Radeon HD 4890 reviewed at PC Games Hardware

Sapphire Radeon HD 4890 Vapor-X with 2 GiByte reviewed

Today PC Games Hardware tests Sapphire's Radeon HD 4890 Vapor-X with 2 GiByte VRAM and checks if the card can beat its 1 GiByte sibling.
Sapphire HD 4890 Vapor-X 2G (23)
Sapphire HD 4890 Vapor-X 2G (23) [Source: view picture gallery]
Sapphire Radeon HD 4890 Vapor-X 2G reviewed: Introduction
The Vapor-X series from Sapphire is equipped with a custom cooling solution that is based on the Vapor Chamber Technology: a vaporization effect is used to make the heat transfer from the GPU to the aluminum fins of the cooler more effective. Due to this cooling solution Sapphire is able to ship the Radeon HD 4890 Vapor-X with increased clock speeds: 870/1,050 MHz instead of the default values of 850/975 MHz. In this version the amount of video memory is also doubled to 2,048 MiByte.

The eight memory chips on the front side are cooled by the airstream provided by the 75 millimeter fan, while the chips on the back of the PCB are cooled by an aluminum panel. A part of the heat can be pushed out of the case through the slot cover. The voltage converters get little fresh air only because of the cooler's plastic cover - but even if stressed with Furmark the Radon HD 4890 Vapor-X didn't have any problems because of that.

In the table below you can find the most important technical specifications:

The equipment of the 2 GB Vapor-X matches the accessories of the 1 GB version: Besides the "Ruby Rom” with the demo versions and a DVD with drivers the range of delivery contains Cyberlink's DVD-Suite, PowerDVD and the Advanced Edition of Futuremark's 3DMark Vantage. Two adaptations for the power supply (Molex to 6-pin PCI-E) and a Crossfire Bridge cap of the equipment. The selection of video connectors is exemplary: Dual-link DVI, HDMI, D-sub and display Port.

The chart below shows the results of our loudness and cooling tests.

As typical for a HD 4890 the sample only lowers the frequency of the GPU to 240 MHz if running in 2D mode. The GDDR 5 VRAM is always running at full speed - an explanation for the high power consumption in idle mode (15 watt above a default HD 4890). On workload the Vapor-X 2G needs 20 watt (games) respectively 43 watt (Furmark) more than a regular HD 4890 board. According to Sapphire this is not a peculiarity of our sample but, as it applies to the 1 GB version, too, normal for the card.

In comparison to the 1 GB model Sapphire has overhauled the fan control: In 2D mode the Vapor-X now reaches only 0.4 sone and even on workload it is almost "silent” and in games the card never exceeds 2.9 sone. But after 5 minutes in Furmark the peak loudness reaches 6.4 sone. For comparison: AMD's default design of the HD 4890 reaches up to 6.2 sone in Race Driver: Grid - therefore Sapphire's Vapor-X can still be called the most silent air cooled HD 4890.

Please pay attention to the fact that the real power consumption of the graphics card had been recorded - in three different scenarios. Besides the idle mode while running the Windows desktop and the game test with Race Driver: Grid we also challenged the card with the "Xtreme Burning Mode” of the Furmark which represents a worst-case scenario. The loudness of the card was recorded at a distance of 50 centimeters.

Sapphire Radeon HD 4890 Vapor-X reviewed: Benchmarks
We tested the performance of the Sapphire Radeon HD 4890 Vapor-X 2G in four popular games. For comparison we also deliver the results for the Vapor-X with 1 GB VRAM as well as a Geforce GTX 275 with 896 MiByte VRAM which is on a similar price level. For more benchmarks see or Radeon HD 4890 review.

Sapphire Radeon HD 4890 Vapor-X 2G reviewed: Overclocking
Due to the Vapor-X cooling and the well equipped PCB the Sapphire card offers good overclocking capabilities. Our sample runs Crysis stable at 930/1,180 MHz - for comparison: The version with 1 Gibyte reached superior 970/1,220 MHz. The other HD 4890s we tested up to now reached 935 to 980 MHz GPU and 1,100 to 1,180 MHz VRAM frequency. Please bear in mind that overclocking is a little like lottery and that each single graphics card has individual capabilities.

Sapphire Radeon HD 4890 Vapor-X reviewed: Conclusion
Quiet cooling, overclocked ex factory and a good software package are the positive aspects of the Sapphire HD 4890 Vapor-X. The doubled amount of video memory only comes into effect if you at least play at 1,920 x 1,200 pixels with 8x MSAA and texture modifications. Compared to the default card the Sapphire model is about 5 to 10 percent faster and only half as loud. But the power consumption is extraordinarily high.

If you don't mind the higher loudness and don't need the bigger framebuffer you can take the default HD 4890 (about 155 Euros). Nvidia's Geforce GTX 275 with 1,792 MiByte VRAM (about 230 Euros) is a valid alternative to Sapphire's Radeon HD 4890 Vapor-X 2G: On average it is equally fast, but its lower noise level as well as the optional HQ AF and SSAA/Hybrid modes are tempting.

Picture gallery  (enlarge to view source)

Author: Marc Sauter (Jul 27, 2009)

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