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Sapphire Radeon HD 4890 ATOMIC Graphics Card

Sapphire ramps up the clocks of the HD 4890 and also straps a new cooler on for good measure. Can it stand out from the pack?

@ShawnBakerTW
Published Mon, Jul 6 2009 7:06 AM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Nov 3 2020 7:03 PM CST
Rating: 93%Manufacturer: Sapphire

Introduction


Sapphire HD 4890 ATOMIC Graphics Card



The ATOMIC series of cards is one that we really do get excited about when it comes to Sapphire products. Unlike a lot of other companies who overclock, Sapphire tend to really mix it up with this particular series. We don't only see some serious clock speeds, but also something fancy in the heatsink department which always helps bring the card to a new level.

With that said, we have high hopes for the ATOMIC version of the HD 4890 we have here today. We don't want a little bump in clock speeds, nor do we want a cooler that doesn't perform better than the stock cooler, be it in the temperature or noise department.

With the bar set high for the HD 4890 ATOMIC from Sapphire let's not delay any longer and see what exactly is going on with the card and find out if Sapphire is able to impress us with this ATOMIC version like other ones from the series have in the past.

The Package




From the word go the ATOMIC version of the Sapphire HD 4890 is looking epic. As soon as we pulled the box out of our ordinary brown box the card was sent in we were happy to see so much shine. And while I instantly thought how annoying it was going to be to photograph, it was still shiny, oh so shiny.

Sapphire HD 4890 ATOMIC Graphics Card


The front of the box is actually very plain, but elegant at the same time. We've got the ATOMIC logo with the model underneath. The bottom right corner has a Vapor-X logo which is in reference to the cooling solution Sapphire has opted for.

Sapphire HD 4890 ATOMIC Graphics Card


Turning to the back of the box, we have a run down on some of the product highlights while to the right we have some of the main features. We have a picture of a girl and we also see the ATOMIC logo along with the Vapor-X one again.

Sapphire HD 4890 ATOMIC Graphics Card


Moving inside, we've got that typical line up of CDs that Sapphire tends to offer which is always pretty impressive. Apart from the standard driver CD we have a copy of 3DMark Vantage along with some Cyberlink software. We've also got a manual along with a little case sticker which is always a nice touch.

Sapphire HD 4890 ATOMIC Graphics Card


The cable department has all the usual cables. From the right we have molex to 8-pin, molex to 6-pin, S-Video to RCA, component out dongle, DVI to HDMI, DVI to VGA and a Crossfire bridge. As far as extras go Sapphire has chosen to include a HDMI cable which is always nice, as even if you don't need it for the card there's a handy cable to have lying around as a lot of home theater equipment while supporting HDMI doesn't usually to offer a cable, meaning this is one less you have to purchase.

The Card




As we mentioned before, Sapphire always tends to mix it up in the cooling department when they attach the ATOMIC naming scheme to a model and as you can see below this model is no different with a more traditional type fan/heatsink being used.

Sapphire HD 4890 ATOMIC Graphics Card


We can see in the middle of a card a fan which is placed directly over the top of the core. We also see that Sapphire has a sticker on the card which again shows the ATOMIC and Vapor-X logo that we saw on the front and rear of the box. We've also got the Sapphire logo on the fan along with the ATI one and the model in the top right corner.

Sapphire HD 4890 ATOMIC Graphics Card


Having a look at the top of the card, we can see that Sapphire has opted for a heat pipe design. We have four that come from the core and move out to the aluminum heatsink; this just helps move the heat away from the core and get it off the card.

Sapphire HD 4890 ATOMIC Graphics Card


While we tend to see connectors that resemble the reference model, it's a bit different here. While we still have two power connectors at the back of the card, one is an 8-pin; other HD 4890s we've seen use a dual 6-pin setup.

Sapphire HD 4890 ATOMIC Graphics Card


As for the front of the card there isn't anything out of the ordinary here with our two Crossfire connectors being present which of course gives us the ability to run up to three of these bad boys in a single PC.

Sapphire HD 4890 ATOMIC Graphics Card


The I/O department doesn't hold anything we haven't seen before. There's two Dual Link DVI connectors, a single TV-Out port and a bunch of vents which lets the hot air get out the back of the card and out of your system.


Specifications

The clocks are where the ATOMIC version of the card should really shine and shine they do. With a stock GPU clock of 1000MHz we've got some serious power on offer here.

Sapphire HD 4890 ATOMIC Graphics Card


What we can also see is that Sapphire has ramped up the memory clock from 3900MHz QDR to 4200MHz QDR. What these increases should result in is a nice little performance increase in most games and at most resolutions.

