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Sapphire Radeon HD 7950 3GB Vapor-X Review

Price: $329.99


Let's face it; not everyone can afford the latest and greatest parts at the top of the performance chain. That doesn't mean, however, that you have to sacrifice a lot to get great performance at a lower price. Thankfully, AMD saw this need and developed the HD 7950; a slightly cut-down version of the flagship HD 7970. It still boasts 3 GB of GDDR5 texture memory, the same 384-bit memory interface, and the same feature set in terms of connectivity and software. Instead of the fully enabled Tahiti XT core, you get the slightly less capable Tahiti Pro core along with slower memory clocks. The HD 7950 has been a favorite for a long time because of its great price/performance ratio...but what about today?

While the reference cards straight from AMD's design have no obvious flaws, many companies have taken the design one step further. Today, I'll be taking a look at the Sapphire HD 7950 3GB Vapor-X Edition video card. Deviating entirely from the reference board from AMD, Sapphire has outfitted this card with the same great cooler you saw recently on the OCC review of the Sapphire HD 7970 Vapor-X GHz Edition card. This means cooler temperatures, higher overclocking margins, and less noise. In addition to the custom cooler, the 7950 Vapor-X also has a full 8-phase power system with "Black Diamond" chokes and DirectFET technology to deliver smooth clean power while staying both efficient and cool. All of these goodies are contained on a fully custom PCB in the trademark Sapphire blue color.

Will the Sapphire HD 7950 3GB Vapor-X be able to justify its premium over the reference card?  Keep reading to find out!


Closer Look:

Just like the recently reviewed Sapphire HD 7970 Vapor-X GHz Edition, the box for the Sapphire HD 7950 Vapor-X card features AMD's Ruby in snow camouflage. It definitely puts the idea in your head that this card will run nice and cool thanks to its Vapor-X cooler. The usual features of the 7000 series cards are listed along the front and back of the box - for a full listing, check out the Features and Specifications page. In bright red on the front of the box, you can also see the large sticker pronouncing the Sapphire overclocking button. This button, when pressed, raises the clock speeds of the GPU from the stock 850 MHz to a factory overclock of 950 MHz. Why would anyone ever not push this button?  










Slipping open the packaging reveals yet another box. Opening this box reveals what you've been waiting for - the Sapphire HD 7950 3GB Vapor-X. Now, since I'm cruel, you'll have to wait until the next page to see it. Packaged along with the card itself is a decent number of goodies: a Crossfire bridge, Molex to 6-pin and Molex to 8-pin adapters, a 1.8 meter HDMI cable, a DVI to VGA adapter, the product manual, and a driver/software CD. If you're planning on running Eyefinity out of the box, you're going to need at least one DisplayPort to HDMI or DVI adapter to get rocking.



If you're familiar with Sapphire's Vapor-X cooling and how it works, just skip to the next page. However, if you're not quite sure just how Sapphire has managed to make its products run so cool, continue reading! While heatpipes are a fairly common method of removing heat from a CPU or GPU, any given solution must use quite a few of them for good heat dissipation. The problem with this approach is that the core must be in direct contact with the heatpipes for optimal cooling and while heatpipes can be small, GPU and CPU cores tend to be a lot smaller than a bundle of heatpipes. Enter Sapphire's Vapor-X cooling! The Vapor-X technology works very similarly to a heatpipe, but instead of being a tube that relies on vaporization and wicking action to cool, Sapphire has managed to make this work in a flat package. It allows the entire core to be cooled by the Vapor-X chamber without any of the common issues associated with direct-contact heatpipes.


Continue on to the next page to see the Sapphire HD 7950 3GB Vapor-X out of its packaging and in the nude!

  1. Introduction & Closer Look
  2. Closer Look: Sapphire HD 7950 Vapor-X
  3. Specifications & Features
  4. Testing: Setup & Overclocking
  5. Testing: Metro 2033
  6. Testing: Batman Arkham City
  7. Testing: Battlefield 3
  8. Testing: Unigine Heaven Benchmark 3.0
  9. Testing: Sid Meier's Civilization V
  10. Testing: DiRT 3
  11. Testing: Mafia II
  12. Testing: 3DMark 11
  13. Testing: Temperatures
  14. Testing: Power Consumption
  15. Conclusion
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