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Sapphire HD 6850 1GB Vapor-X Edition

Price: $169.99


Between the introductions of new series of video cards between AMD and nVidia, the graphics market is relatively quiet. What we do see, however, is AMD's partners coming out with different variations of cards based off of an original platform. Sapphire has been dominating the market and keeping it busy due to its introductions of upper-end video cards that offer different things. Most recently, Sapphire surprised many of us with its Toxic HD 6950, which overclocked like a dream and showed chances of success while flashing to an HD 6970 bios. A couple of weeks ago Sapphire brought its HD 6850 Vapor-X edition to the table. The Vapor-X suffix means use of a specially designed vapor chamber cooler that brings up expectations for cooling capability. The reference-style blower is generally sufficient, but can be very loud at full speed. Higher efficiency coolers, such as those found on the Vapor-X edition video cards, can achieve similar results but are able to do so at a much lower level of volume.

Sapphire has been the pioneer in keeping the market somewhat interesting, as least for the Red Team folks. We've seen one or two other AMD manufacturers' cards here on OCC, but until recently with a couple of GTX 580 reviews, nVidia hasn't really had anything 'different' hit the shelves in quite some time. Still though, we can all agree that we're ready to see more. Hopefully with the upcoming release of Bulldozer and we'll get some news about perhaps a new top of the line GTX5X0 from nVidia, and maybe some hints about AMD's next generation of video cards.

Today I will be looking at Sapphire's HD 6850 1GB Vapor-X Edition. The Vapor-X line is already well established and widely known, and I'm excited to see it continue to grow. The Vapor-X technology employs the same principle used by heatpipes, only in a different shape. A vessel with very low interior pressure (vacuum) contains a fluid that easily evaporates and condenses depending on the temperature. The condensed form absorbs lots of energy (heat) from the GPU die and evaporates, moves outwards where it is cooled, then condenses to complete the cycle. Just about every new video card and processor heatsink integrates this idea themselves, only that the Vapor-X line puts it together on a larger scale.

The Sapphire HD 6850 1GB Vapor-X Edition is just like that of the original HD 6850: 960 stream processors on a 40nm process die, 1GB of 256-bit GDDR5 memory, Eyefinity support, etc., but is clocked slightly higher at 800/4400mhz instead of the 780/4000mhz. I recently had good luck on overclocking Sapphire's HD 6950 2GB DiRT 3 Toxic Edition, and I am excited to give this card a shot. I will start off by showcasing the card, it's package, what's under the hood, and its specifications. Following that, I will give a shot at overclocking it and then the true tests will begin!


Closer Look:

The plain blue box of the HD 6950 Vapor-X Edition is a far cry from that of what I've seen in the past with Sapphire's extremely detailed and very artful boxes that are fun to look at. Instead, the box for this video card is rather plain. Its main color is blue with a black textured pattern "wrapping" over the edges, leaving the blue color in the shape of a 'V'. I'm not saying that the box looks bad, but it's almost like it was whipped up at the end of a Friday afternoon. Again, it still looks good, but is strangely different from Sapphire's historical boxes. The box contains all of the same information that you would expect on other Sapphire boxes, including "icons" for many of the features at the bottom of the front of the box. These icons include things like DirectX 11 and Eyefinity support, PCI Express 2.1, HDMI output, and others. There is also a DiRT3 sticker here, which means that there is a key for DiRT3 in the box — a $20 value.

The sides of the box show general specifications for the video card, such as related system requirements (for running things like HD video, OS for Direct X 11, and silly things like an open PCI Express slot. Other information includes the specifics: clock speeds, memory type and quantity, etc. The rear of the box is a little less technical than the sides; the information that's found here is more on the feature/explanation side. Things like the Eyefinity, DX11, 3D support, and other features that can be found with this card and things that are included are explained.




The box opens like that of just about any other video card box — the outer part is merely a sheath that slides off and exposes the interior, brown cardboard box. The flap on the cardboard box opens up and shows the card itself protected in an anti-static bag. Underneath this tray on top of which the card is placed are the accessories that we can generally expect. Here, I found the Crossfire bridge, HDMI cable, mini DisplayPort adapter, molex to 6-pin power adapters, DVI to VGA adapter, driver CD, DiRT3 key, user's manual, and some information from Sapphire.




With everything out of the box, I'll now start tuning into the card itself, its features, the cooler, and what's under the hood.

  1. Introduction & Closer Look
  2. Closer Look: The Video Card
  3. Specifications & Features
  4. Testing: Setup & Overclocking
  5. Testing: Aliens vs. Predator
  6. Testing: Metro 2033
  7. Testing: Sid Meier's Civilization V
  8. Testing: Tom Clancy's HAWX 2
  9. Testing: Lost Planet 2
  10. Testing: Unigine 2.5
  11. Testing: Just Cause 2
  12. Testing: Mafia II
  13. Testing: Battlefield: Bad Company 2
  14. Testing: 3DMark 11
  15. Testing: Temperature
  16. Testing: Power Consumption
  17. Conclusion
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