Mainstream Graphics Card Roundup

Sapphire Vapor-X HD 4870 2G (Radeon HD 4870 2,048 MB)

To see all photos in our gallery for this card, click on the image.

Sapphire's Vapor-X cooler is quite effective. While other cards are equipped with thick, heavy, copper heatsinks and fans, the entire cooling assembly on this Radeon HD 4870 model measures only 3.54"x3.54"x1.18" (90x90x30 mm). It’s built on a flat copper plate with numerous aluminum cooling fins attached. The assembly looks like a cut-down version of the coolers that Intel or AMD bundle in their retail CPU boxes.

Inside the cooler, you’ll find an evacuated chamber, where water functions as a cooling medium. The water removes heat from the chips, and the vacuum promotes efficient heat exchange with the much cooler ambient temperature inside the case. This kind of phase-change cooling depends on evaporation at the heat source, when the heatsink makes contact with the chips and condensation at the outer reaches of the heatpipes, where thermal energy maintains constant circulation. Capillary action also aids circulation of condensed liquid back to the hot surfaces on their return trip.

Nevertheless, temperatures in this unit don’t differ much from the ATI reference design. In idle 2D mode, we got readings of 58° C/136.4° F instead of 60° C/140° F. Under heavy load, those tables turn a bit, with the Sapphire card reading 76° C/168.8° F and the reference card 74° C/165.2° F. The real difference in this cooling solution stands out in our noise measurements. At 2D idle mode, the Sapphire card is whisper-quiet at 36 dB(A), while it climbs only to 38.2 dB(A) under heavy load (by contrast, the ATI reference model ratchets up to 49.8 dB(A)).

In this design, the card also vents its exhaust through slits in the external connector edge. The vapor circulates down to the bottom of card to a secondary heatsink that cools the voltage regulator and various heavy-duty condensers. Because this card comes equipped with 2 GB of graphics RAM, you’ll also find heatsinks on its back side to cool those chips as well. Memory chips on the front are not cooled, however, because they’re not beneath the primary heatsink.

In overall performance, the Sapphire card falls between the overclocked HIS IceQ4+ and the Radeon HD 4870 reference card. The 2 GB of graphic RAM boosts frame rates in Fallout 3 by up to 7 FPS, and in Far Cry 2 frame rates at 1920x1200 resolution with 8x AA leap from a paltry 11.1 FPS (from the 512 MB reference card) to a fairly fluid 30.4 FPS. There isn’t much difference in other benchmarks, though. This card also clocks down to 500 MHz in 2D idle mode.

The Vapor-X card requires two six-pin PCIe connectors, so you’ll find two such adapter cables in the retail box. Its souped-up Radeon HD 4870 supports DirectX 10.1 with Shader 4.1. Other bundled goodies include the PowerDVD bundle, 3DMark Vantage Advanced Edition, Cyberlink DVD Suite v5 with applications, an ATI demo, a driver CD, and a CrossFire connector. Adapters aren’t really needed, because external ports include analog D-sub mini, HDMI, and DVI.

  • ColMirage
    Great article! Good to see a large variery of old and new.
  • Why do you keep on including the last remnant test when it's obvious that there is a problem with the ati cards? Therefore the overall results are biased and it's unfair to ati and to the foes who jump directly to the conclusion.

    Also when you say *quote* "DirectX 10 crashed at 8x AA and the game and screen went black. Switch to DirectX 9 instead, and the game works at 8x AA and offers frame rates up to 50% higher" *unquote* for HAWX didn't you mean "ati cards were a lot faster that nvidia ones using DirectX 10 thanks to DirectX 10.1 and that was unacceptable. Hence the switch to DirectX 9 instead, and the game works at 8x AA and offers frame rates up to 50% higher for nvidia and ati is fcked again, close one guys".

    I am not an ati fanboy but I think TH has got its tongue sticked up a juicy green @ss.
  • cinergy
    Tino is putting again a big geforce ad. No mention of recent HUGE Radeon price cuts (eg. Radeon HD 4890 goes for $199.99 - 10$ mail rebate in newegg, and 4850 should go at 99$). And HAWX is again benchmarked without dx10.1 setting because of such crappy results for ATI. And not even a mention such technology exist in the game!
  • NuclearShadow
    I think its highly unfair that you would put The Last Remnant in as a benchmark. The game simply hates ATI cards and if you included that game when it came to making a conclusion then I think your intentionally being biased.

