Sapphire R7 370 Nitro Reviewccokeman -
Category: Video Cards
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Sapphire R7 370 Nitro Introduction:
Building a modest gaming system is fraught with cost concerns and over runs when working with a tight budget. Where do you clip cost and still retain the maximum impact you are going for? With a gaming system, far and away the video card is going to be the most important part you can purchase and drives a significant part of the budget. While we all would be happy with a $600 video card, that one part would just thoroughly eliminate the budget for the rest of the system.
At launch we did not get to see any of AMD's 300 series parts at the lower end of the product stack, but today we are going to look at a part that fits tightly into the $150 to $170 price point: the Sapphire R7 370 Nitro. Based on AMD's GCN 1.0 Pitcairn architecture seen on the R7 265, the R7 370 is at the entry point of the 1080p performance spectrum. Sapphire has put the screws to the architecture and put together a custom designed PCB using proprietary parts, along with its Dual-X cooling solution, to offer the entry level gamer 1080p performance for not a lot of hard earned cash. Sapphire has built a reputation on custom built cards, so let's see what it has to offer for the gamer looking to build a budget PC.
Sapphire R7 370 Nitro Closer Look:
The front panel of the packaging for the R7 370 Nitro features a large mechanized warrior against a black background with the phrase "Nitrocharged for gamers" front and center. Along the bottom are some of the top line specifications for the card, including 4GB of GDDR5 memory and Dual-X dual fan cooling solution equipped with Intelligent fan control. Also noted is that this card is overclocked and built for online 1080p gaming. The back side talks a bit about the card and its build philosophy, along with a breakdown of the components on the R7 370 Nitro. Sapphire continues to be for the most part environmentally conscious with the packaging, using a formed cardboard shell to hold the card during shipping. The accessory bundle for this card is slim, but it has just the items you will need, including a DVI to VGA adapter, installation guide, product registration form, and a driver/software installation disc.
Built around the Pitcairn GCN core, the Sapphire R7 370 Nitro is equipped with Sapphire's own Dual-X cooling solution. Size wise, the card is going to fit in just about any chassis on the market that can handle a card used in a PCIe 16x slot that has a dual slot cooling solution at just over eight inches in total length. A pair of dust free 100mm fans are intelligently controlled to push air through the shroud. The back side of the PCB does not have much other than the surface mount components that allow the card to work. From the top and bottom views you get an idea of just how much space under the shroud is occupied by the fin array of the cooling solution.
Display connectivity consists of one DVI-I, one DVI-D, one HDMI 1.4a port, and a full size DisplayPort 1.2 port that allows the user to connect multiple screens in an Eyefinity configuration. A large vent is used to ensure that a large percentage of the thermal load is exhausted out of the chassis. The back end of the card is open enough to use design elements to work around the 6-pin PEG power connection. Sapphire rates the board power of this card at roughly 150 watts and recommends a 500 watt power supply. Not big, but just big enough for a budget gaming rig.
Removing the shroud of the Dual-X cooling solution takes just a couple seconds with a small screwdriver so we can access the meat of the cooling solution. The dual copper heat pipe-based cooler is held on by four screws on the bottom of the card much like most of the cooling solutions I have removed lately. The Dual-X cooler covers the vast majority of the PCB, including the memory and Pitcairn core. Removing the cooling assembly gets us to the barebones of the card where you can see the proprietary Black Diamond chokes and 16K hour capacitors that help make up the power control circuits. Just looking at the components it appears Sapphire is using a 4+2 phase power circuit for the GPU core and 4GB of GDDR5 memory.
Incorporating a very large fin array with a pair of heat pipes that run over the copper contact plate and aluminum baseplate, Sapphire has built a fairly robust solution that should easily handle the 150 watt power rating on the R7 370 Nitro without blowing a gasket. A pair of 100mm propeller blade dust free fans from FirstD are used on the card. These fans provide the airflow to keep the components, including the core, cool under load. The fans are intelligently controlled by the BIOS on the card to provide the best noise/cooling performance ratio.
The heart of this card comes in the form of a 28nm Pitcairn core based on AMD's GCN architecture. This core houses 1024 stream processors, 64 texture units, 32 ROPs, has a 256-bit memory bus, and runs at an overclocked 985MHz to deliver entry level FPS performance. A total of 4GB of SK Hynix GDDR5 memory, part number H5GC4H24AJR-T2C rated at 6Gbps using 1.5v, is used for the frame buffer on this card. The 4GB of memory is unusual in a card at this price point, but it looks like Sapphire wanted to ensure that memory quantity is not a bottleneck for the card.
The Sapphire R7 370 is an interesting card that proves to deliver 1080p performance for a very modest price point. Let's see what it has to offer as far as gaming performance goes.