Test System Setup and 3DMark Vantage


Test System Setup

Processor(s): Intel i7 920 @ 3.8GHz (190MHz x 20)
Cooling: Noctua NH-U12P (Supplied by Noctua)
Motherboard(s): GIGABYTE EX58-UD5 (Supplied by GIGABYTE)
Memory: 3 X 2GB OCZ Technology PC-12800 DDR-3 8-8-8-24 (OCZ3G1600LV6GK)
Hard Disk(s): Western Digital 300GB Velicorapter (Supplied by Western Digital)
Operating System: Windows XP Professional SP2, Windows Vista SP1 64-Bit
Drivers: Catalyst 9.5


Today we'll see how this overclock affects overall performance when compared to a stock clocked card like the ASUS HD 4890 Voltage Tweak we looked at recently. We'll also see if the ATOMIC version of the HD 4890 from Sapphire runs any cooler, quieter or manages to draw more or less power than a reference design card.


3DMark Vantage

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.1
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmarkvantage/
Buy It Here




3DMark Vantage is the new industry standard PC gaming performance benchmark from Futuremark, newly designed for Windows Vista and DirectX10. It includes two new graphics tests, two new CPU tests, several new feature tests, and support for the latest hardware.

3DMark Vantage is based on a completely new rendering engine, developed specifically to take full advantage of DirectX10, the new graphics API from Microsoft.


Sapphire HD 4890 ATOMIC Graphics Card


In our first test we see the extra MHz on offer yields a pretty nice performance increase. The best increase can be seen at the higher X setting.

Benchmarks - PT Boats: Knights of the Sea


PT Boats: Knights of the Sea

Version and / or Patch Used: Benchmark Demo
Developer Homepage: http://en.akella.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.pt-boats.net/





PT Boats: Knights of the Sea is a naval action simulator that places gamers in charge of a mosquito fleet of the Allied Forces, Russia or Germany during the height of World War II.

Using the latest Direct X 10 technology PT Boards - Knights of the Sea manages to apply a lot of stress to the components of today which in turn gives us quite an intensive benchmark.


Sapphire HD 4890 ATOMIC Graphics Card


Sapphire HD 4890 ATOMIC Graphics Card


At the lower resolutions we don't see much difference between the two cards. When we climb to 2560 x 1600, though, the Sapphire HD 4890 ATOMIC pulls out ahead and manages to get over that 30 FPS minimum.

Benchmarks - CINEBENCH R10


CINEBENCH R10

Version and / or Patch Used: Release 10
Developer Homepage: http://www.maxon.net/
Product Homepage: http://www.maxon.net




CINEBENCH is a real-world test suite that assesses your computer's performace capabilities. MAXON CINEBENCH is based on MAXON's award-winning animation software, CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. MAXON software has been used in blockbuster movies such as Spider-Man, Star Wars, The Chronicles of Narnia and many more.

MAXON CINEBENCH runs several tests on your computer to measure the performance of the main processor and the graphics card under real world circumstances. The benchmark application makes use of up to 16 CPUs or CPU cores and is available for Windows (32-bit and 64-Bit) and Macintosh (PPC and Intel-based).


Sapphire HD 4890 ATOMIC Graphics Card


CINEBENCH tends not to see much of a performance increase when it comes to overclocked cards, but here we can see the ATOMIC version of the Sapphire HD 4890 is almost 10% faster.

Benchmarks - World in Conflict


World in Conflict

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.0.5
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.massive.se
Product Homepage: http://www.worldinconflict.com





World in Conflict is a real-time strategy video game by Massive Entertainment and to be published by Sierra Entertainment for Windows (DX9 and DX10).

The game is set in 1989 where economic troubles cripple the Soviet Union and threaten to dissolve it. However, the title pursues a "what if" scenario where, in this case, the Soviet Union does not collapse and instead pursues a course of war to remain in power. It is an intensive new game is sure to put plenty of stress on even the latest graphics cards and we use the built-in benchmarking for our testing.


Sapphire HD 4890 ATOMIC Graphics Card


Sapphire HD 4890 ATOMIC Graphics Card


We see some good gains at the mid to high resolutions. The jump from 32 FPS to 37 FPS is nice and would ultimately offer you a smoother gaming experience which is what we like to see.

Benchmarks - Crysis Warhead


Crysis Warhead

Version and / or Patch Used: unpatched
Timedemo or Level Used: Airfield
Developer Homepage: http://www.crytek.com
Product Homepage: http://crysiswarhead.ea.com/
Buy It Here




Crysis Warhead updates and refines the gameplay of the original game through a sidestory plot involving Psycho, one of previous protagonist Nomad's allies. The game is a parallel story that follows Sergeant Michael "Psycho" Sykes, a character from the original Crysis, as he faces his own trials and challenges on the other side of the island during the time period of the first game.

It also showcases a new, enhanced and optimized version of CryEngine 2 using full DX10 extensions and is the first game developed by Crytek's Budapest studio.

