Summary: At load ATI's stock 4870 cards can push 80 degrees during gaming, and over 60 at idle. But what if these temps are too high for you? If that's the case, you should take a long look at the Sapphire Toxic 4870. The card ships with vapor chamber and heatpipe cooling technology, delivering GPU temps that are drastically lower than ATI's stock cooler. The card is also OC'ed for increased performance. See how it stacks up against other cards in its class in this review!
We’re huge fans of ATI’s Radeon 4800 series GPUs. Both the Radeon 4850 and 4870 rewrote the rules when it comes to performance at their respective price segments, forcing NVIDIA to slash prices on their entire GeForce graphics lineup -- the GTX 260 and GTX 280 saw their prices reduced by hundreds of dollars thanks to the introduction of the 4870 and 4870 X2 GPUs.
The Radeon 4850 and 4870 were also the first mainstream GPUs to deliver viable frame rates when gaming with 8xAA.
The one key weakness of the Radeon 4800s are their stock coolers. The heatsink/fan units ATI developed for both the Radeon 4850 and Radeon 4870 are more focused on keeping noise at bay than actually keeping the GPU cool. GPU temps in the 60 degree Celsius range are typical for 4800 GPUs while idling at the Windows desktop, while load temps can hover in the 80-degree range during gaming.
In comparison NVIDIA’s GeForce 9800 GTX and GTX 260 GPUs typically peak in the mid-to-high 60s at load.
Fortunately the 4800 GPU is designed to operate at these high temperatures. The GPU doesn’t throttle or overheat, even after extended gaming sessions where the GPU is exposed to high temps for a prolonged period of time. However many end users are uncomfortable with their GPU operating at such high temps, after all excessive heat can affect overall system stability and can eventually prematurely kill system components. Besides dust, the #1 cause of most fan failures is excessive exposure to heat.
To tackle this problem ATI’s board partners have developed newer Radeon 4850 and 4870 coolers that are more effective at combating heat while generating very little to no noise.
Sapphire’s Toxic HD 4870 was one of the first Radeon 4870 cards designed to address this problem. The card was also one of the first 4870 boards to hit the market with factory OC’ed clocks.
Improving on the ATI cooling
At the heart of Sapphire’s Toxic HD 4870 512MB is its cooler. Rather than rely on a traditional heatsink/fan unit, Sapphire employs a custom cooling design that consists of their vapor chamber cooling technology (VCT) along with three copper heat pipes and one massive fan. First let’s discuss the vapor chamber cooling.
But Sapphire doesn’t stop there. Cooling the VCT is a massive dual-slot heatsink along with three long copper heatpipes. Heat from the VCT is absorbed by the heatpipes, while the aluminum heatsink works to disperse heat off the heat pipes (the heatsink also cools the board’s memory modules).
Keeping everything cool is a 90mm fan. By using such a large fan (many case fans are smaller than this), Sapphire doesn’t have to crank up the RPMs in order to move a lot of air. This helps to keep noise levels down. Air from the fan is then exhausted outside the PC case.
We saw drastically reduced GPU temps thanks to Sapphire’s unique cooling solution. The cooler’s fan also generates very little noise during use. Full cooling results can be found on the Overclocking page of this review.
Supercharged clocks and the rest of the card
To improve performance, Sapphire also OCs their Toxic 4870 card. The graphics core clock is bumped up 30MHz over stock to 780MHz, while the board’s 512MB of GDDR5 is clocked at 1.0GHz even. In comparison the Radeon 4870’s memory runs at 900MHz in stock form.
Intel Core 2 Duo E8600
ASUS P5E3 Premium WiFi AP Edition
4GB OCZ DDR3 Platinum @ 1333MHz
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 260
EVGA e-GeForce GTX 260 Core 216 (stock GTX 260 clocks)
XFX GeForce GTX 260 Black Edition
Sapphire Toxic 4870 512MB
AMD Radeon HD 4870 512MB
AMD Radeon HD 4870 1GB
300GB Western Digital Caviar SE
Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit w/Service Pack 1
Call of Duty: World at War
Since CoD: World at War, Dead Space, and Fallout 3 lack built-in tools for benchmarking, we used FRAPS to test these games. Our test sequence for CoD comes from the end of the last level, just as you’re set to leave the prison camp your character is asked to slice a fuel drum lying in the back of a truck. The truck is then driven right into the camp, where the trail of fuel is ignited, setting off a chain of explosions. Our FRAPS run records this entire sequence, and then we proceed to run into the camp.
Crysis High – Direct3D
OC’ed clock speeds: Like most Toxic cards, Sapphire overclocks their board from the factory for better-than-stock performance. The graphics core on the Toxic is clocked at 780MHz, 30MHz higher than the 4870’s stock core clock of 750MHz. The board’s memory is then OC’ed to 1GHz. In stock form the Radeon 4870’s memory runs at 900MHz.
Radeon 4870 1GB: Radeon 4870 1GB cards can be found for as little as $275 on Newegg, that’s just $5 more than Sapphire’s own Toxic card on the site (although Sapphire offers a $20 mail-in rebate bringing the Toxic’s price down to $250). 1GB boards are going to become increasingly popular over the next 12 months as newer games come to market.