PC Games Hardware graphics card review

Sapphire Radeon HD 5870 Vapor-X Rev. 2 with custom PCB reviewed

Sapphire's Radeon HD 5870 Vapor-X gets a new board. PC Games Hardware tested th new revision and compares it to the old version.
Vapor-X Rev.1 vs Rev. 2: The PCB of the old card (above) is one centimeter longer than the new one (below).
Vapor-X Rev.1 vs Rev. 2: The PCB of the old card (above) is one centimeter longer than the new one (below). [Source: view picture gallery]
Spphire Radeon HD 5870 Vapor-X Rev. 2
The Vapor-X tag indicates graphics cards with an enhanced cooling solution. Sapphire usually uses the system for overclocked Radeon cards. The old version of the Vapor-X HD 5870 was running at 870/2,500 MHz (GPU/VRAM), while the new revision draws level with Powercolor's water cooled LCS 5870 and offers 875/2,500 MHz. This improvement actually is just for show, since the effect on the performance is only minimal. Besides the sightly increased clock speeds the new Sapphire card offers some additional extras: Sapphire integrated an HDMI connector in addition to the default array of two Dual-Link DVIs and the Displayport.

Vapor-X Rev.1 vs Rev. 2: Rear side
Vapor-X Rev.1 vs Rev. 2: Rear side [Source: view picture gallery]
Sapphire Radeon HD 5870 Vapor-X Rev. 2 reviewed: Old versus New
The PCB of the renovated HD 5870 Vapor-X has been developed by Sapphire, while its predecessor was based on the default version from AMD. Besides the color (Sapphire blue instead of black), length and layout were changed. The new PCB is one centimeter shorter than the old one: 26.7 versus 27.7 centimeters. But the two 6-pin power connectors now point to the rear and thus the power cables affect the overall length, too. More differences are related to some SMDs and the voltage regulators. The latter ones cannot be addressed with the latest version of the MSI Afterburner tool for example - so overvolting is currently not possible.

The SKU (Stock Keeping Unit) of the cards is also different. The old HD 5870 Vapor-X starts with a 2, like in 21161-03, while the new revision starts with a 1, like in 11161-03. So it's recommendable to have the SKU confirmed by the vendor before buying a Vapor-X.

The new Radoen HD 5870 Vapor-X comes with a lot of accessories, but the old version still had more gimmicks: Besides two power adaptations from Molex to 6-pin PCI Express, a Crossfire bridge and a DVI-VGA adaptation the box still contains a code for Colin McRae Dirt 2. Battlestations: Pacific has been cut. By the way: The Sapphire HD 5870 Vapor-X is only sold as a full retail version. A Lite Retail with fewer accessories does not exist officially.

Below you can find the loudness and cooling capabilities of the Sapphire Radeon HD 5870 Vapor-X.

Sapphire didn't change the cooling solution of the new Vapor-X: the 85 millimeter fan exhausts a part of the warm air from the case while the rest is kept in the circulation. The plastic cover directs the airstream over the aluminum heatsink and the voltage converters. The Vapor-X chamber is supported by three heatpipes. In difference to the old Vapor-X the VRMs are not covered by the GPU heatsink, but a separate aluminum block.

The fan control has been adjusted for the new revision - with positive and negative effects: The Radeon HD 5870 Vapor-X Rev.2 reaches 0.8 Sone in idle mode, which actually is inaudible in a closed PC case. But in hard numbers this is twice as much as the old HD 5870 Vapor-X (0.4 Sone) reaches. Well, in an average gaming machine this doesn't matter, but given the low GPU temperature which is noticeably below 40 degrees Celsius, this step is somehow strange nevertheless. On gaming workload (Race Driver Grid at 1920 x 1200 with 8x MSAA and 16:1 AF) the overhauled Vapor-X reaches excellent 1.7 Sone - the old version went up to 2.3 Sone. But the reduction of the noise level doesn't come for free: Both, temperatures and power consumption, are increased.

Please mind that the real power consumption of the cards has been measured in three different workload scenarios: Besides the desktop idle of Windows Vista x64 SP2, we ran the Xtreme Burning Mode of Furmark 1.6.5 and Race Driver: Grid. The loudness has been recorded at a distance of 50 centimeters.

Sapphire Radeon HD 5870 Vapor-X Rev. 2 reviewed: Benchmarks
We have tested the new Radeon HD 5870 Vapor-X in four popular games and compared the results with the old version of the card and the stock model of the HD 5870. For more benchmarks results of the HD 5870 please take a look at the article Radeon HD 5870: Review of the first DirectX 11 graphics card.

Sapphire Radeon HD 5870 Vapor-X Rev. 2 reviewed: Overclocking
Since Sapphire uses less expensive voltage regulators on the new revision the overvolting options are cut. At default GPU voltage the Rev. 2 runs stable at 940/2,700 MHz - our sample of the old version reached 960/2800 MHz. since the overclocking capabilities of every graphics card are different, we don't draw a general conclusion if the new Vapor-X is better for overclocking attempts or not.

Sapphire Radeon HD 5870 Vapor-X Rev. 2 reviewed: Conclusion
The Sapphire HD 5870 Vapor-X Rev. 2 is a very good high-end DirectX 11 graphics card. The cooling solution is much quieter than the stock design and keeps the chip on lower temperatures - all custom solutions created by other manufacturers will have to compete with this. In comparison with its predecessor the Sapphire Radeon HS 5870 Vapor-X Rev. 2 benefits from a lower loudness on gaming and extreme workload. On the other hand it is slightly louder in idle mode, needs more energy and comes with a game less.

Since according to Sapphire the first version of the HD 5870 Vapor-X is not shipped anymore, chances are bad to get such a card. If you want to have one nevertheless, always have the exact SKU confirmed by the vendor and use it to distinguish between the two revisions.

Picture gallery  (enlarge to view source)

Author: Raffael Vötter (Jan 29, 2010)

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