Sapphire HD 4870 1GB Toxic Review

ccokeman - 2008-10-05 13:13:52 in Video Cards
Category: Video Cards
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: January 8, 2009
Price: $250+


With the introduction of the HD 4800 series, manufacturers have been taking a twist and adding features to make them stand out among the crowd. Sapphire has been known for taking its video cards to the next level. One series that Sapphire created is Toxic. The Toxic Series allows for high overclocks and faster stock speeds using new technology cooling. Couple this excellent cooling solution with a fast card like the HD 4870 and you have a winner with the Sapphire HD 4870 Toxic Edition. Sapphire has taken this card and overclocked it out of the box so you are sure to win some late night gaming frag fests without having to do anything else with it. Also, since it has better cooling, you don't have to worry about it overheating like some of the first HD 4870's did when they hit the market.

The Saphire HD 4870 Toxic sports a GPU clock speed of 780MHz and a memory clock speed of 1000MHz. This card also has a total 1GB of memory instead of the 512MB that the standard HD 4870 cards come with. If that doesn't have your eyes open I don't know what will. The Vapor-X is actually a vapor chamber that transfers heat away from the GPU. We will go more indepth later in the review, so keep your eyes open.


Closer Look:

When the Sapphire HD 4870 Toxic arrived the box got my mouth watering. The front of the box highlights features with logos, including being overclocked and having the Vapor-X cooling solution. On the back of the box, Sapphire highlights more of the features and highights. Sapphire also includes a wealth of software and utilities with its card, so on the front are some of the sneak peaks of what you can expect with your card when you purchase it.



Opening the box lets you get down to the nitty gritty. The video card is well protected by a thick layer of foam and anti-static wrapping. The box is made of sturdy cardboard, which keeps the contents safe during travel and shipping. Once you get the HD 4870 Toxic out of the box you can see how well it was taken care of to make sure that there is no damage to your prized possession.



Under the card are the accessories and CD's for you to run the video card. Included with the Sapphire HD 4870 Toxic are the driver and software CD's, the manual, a CrossFire bridge, two 4-pin to PCI Express power adapters, an S-video adapter, a component video adapter, a DVI to VGA adapter, and a DVI to HDMI adapter.





 Now that everything is unpacked, let's move on to taking a better look at the card itself.

Closer Look:

When you first lay eyes on the Sapphire HD 4870 Toxic it looks next generation compared to the stock HD 4870, due to the massive Vapor-X cooler. Sapphire has chosen to use a blue-colored PC board instead of the ATI red traditionally used on ATI based cards. The Vapor-X heatsink covers the full extent of the card and uses a unique method for keeping the card cool. On the underside of the card is the bracket that holds the heatsink in place and prevents damage to the card by the weight of the heatsink. On the top of the housing there is the Toxic and the Vapor-X logos to show off your card. The cooler on the HD 4870 Toxic is a dual-slot cooling solution with an exhaust vent that allows the hot air to be expelled out of the case instead of inside creating more internal heat.









Turning the card on its side you can see the copper heatpipes that extend out of the side to aid in the cooling. On the top spine are the two notches to be used for running this card in a multi-GPU CrossFire solution. For connections there are two DVI ports that also support HDMI via the included adapter and an S-video port for component video. To power the Sapphire HD 4870 Toxic you need two PCI Express power connection to be available so if you plan on running CrossFire you must make sure you have enough PCI Express power plugs available on your power supply.




On the top of the cooler there is an active cooling fan that pushes air over the cooling fins to draw the warm heat away from the critical components. If you remove the plastic shielding of the cooler there is the guts and glory of the cooling system. The cooling system contains different parts that come together to create one nice cooling solution. There is a full aluminum heatsink in a fin design with a copper block connected to copper heatpipes. This path takes the heat through the heatpipes and into the fins to be cooled by the fan.



Flipping over the cooler, you can get a better look at the vapor chamber. The copper heat plate is soldered on over the vapor chamber so that heat can be transferd efficiently. The heat then goes to the copper heatpipes on the top of the heatsink and finally through the heat fins and blown out by the fan. The copper transfers heat fast so that the overclocked GPU can be cooled more efficiently and you can also push it a bit higher than a normal HD 4870.



With the cooler removed we can finally see the GPU and board. The Sapphire HD 4870 Toxic uses the ATI RV770XT GPU, however it is clocked at 780MHz versus the stock HD 4870 speed of 750MHz. The RV770XT is manufactured using a 55nm process and has a transistor count of 956 million. This card has 1GB GDDR5 overclocked to 1000MHz and is manufactured by Qimonda. The interface is PCI Express 2.0 interface for increased bandwidth and maximum performance.



So you can see the amount of parts used to make the Sapphire HD 4870 Toxic, here is a shot of the card in parts. The top is the plastic housing that covers the heatsink and directs the air out of the case through the PCI slots. Then there is the Vapor-X heatsink and then the GPU and board.


