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Review: Sapphire Radeon HD 4850 Vapor-X 512MB: last throw of the RV770 dice

by Tarinder Sandhu on 20 March 2009, 13:26 3.5

Tags: Radeon HD 4850 512MB Vapor-X, Sapphire, PC

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Vapor-X: a new twist on something old?

Think of the Sapphire Vapor-X cooling as a heatpipe and then some. The heatsink's block contains a lower portion with extremely low air pressure. Inside, vaporisation wicks easily heat the sealed water up, thanks to the low pressure, as the GPU's heat is transferred through the base. The vapour is then transported until it hits the condensation wick and turns back into water. Then, the water is transported around the chamber, by capillary action, and back to the base, where the process begins again.

Sounds like a regular heatpipe-based approach, right? The main differences here are that the process can be undertaken in both directions, as opposed to the unidirectional approach of heatpipes. Further, according the Sapphire, there's less thermal resistance - due to lower copper use - and faster-than-heatpipe conductivity, too.

The newly-named Vapor-X range is Sapphire's stab at balancing value and performance, meaning that it does without the bells and whistles inherent on the pre-overclocked TOXIC models and ships with stock frequencies of 625MHz core and 1,986MHz for the 512MB of GDDR3 memory. Most folk looking towards this card will position near-silent running and decent overclocking potential high on the list of criteria.

Equipped with an 80mm fan, the custom-designed heatsink and PCB give the Vapor-X and mean and moody look. The slow-spinning fan is practically inaudible when pootling around under little or no load, and it's marginally louder when placed under a 3D stress-test, making it considerably better than the reference model.

512MB of GDDR3 memory is contained on the topside, but the PCB is different from the norm.

Take a look at a couple of side-on shots and you'll see that it's a double-height cooler much in the vein of a Radeon HD 4870. We'd have preferred a single-slot solution, of course, but would probably trade spatial restrictions in favour of low noise.

Sapphire reckons that the Vapor-X is more than just a fancy cooler, as the card is equipped what the company terms 'Diamond Black'  voltage chokes with integrated heatsinks - seen above - which provide up to 25 per cent better power efficiency and 10 per cent lower temperatures, the company says. We'll see in our power-consumption test.

An interesting choice of outputs that cover most displays. Two of the three outputs - HDMI, VGA, and DVI - can be used concurrently.

Having an early sample brings its own foibles, and the card shipped with the bundle but without the box. Assuming it's a full-retail version, you can expect to receive items detailed on this page, albeit without the second Molex-to-PCIe adapter or the HDMI dongle.

The package is backed up by Sapphire's standard two-year warranty. Claims in the first year are handled by the supplier from whom the card was purchased from. Claims after this period are handled by a U.K.-based service centre.