Sapphire HD 4890 ATOMIC Graphics Card


Sapphire HD 4890 ATOMIC Graphics Card


Warhead is a bit different to the other games as we're seeing the best gains up to 1920 x 1200, where 2560 x 1600 isn't giving us much of an increase.

Benchmarks - Far Cry 2


Far Cry 2

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.01
Timedemo or Level Used: Ranch Long
Developer Homepage: http://www.ubi.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.farcry2.com/
Buy It Here




The Dunia Engine was built specifically for Far Cry 2 by the award-winning Ubisoft Montreal development team. It delivers the most realistic destructible environments, amazing special effects such as dynamic fire propagation and storm effects, real-time night-and-day cycle, dynamic music system, non-scripted enemy A.I. and so much more.


Sapphire HD 4890 ATOMIC Graphics Card


Sapphire HD 4890 ATOMIC Graphics Card


Across the board we see some good gains from Far Cry 2 with the best being seen at the lower resolution, much like we just saw in Crysis Warhead.

Benchmarks - S.T.A.L.K.E.R. - Clear Sky


S.T.A.L.K.E.R. - Clear Sky

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.5.07
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom Timedemo
Developer Homepage: http://www.gsc-game.com/
Product Homepage: http://cs.stalker-game.com/en/
Buy It Here




S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky, is the stand-alone prequel for S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl, a first-person shooter computer game by Ukrainian developer GSC Game World.[3] The game consists of a roughly 50/50 mix of new areas and old, remodeled areas from the previous game. The X-ray graphics engine has been updated to version 1.5 and includes DirectX 10 support (later patch 1.5.06 included DirectX 10.1). Additionally, the AI received an overhaul to accommodate the new faction wars feature.

Sapphire HD 4890 ATOMIC Graphics Card


Sapphire HD 4890 ATOMIC Graphics Card


The extra MHz on offer gives the HD 4890 the ability to run Clear Sky at resolutions up to 1920 x 1200 with a 30 FPS minimum, something that wasn't achievable with a stock clocked card.

Benchmarks - Left 4 Dead


Left 4 Dead

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom Timedemo
Developer Homepage: http://www.valvesoftware.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.l4d.com/
Buy It Here




Left 4 Dead uses the latest version of Valve's Source engine, with improvements such as multi-core processor support and physics-based animation to more realistically portray hair and clothing, and to improve physics interaction with enemies when shot or shoved in different body parts. Animation was also improved to allow characters to lean realistically when moving in curved paths.

Rendering and artificial intelligence were scaled up to allow for greater number of enemies who can navigate the world in better ways, such as climbing, jumping or breaking obstacles. Lighting has been enhanced with new self-shadowing normal mapping and advanced shadow rendering that is important to convey information about the environment and player actions.

Sapphire HD 4890 ATOMIC Graphics Card


Under L4D we can see a good jump in performance at all resolutions thanks to the extra MHz on offer from the ATOMIC version of the HD 4890.

Benchmarks - High Quality AA and AF


High Quality AA and AF

Our high quality tests let us separate the men from the boys and the ladies from the girls. If the cards weren't struggling before they will start to now.


Far Cry 2

Sapphire HD 4890 ATOMIC Graphics Card


Sapphire HD 4890 ATOMIC Graphics Card


While we see a nice bump in performance with the overclocked HD 4890 from Sapphire, it's not enough to make the game playable at these settings.


World In Conflict

Sapphire HD 4890 ATOMIC Graphics Card


Sapphire HD 4890 ATOMIC Graphics Card


We again see a nice little bump that equates to almost 10%, but unfortunately we're still under that 30 FPS minimum we want to see.


Left 4 Dead

Sapphire HD 4890 ATOMIC Graphics Card


Like our non AA tests, L4D sees a nice bump in performance again.

Benchmarks - World in Conflict - XP


World in Conflict

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.0.5
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.massive.se
Product Homepage: http://www.worldinconflict.com




World in Conflict is a real-time strategy video game by Massive Entertainment and to be published by Sierra Entertainment for Windows (DX9 and DX10) and the Xbox 360.

The game is set in 1989 where economic troubles cripple the Soviet Union and threaten to dissolve it. However, the title pursues a "what if" scenario where, in this case, the Soviet Union does not collapse and instead pursues a course of war to remain in power. It is an intensive new game is sure to put plenty of stress on even the latest graphics cards and we use the built-in benchmarking for our testing.

Sapphire HD 4890 ATOMIC Graphics Card


Sapphire HD 4890 ATOMIC Graphics Card


Moving to XP we see performance is up at all resolutions with the Sapphire HD 4890 ATOMIC.