Now we can put the card back together and take a look at the software side of the Sapphire HD 4870 Toxic.

Closer Look:

To install the drivers for the Sapphire HD4870 Toxic, first pop the driver CD into your drive, and the Sapphire menu 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 8.56.1. The options available with the installation GUI include a link to the online manual in several different languages, and 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 4870 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 [email protected] 3, as well as trial versions of Power Backup 2.5, PowerDVD Copy, and LabelPrint 2. As nice as these tools are, Sapphire has also included a licensed version of the latest benchmark from Futuremark, 3DMark Vantage.



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 HD4870 Toxic can deliver on the expectations.


Closer Look:

The Catalyst Control Center is where all the settings for the Sapphire HD4870Toxic 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: 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.




Fabrication Process
Graphics Clock
Memory Clock 1000MHz
Memory Interface 256-bit
Memory Size
Memory Type
400 MHz
Stream Processors
HDCP Support
HDMI Support
Yes (Using DVI-to-HDMI adaptor)
Connectors 2 x dual-link DVI-I 1 x S-Video Out MAX Resolution 2560X1600
Bus Technology PCI Express 2.0
Form Factor Dual Slot Vapor-X Cooler
Power Connectors 2 x 6-pin




All information courtesy of Sapphire tecnology


Now down to what we all have been waiting for. To test the Sapphire HD4870 Toxic, we will be putting it through a series of benchmarks designed to push the card to its limits. Then to compare the performace of the Toxic 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 check back.


Comparison Video Cards:



Overclocked settings:

To overclock the Sapphire HD4870 Toxic, I started off by raising the GPU speed a little at a time and testing to make sure it was stable. If it was, I added some more to it until I could not run any stability tests. Once I hit the wall for the GPU speed, I used the same method for the memory until I hit the maxumim stable. The walls I hit were 845 on the core and 1066 on the memory. For a card that was already overclocked, the additional speed gained was very nice. Also while testing the card overclocked, the temperatures remained around 67C degrees with the fan speed controlled by the Catalyst Control Center, which is fairly cool for an HD4870 that is running even at stock speeds. By bumping up the fan speeds, the temperatures plummet down into the 50C range at 55C. But when the fan speeds are increased there is the noise penalty with the typical ATI fan noise with the fan spinning at almost 4000 RPM. Controlled by the CCC the fan speeds remain in the 500 to 1500 RPM.

  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



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."







The Sapphire Toxic does present a point of difference with the performance it deliverers in Far Cry 2. The frames per second it delivers are the highest in this benchmark save those of the dual-GPU cards. It eclipses the GTX 280 by 1 frame per second at 1920x1200.


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.













The Toxic performs at a level above that of the Nvidia based cards. Even with a mere 1 frame per second difference, at 20 frames per second that amounts to a 5% improvement.


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:










While the Toxic HD4870 does not keep up with the GTX 280 or dual-GPU cards, it does perform nicely against its chief competitior the GTX 260/216, beating it in two out of three resolutions.


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.













Even overclocked, the Toxic has a hard time stacking up against the GTX 260/216.


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 as 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.












The GTX 260, 9800GX2 and HD4870X2 are the higher performing cards in this benchmark. The performance of the HD4870 1 GB cards is pretty similar across the resolutions.


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.












The performance is close across the board with all the cards. If Fallout 3 is your game, there is not a huge performance differential to separate the performance. But at 4 FPS that equates to 5%.


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 are several screenshots to show some in-game action.














The performance in Left 4 Dead is playable at all the resolutions. The HD4870 Toxic is still a little short on performance by comparison to the GTX 280.


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



















3DMark 06 is one benchmark that ATI cards do very well in. The dual-GPU cards are the class of the field, but with the single GPU cards the Toxic falls about 400 marks short at 1920x1200.


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.












The HD4870 Toxic puts up a respectable performance across all three resolutions.


The biggest beef I have had with the ATI HD4 series cards has been the temperatures. Moving into the 90 Celsius range is not what I would consider optimal. This is something that Sapphire has taken care of with the HD4870 1GB Toxic thanks to the Vapor Chamber cooling. When manually controlled and overclocked, the temperatures I was able to achieve were in the mid-50C range and no higher than 57C. This does come with a price. Noise. At 4000 Rpm the fan is loud. The compromise is that when the CCC controls the fan speeds the temperatures never hit 70C and peaked at 67C in my testing. A benefit to this is that the HD4870 1 GB Toxic can be overclocked right from the factory. The clock speed on the GPU was increased by 30MHz over stock with the memory 99Mhz over stock and had the potential to go even higher. The overhead on the card was pretty substantial at 107MHz and 198MHz on the memory. This offers a pretty decent performance increase over the preset overclocked performance. With performance between the GTX 260-216 and Toxic pretty similar your really have to come down to looking at price. At around $250 dollars, the pricing structure puts this card right under that of the GTX 260-216. The Toxic offers a value for the performance and cooling it delivers.