Radeon 4870: Does It Matter Who Made Yours?

Sapphire's Radeon HD 4870 Toxic Edition

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)

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  • MrMick
    Once you’ve found the GPU that best fits your needs, does it really matter which vendor sells you the card? We take a look at AMD's reference 4870, Sapphire's, and Palit's to get a better sense for what differentiates graphics cards.

    Radeon 4870: Does It Matter Who Made Yours? : Read more
  • wavetrex
    You can raise the fan speed of the reference card very easy using the 8.11 and 8.12 drivers.

    My totally stock card runs idle at 45 degrees with 35% fan speed ( inaudible ) and at 55 degrees full load ( in Crysis ) with 45% fan speed (audible). During the summer I'll probably raise the speed by 5-10% to compensate for the increased ambient temperature.

    non-reference is overrated...
    Reference has a problem with bios settings and NOT with the cooler itself.
  • Proximon
    The Palit may be the best in a well cooled case, but regardless I'll take the Toxic. Rear venting, 48-60C temperatures at a whisper quiet 34% fan speed.

    Good article though, especially since many here in the US have been curious about Palit lately. You might have added more about Vapor-X. My understanding was that ATI intends to make it reference design.
  • Anonymous
    I think what really matters about the vendor is at what quality the card was built. For example, If the vendor used a poor quality BGA process, one vendor may have more problems with artifacting in 3D applications later on down the road vs a different brand may have a higher percentage of product that makes it several years if need be without a single glitch.
  • montyuk
    talking about third party hsf - i bought the force3d dht which whilst it has a fantastic heatsink, decided to couple it with a fan that does not allow the fan speed to be controlled by software (yes i have tried the usual), so ive ended up replacing their fan with a new one which can be controlled.

    surely their engineers must have realised that the fan was stuck at 100%?
  • Tekkamanraiden
    Hmmm I wondered why my 3870 pc/mac hybrid card was blue in color. Now I know why.
  • V3ctor
    I put mine on water... 29ºc idle - 41º full... I just hope ATi uses the same pcb layout in the HD5800... That way I can re-use the waterblock
  • Malovane
    Exactly... how many times can you beat that horse to death? The cooling is fine on the reference 4870's. Just manually set the fan speed with the new catalyst control center and it will run cooler than the previous generation of ATI's products.
  • Shadow703793
    Good write up. But I don't care much for the software, but rather the cooling & Ocing. Tbh, you can find smiler software for totally free (ie VCL, Zoom,etc)
  • customisbetter
    I have the Palit in question and its awesome for two reasons.
    First, the card is physically shorter than the reference card so it actually fits in my case. The second is the amount of cooling comes from ONE fan. I unplugged the smaller fan due to noise and set the large fan to 45%. Its totally quiet and never goes over 70 degrees C. I highly recommend that card and whenit becomes obsolete, the HDMI and Display port connectivity will be great for a HD Media box.
  • malveaux

    Essentially, there's no difference amongst them.

  • Niva
    80 degrees won't burn you, it is hot to the touch though. I enjoyed this article, I still run a Tyan made ATI 9700 Pro card in my old PC which stays on all the time, that card is a champ!
  • Anonymous
    OMG, Catalyst 8.10, I didn't even bother going through the benchmarks.
  • cl_spdhax1
    add fanspeed control to catalyst for most cards.
    written by spyral,
    "START -> REGEDIT (RUN AS ADMIN) -> HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE -> SYSTEM -> CurrentControlSet-> CONTROL -> CLASS -> {4D36E968-E325-11CE-BFC1-08002BE10318} -> 0000 (be sure to tweak your CURRENT drivers key MINE IS 0000)





    under the overdrive menu, if it shows up, it works. if it doesn't, then your card doesn't support it. simple.
  • Transsive
    I have an Asus 4870. I think it's pretty much the same as the reference board.
    I set the fan speed at 30% and it usually sits at 55-70 degrees.
    It has a dual slot cooler with rear exhaust.
    750 core, 900 memory.
  • yyrkoon
    malveauxInteresting.Essentially, there's no difference amongst them.Cheers,

    Actually, there is a big difference in name brands. It's known as "customer relations". All companies can have lemons in any part, and it is their willingness to stand by their respective parts that counts. Sapphire is one of these companies that *will* stand by their products, and give customers very little hassles during such unfortunate circumstances *if* a RMA is imminent. However, I am not saying there are no other brands out there that may practice the same objective, but now days, with shoddy workmanship around every corner, I tend to not stray from something that works( and works well ).

    Driver support is another gotcha, but mostly now days ATI, and nVidia products are covered by their respective 'parent' companies. Overall system stability with said products installed would be another. But in the later situation here, there can be more than a single variable at fault.
  • Anonymous
    I can't say the voltage regulation of the Palit model is a step up, it's just cheaper and allows them to sell the card for less. Personnally, I'd stick with the Volterra system.
  • JonnyDough
    These benchmarks show one thing. Nothing.

    The slight fluctuations determined by the benchmarks show that a change of FPS by .7 or even two FPS mean absolutely nothing. Half a frame isn't going to make or break the playability of a game. For all we know a tiny background process decided to run at the exact moment the FPS snapshot was taken.

    Stick to differences of steady 5 FPS differences or more, or don't even bother writing these types of "articles."

    The difference is minimal at best, and even an OC'd card will barely make any difference over a stock card. 100mhz does little for gaming today. Maybe it made a difference in the Commodore era, but it makes very little difference now.

    Anyone with a brain knows that the difference between vendors is the over-clockability, but the following are really the deciding factors:

    1. Price.
    2. Silence.
    3. Included adapters.
    4. Included software.
    5. Consumer relations.

    Any 100mhz increment or frame rates over any other similar card is next to pointless.

    Tell us something we didn't know.
  • ideapete
    Be aware that most if not all new graphics cards Nvidia or ATI ( Or a subset like powercolor ) all have poor OGL support and if you use the cards for modeling with sketchup or 3dMax or similar CAD programs they are useless. If you are a modeler get recommendations from your software supplier or your gray hairs will increase accordingly

    We recently tried ATI Pwrclr AGP 3650 and the performance and support was atrocious
  • avatar_raq
    Michael, I just wanted to say don't pay attention to cranky people that impose destructive criticism, you should have got used to them by now.
    Your article is so good and it answers questions I've had in mind for a long time about the diffrences between the available 8800 GTs for example, I guess the same results apply there, right?