Sapphire's parent company, PCPartner, is AMD’s largest AIB partner and reportedly manufactures every ATI-branded card that’s not made in Canada. The company offers three models based on the Radeon HD 4870, two with 512 MB of GDDR5 memory and one with a 1 GB frame buffer. We evaluated the Toxic Edition, which comes with 512 MB of memory and a decidedly non-stock cooler.
Sapphire’s Vapor-X cooler is a much larger apparatus than the one used in AMD’s reference design. As is the case with AMD's reference design, a copper heat sink covers the GPU and a second plate covers the memory and a few other components. However, Sapphire uses three taller copper heat pipes and places cooling fins on each side of the GPU, which AMD does not do. The tallest pipe extends one inch above the black plastic cooling shroud. An 8 cm fan, mounted on a plastic crossbar and centered over the GPU, draws air from inside the case and exhausts it through both ends of the shroud (meaning some warm air is blown outside the case, while some is also vented inside the case).
Sapphire’s cooler isn’t as quiet as AMD’s reference design, but it does a decidedly better job of chilling the GPU. We recorded an idle temperature of 49 degrees Celsius and an under-load temp (running the Far Cry 2 benchmark) of 58 degrees Celsius—which is 20 degrees cooler than the reference design's temperature at idle. Sapphire also provided the card’s voltage regulators with its own dedicated heat sink. As with AMD’s reference design, Sapphire mounts the board’s two six-pin power connectors to the rear edge of the circuit board—which, as we’ve pointed out, can be a problem with smaller enclosures. In some situations, we’ve found it necessary to attach the power cables before mounting the card in its slot because it’s too difficult to maneuver them around the hard drive cage.
Sapphire’s card comes with two dual-link DVI ports and a multi-format analog video output on the mounting bracket, just like AMD’s reference design does. However, Sapphire is more aggressive with clock rates—it runs the core at 780 MHz and the 512 MB of Qimonda GDDR5 memory at 1 GHz.
Sapphire bundles several programs with its hardware, including the OEM version of Cyberlink’s PowerDVD 7 for DVD playback (but not for Blu-Ray media) on your PC. Cyberlink sells the retail version of this program for $29.95, but PowerDVD 8 is also available (for $99.95) and it does support Blu-ray. Cyberlink’s OEM version of DVD Suite 5 is also in the box. This software provides limited photo and video-editing features, plus CD- and DVD-burning capabilities. Unlike the retail version, which is no longer for sale, the bundled version does not include back-up or disc-copying features. And if you’re interested in benchmark utilities, Sapphire includes the Advanced Edition of 3DMark Vantage.
Sapphire HD 4870 Toxic Edition: street price: $294.99 (Sapphire Technology)