    Also I'm not sure why your holding the 260 as the best choice. The Zotac one you even picture is priced at $175 at newegg while the HIS 4850 1GB is like $115 at newegg. Sure the 260 outperforms it but when you take that price difference and look at the performance the 4850 1GB is certainly attractive. The 250 1GB lowest price on newegg is $140 and Zotac's costs $154.99 and if you compared the 4850 1GB to it using your own charts you would see the major killer of the sum of fps is largely effected by The Last Remnant.

    Speaking of Zotac I noticed that for some reason whenever they are mentioned they get a major ass kissing. While they make good products its clear that there is a bias here. You even picture the Zotac 260 and even gave it the ability to be selected on your own little comparison charts and look what you get when you compare it to normal 260 216sps,1173.html?prod=on&prod=on The exact same results and for some reason you deemed it necessary to list it individually as if it were special.

    Next time how about giving a real conclusion instead of a advertisement. Comparing a $115 card to a $175 and pushing Zotac down our throats makes it damn obvious what your doing.
  • scrumworks
    Wow! Tom's just cant let nvidia go. ATI clearly has price-performance advantage now. No Last Remnant benchs are gonna change it.
  • Summer Leigh Castle
    I'm not an expert but the article felt like Toms was trying too hard... just a "little" bias here.
  • d0gr0ck
    That's o
  • da bahstid
    Tino must have missed that whole thing a few months back where educated readers decided they weren't going to tolerate such ridiculously biased conclusions. There's only a $5 difference in price between the His 4870 and Zotac 260 on Newegg as I write this (nothing like Tino's claim that the Zotac has a >$35 advantage), and the performance of the two came within 0.5% of each other...DESPITE two extremely pro-NVidia slanted tests (Last Remnant and Hawx).

    I actually encourage keeping the Last Remnant test because ATI shouldn't get breaks for poor drivers (or inadequate collaboration with developers), but by that same token if NVidia loses out on lack of 10.1 support that result absolutely needs to be included. TH was actually starting to look credible again, it must have taken you guys months of seriously attentive work and comprehensive benchmarking to regain that...what in the world are you guys thinking starting up this tripe again?
  • Ramar
    I agree, the last remnant is stupid. Everyone with an ATI card knows they probably can't play it. Funny, considering it was developed for a console with an ATI chip.

    Let's do some simple math here to prove if ATI really has the price to performance advantage.

    I'll use far cry 2 because I think it's a very fair description of DirectX10 power, "WIMTBP" be damned.

    Top range, GTX 295 vs 4870X2, there's a performance difference on par with their respective prices, especially in the highest res and AA/AF setting.

    Higher-mid, 4890 vs GTX 275. Again, the performance percentage is very close to the twenty dollar difference between cards, and exceeded in nvidia's side at the highest res.

    High-mid, 4870 vs GTX 260 216, even on Left 4 Dead, a source engine game favoring ati, the 260 comes out on par. This is a tie, really. But don't kid yourself into thinking the 4850 is any kind of match for the 260.

    Mid-range, 4850 vs...well, if you take a GTS 250, they're very evenly matched. If you REALLY want a 9800GT for the same price, well, sucks to have an IQ of 50.

    Also factor in the growing use of Physx and ATI doesn't make a very compelling argument. Prices are matched frustratingly well and the only real "killer deal" is a 4850x2 for slightly over $200.

    Know that I like ATI and I'm not saying they're bad cards, I'm just saying they're only on par with Nvidia's offerings, not above them.

    Just remember that DirectX11 will be in full swing in around six months and none of this will matter anyway.
  • d0gr0ck
    I don't know what you did to get those TLR benches on the ATI cards. On a single HD 4870 (512MB reference style) card I easily got the playable 60fps at 1680x1050 at high settings + medium shadows. Once I upgraded to crossfire the framerate blows past 60fps on all high settings. Slowdown only occurs when the game effects churn out an inordinate amount of lighting/shadow effects. I use an old X38/E8500 combo to game on, so by all means you should be getting better results than I do.