 4670 Ultimate provides playable frame rates up to 1680x1050, but falls to less-than-playable even when overclocked at 2560x1600. This if course can be improved by turning off the AA at this resolution. The Nvidia cards do not seem to support the 2560x1600 resolution on the monitor used. The ATI cards have no display issues at this resolution. I'm not sure if this is a driver related issue yet or not, as three sets of drivers have displayed this anomaly.

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Testing:

Fallout 3 takes place after the nuclear holocaust that nearly wipes out civilization and leaves the world an irradiated mess. The vault, or fallout shelter, you are born in is Vault 101, situated in the Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia area. The premise of the game is that the Vault has been sealed for 200 years and now your father has opened the vault and escaped without a trace. The Overseer believes you are involved, so you must escape as well into the wasteland that was once our nation's capital. I find myself looking for landmarks since I am familiar with the streets of Washington DC.

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The HD 4670 delivers a playable experience up to 1920x1200 with what amounts to maximum visual quality settings. You can adjust for best performance and increase the FPS delivered by this card.

Testing:

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! Below is a screenshot to show some in-game action.

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The performance in Left 4 Dead is what is considered playable all the way up to 1920x1200. The little HD4670 just does not have the muscle to play at the largest resolution.

Testing:

3DMark06 is one of the benchmarks that always comes up when a bragging contest is started. 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.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sapphire HD 4670 Ultimate is far from competitive, but it is not meant to be and performs at the expected levels. When overclocked, there is enough improvement in the scores to make that a worthwhile endeavor.

Testing:

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.

 Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Again, the HD 4670 Ultimate Edition performs at the level of performance expected. Performance in Vantage is less than spectacular, but the card plays comfortably in its performance envelope.

 

Conclusion:

The Sapphire HD 4670 Ultimate is not a high-end gaming card. It's not meant to be that type of card. What it is meant to do is to provide some less than extreme gaming capabilities and provide excellent video playback. These things it does exceptionally well. In many of the benchmarks the Ultimate Edition HD 4670 delivered playable frame rates up to 1920x1200, with the settings placed far above its capabilities. If you drop the eye candy down a notch or two, the frame rates only get better and provide a better gaming experience. But that's not all there is to this video card. This HD 4670 differs from the standard run of the mill HD 4670 in a couple of ways. Instead of dual DVI outputs and an HDTV output that uses an adapter to make use of the connection, Sapphire has equipped the Ultimate Edition with a VGA port, a single DVI output as well as an HDMI output that also carries the high definition sound to to the display panel of your choosing. The more obvious difference is the non-standard cooling that utilizes two heatpipes attached to a copper plate to take the heat generated by the GPU core and memory to a large fin array to be dissipated into the airflow through the chassis. Keeping the temperatures in check was one of my main concerns with this card, but those fears were unfounded when the maximum temperature I recorded was 58 degrees Celsius during stability testing for the overclock on the card. While the Ultimate Edition did not overclock as well as the standard ATI reference designed card, it did do well with an increase of 26MHz on the GPU core and almost 100MHz on the GDDR3 memory. Both pretty respectable numbers that delivered a performance increase across the whole benchmark suite. One thing this card did not come with, was a CrossfireX bridge connection on the card. Inititally this was a cause for concern, but the HD 4670 Ultimate Edition is CrossfireX capable via software, not through the normal hardware method most of us a familiar with. The only real issue that I have with this card is the fact that the passive cooling solution may interfere with any cards mounted above it. In my case, the X-FI sound card on the MSI Eclipse was too large to fit with the HD 4670 Ultimate Edition in place. The solution was to remove the card and install another sound card to complete the benchmarks.

What this card is really designed for, is use in an HTPC or silent work station. These are things it excels at, due to the silent cooling solution and high definition video decoding capabilities. While spending some time watching a few movies, CPU usage peaked at 3 to 4 percent throughout the movie. Most likely something launching or running in the background caused the increase. The normal range for most of the time was in the 1 to 2 percent range, showing that the GPU is doing all of the work. Again, exactly what it is designed to do. I used both Power DVD 7 and Windows Media Player to see if one would load the CPU higher, but both returned identical results. The visual quality was great with no stuttering or visual artifacts to show the card was overheating. After getting used to the lack of noise generated by this card, it is tough to go back to a louder video card. The zero noise aspect of this card is implemented well and prevents the card from overheating, while still delivering respectable gameplay with the eye candy on at the resolutions the majority of people play at. No noise, decent performance for a price that wont break the budget in these hard economic times, makes the Sapphire HD 4670 Ultimate Edition great value for your hard earned money!

 

Pros:

 

Cons: