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Review: Sapphire Radeon HD 5870 1GB Vapor-X graphics card: the best in the world?

by Tarinder Sandhu on 3 November 2009, 07:28 4.0

Tags: Sapphire Radeon HD 5870 Vapor-X, Sapphire

Quick Link: HEXUS.net/qauou

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The card

Please head on over to here to see why we think AMD's done a good job with Radeon HD 5870.

Sapphire's Vapor-X model, looking somewhat different to the reference design, still uses the same PCB. Overall, including cooler, it's very slightly shorter than and not quite as tall as the stock card. Interestingly, the cooling looks more substantial, but the Vapor-X weighs in at 728g, compared to the 958g for the AMD-supplied card.

Vapor-X cooling was first introduced by Sapphire on the Radeon HD 3870, and the principle remains the same for the HD 5870. If you want to know more, Sapphire's Bill Donnelly ran through the technical details of the system on HEXUS.tv.

Whilst the Radeon HD 5870 isn't a particularly power-thirsty card, better-than-reference cooling will help in stabilising higher frequencies. To this end, the Vapor-X - part of the aftermarket range alongside the TOXIC - clocks in at 870MHz core and 5,000MHz memory, up from the default 850MHz/4,800MHz.

The clock-speed increases aren't huge, clearly, leading us to believe that yields on the advanced 40nm process aren't fantastic. Of course, having low factory-overclocks does open up potential for the higher-clocked TOXIC card, but such are present yields that we're unlikely to see it made available.

Looking quite funky in a perforated black housing, the card is quieter than the reference design when idling in 2D, and it's barely noticeable above the ambient background noise. However, put it to work in 3D gaming, and the Vapor-X is a touch louder than AMD's stock cooler.

CrossFire fingers enable hook-up to another card for higher performance, although the soon-to-arrive Radeon HD 5970, a dual-GPU card, may well corner the very high-end GPU market.

Retaining the 1GB frame-buffer of the original, contained on the topside, the different cooling approach means that the rear is, for the first time, exposed.

The extra power requirements of this card over the stock design are marginal, and that's why we see the two six-pin PCIe connectors carried over.

Harnessing the Eyefinity feature-set, the card boasts three distinct digital outputs: DVI, HDMI, and DisplayPort. All three can be used simultaneously, although DisplayPort needs to be one of the three outputs.