Benchmarks - Far Cry 2 - XP


Far Cry 2

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.01
Timedemo or Level Used: Ranch Long
Developer Homepage: http://www.ubi.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.farcry2.com/
Buy It Here




The Dunia Engine was built specifically for Far Cry 2 by the award-winning Ubisoft Montreal development team. It delivers the most realistic destructible environments, amazing special effects such as dynamic fire propagation and storm effects, real-time night-and-day cycle, dynamic music system, non-scripted enemy A.I. and so much more.


Sapphire HD 4890 ATOMIC Graphics Card


Sapphire HD 4890 ATOMIC Graphics Card


Far Cry 2 sees a nice jump in performance. At 2560 x 1600 we're just a smidgen under that 30 FPS minimum, but a small change in the detail settings would make the game playable at this resolution.

Benchmarks - S.T.A.L.K.E.R. - Clear Sky - XP


S.T.A.L.K.E.R. - Clear Sky

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.5.07
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom Timedemo
Developer Homepage: http://www.gsc-game.com/
Product Homepage: http://cs.stalker-game.com/en/
Buy It Here




S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky, is the stand-alone prequel for S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl, a first-person shooter computer game by Ukrainian developer GSC Game World.[3] The game consists of a roughly 50/50 mix of new areas and old, remodeled areas from the previous game. The X-ray graphics engine has been updated to version 1.5 and includes DirectX 10 support (later patch 1.5.06 included DirectX 10.1). Additionally, the AI received an overhaul to accommodate the new faction wars feature.

Sapphire HD 4890 ATOMIC Graphics Card


Sapphire HD 4890 ATOMIC Graphics Card


A bump in performance at all resolutions here with the best increases being seen at the lower resolution.

Temperature and Sound Tests


Temperature Tests



With the TES 1326 Infrared Thermometer literally in hand we found ourselves getting real-world temperatures from the products we test at load (3D clock speeds).

There are two places we pull temperature from - the back of the card directly behind the core and if the card is dual slot and has an exhaust point we also pull a temperate from there, as seen in the picture.


Sapphire HD 4890 ATOMIC Graphics Card


As far as temperatures go there isn't much at all between the two cards.


Sound Tests



Pulling out the TES 1350A Sound Level Meter we find ourselves quickly yelling into the top of it to see how loud we can be.

After five minutes of that we get a bit more serious and place the device two CM away from the fan on the card to find the maximum noise level of the card when idle (2D mode) and in load (3D mode).


Sapphire HD 4890 ATOMIC Graphics Card


What we do see here is that the cooler is able to offer those temperatures at a lower noise level which is great.

Power Consumption Tests






Using our new PROVA Power Analyzer WM-01 or "Power Thingy" as it has become quickly known as to our readers, we are now able to find out what kind of power is being used by our test system and the associated graphics cards installed. Keep in mind; it tests the complete system (minus LCD monitor, which is plugged directly into AC wall socket).

There are a few important notes to remember though; while our maximum power is taken in 3DMark06 at the same exact point, we have seen in particular tests the power being drawn as much as 10% more. We test at the exact same stage every time; therefore tests should be very consistent and accurate.

The other thing to remember is that our test system is bare minimum - only a 7,200RPM SATA-II single hard drive is used without CD ROM or many cooling fans.

So while the system might draw 400 watts in our test system, placing it into your own PC with a number of other items, the draw is going to be higher.


Sapphire HD 4890 ATOMIC Graphics Card


The 8-pin connector instead of the 6-pin seems to use a little bit more power, but nothing we would be worried about.

Final Thoughts




The Sapphire HD 4890 manages to offer some serious power thanks to the massive 1000MHz core on offer which is way up on the already high 850MHz that a reference clocked card follows. It's also great to see that Sapphire hasn't just stopped with the core but also decided to ramp up the memory speeds which continues to help improve the overall performance of the card.

This serious performance comes at a cost, though, and you're looking at around 20% - 30% more expensive than a stock clocked model. What that extra money gets you is a better bundle than your standard base model, a better cooler that runs quieter along with a nice jump in performance.

If you want some serious speed, a quieter running card and don't mind spending the extra dollars, the ATOMIC version of the HD 4890 from Sapphire is an absolute awesome buy. If you don't want to spend that much yet still want a bit of a performance increase along with a new cooler, it might be worth looking at the TOXIC or Vapor-X version of the card which doesn't carry the high price tag.

All in all we've got a pretty kick ass card here and if you're looking for a top of the line HD 4890 this is the one worth looking at. In typical fashion Sapphire hasn't disappointed and makes good use of the ATOMIC name once again.

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Shawn takes care of all of our video card reviews. From 2009, Shawn is also taking care of our memory reviews, and from May 2011, Shawn also takes care of our CPU, chipset and motherboard reviews. As of December 2011, Shawn is based out of Taipei, Taiwan.

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