Sapphire Radeon HD 5870 1GB Vapor-X Video Card

New games, DirectX 11 and Windows 7. Let's see how the Vapor-X OC HD 5870 from Sapphire handles our new benchmark lineup.

Manufacturer: SapphireTech
13 minutes & 46 seconds read time


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There's no denying that competition in the video card market is tough. It's even tougher for companies like HIS and Sapphire who only find themselves working for one side of the heated video card battle. With Sapphire only releasing ATI based cards, it means the company has to start to offer something more than the standard model sooner rather than later.

The good news is the company is on their game; just over a month after the release of the HD 5870 we're seeing the model get some special treatment from Sapphire. While they do offer quite a few series of cards like ATOMIC and TOXIC, the particular one we're looking at today comes in under the newer Vapor-X name.

The main focus of the Vapor-X series is cooling. With that said, though, it doesn't mean Sapphire can't have a bit of fun with the clock speeds. What we'll do before we have a closer look at those clocks is check out what's going on in the bundle. After that we'll then take a closer look at the card and see the new cooler that Sapphire is giving us.

If all that wasn't exciting enough, the HD 5870 Vapor-X from Sapphire is the first card that's going to be taken for a spin on our new benchmark setup. While the hardware hasn't changed due to the simple fact it's still some of the best on the market, we have moved to the new DirectX 11 enabled Windows 7 and also added a whole slew of new benchmarks including some new synthetic ones and real world games. The particulates? Well, you'll just have to wait a few pages to see. For now let's check out the package that Sapphire are offering.

The Package

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The bundle Sapphire has put together is great; they've got the standard bundle going on with all the necessary cables. We can also see that they've included the Dirt 2 voucher that we've enjoyed seeing in many of Sapphire's offerings.

What makes the package really stand out, though, is the inclusion of a second game; in this case Battlestations Pacific which is something we've seen before from Sapphire's higher end cards.

Video Card

Coming in as part of the Vapor-X series, the biggest change you notice is of course the new cooler. The fan is now centered in the middle of the GPU; other major changes include the more traditional fan style along with a larger diameter which comes in at 92mm.

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Around the fan we have a shroud which looks great. We've got some vents and holes which make it look quite mean. The company has also placed stickers over the cooler to let us know the model, brand and what series the card sits in and we've got to say the small design and subtle placement looks great, making the whole card look more classy than anything else.

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While the cooler has changed, the overall layout of connectors hasn't. Towards the back of the card we have two 6-Pin PCI-E connectors, while along the top and closer to the front we have our two CrossFire connectors which give us the ability to run up to three HD 5870s together.

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The connectivity on the standard HD 5870 is so good that we'll be surprised if anyone changes that side of things. What that means is we have two Dual-Link DVI connectors along with a single HDMI and Display Port. We've also got a little vent that sits next to one of the Dual-Link DVI connectors which will help push the hot air out of the card and system.


As we mentioned in the intro, just because the main focus of the Vapor-X is the cooling, it doesn't mean that Sapphire can't take the time to do a little something with the clock speeds as well.

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While there isn't anything too amazing here, it's good to see a small bump. What we're seeing is the core gets a small 20MHz bump to 870MHz, while the 1GB of GDDR5 moves from 4800MHz QDR to a more rounded 5000MHz QDR. We're not yet sure what kind of boost this small bump will offer us, but we'll find out soon enough.

Test System Setup and 3DMark Vantage

Test System Setup

Processor(s): Intel Core 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 Kingston Hyper X PC3-16000 2000MHz DDR CL9 (Supplied by Kingston)
Hard Disk(s): Western Digital 300GB Velicorapter (Supplied by Kingston)
Operating System: Windows 7
Drivers: ATI Catalyst 9.10

Due to the fact that we've moved to a new operating system and added a whole bunch of new benchmarks, we ultimately find that all the results we have from our Vista tests are completely useless. What this means is that initially the number of cards in our benchmarks are limited. As we test more and more cards under the new setup it will quickly grow.

What that means is that for today we'll simply be comparing the HD 5870 Vapor-X from Sapphire against the standard HD 5870 from the same company. With heaps of new benchmarks and the ability to now test DirectX 11, we'll get straight into it. We won't go into what we've added, what we've removed and why we've done it. Instead we'll just get stuck into the benchmarks where you can find what is new.

Let's get started!

3DMark Vantage

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.1
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:
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.

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With only a small overclock on offer from the Vapor-X series of cards, it doesn't come as much of a surprise that there's only a small bump in performance numbers here when compared to the standard model.

Unigine Heaven Benchmark (DX10 & DX11)

Unigine Heaven Benchmark

Version and / or Patch Used: 1
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:

New benchmark grants the power to unleash the DirectX 11 potential in the gift wrapping of impressively towering graphics capabilities. It reveals the enchanting magic of floating islands with a tiny village hidden in the cloudy skies. With the interactive mode emerging experience of exploring the intricate world is ensured within reach. Through its advanced renderer, Unigine is one of the first to set precedence in showcasing the art assets with tessellation, bringing compelling visual finesse, utilizing the technology to the full extend and exhibiting the possibilities of enriching 3D gaming.

Note: If a card doesn't support DirectX 11 the benchmark will be left out. If it does it will be included along with the DirectX 10 results.

Direct X 10

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Looking at the first of our new benchmarks, we again see the same small increase in performance when compared to the stock model. It doesn't come as too much of a surprise once again since we're only dealing with a slight overclock.

Direct X 11

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We can see compared to the DX 10 test the numbers are down. Again, though, that small performance increase from the Vapor-X is extremely consistent which is something we like to see.

Benchmarks - CINEBENCH R10


Version and / or Patch Used: Release 10
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:

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).

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While the Vapor-X model sees a bit of a bump here, it's nothing more than fluctuation under CINEBENCH. We know this because the program has never been able to make any use of overclocked cards and the extra MHz they offer.

Benchmarks - Resident Evil 5

Resident Evil 5

Version and / or Patch Used: Demo Benchmark
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:

Resident Evil 5 is a survival horror video game developed and published by Capcom. The game is the seventh installment in the Resident Evil survival horror series, and was released on September 18. Resident Evil 5 revolves around Chris Redfield and Sheva Alomar as they investigate a terrorist threat in Kijuju, a fictional town in Africa.

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Getting into real world games, we can see that at 1680 x 1050 there's very little difference between the two cards. While the gaps continue to be minor, as we climb up the resolution table the Vapor-X and its small overclock manages to give the card a consistent little bump in performance.

Benchmarks - Far Cry 2

Far Cry 2

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.01
Timedemo or Level Used: Ranch Long
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:
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.

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We continue to see that small bump in performance which is due to the small increase in MHz on both the core and memory clock. We never expected to see a huge difference when it came to testing the two cards for the simple reason that the overclock is only small.

Benchmarks - World in Conflict

World in Conflict

Version and / or Patch Used:
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:

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 that is sure to put plenty of stress on even the latest graphics cards. We use the built-in benchmarking for our testing.

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We see for the most part a small bump in performance for the Vapor-X model. More importantly, though, we're above that 30 FPS minimum at all resolutions including the highest 2560 x 1600 setup.

Benchmarks - Batman Arkham Asylum

Batman Arkham Asylum

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:

Batman: Arkham Asylum exposes players to a unique, dark and atmospheric adventure that takes them to the depths of Arkham Asylum - Gotham's psychiatric hospital for the criminally insane. Gamers will move in the shadows, instigate fear amongst their enemies and confront The Joker and Gotham City's most notorious villains who have taken over the asylum.

Using a wide range of Batman's gadgets and abilities, players will become the invisible predator and attempt to foil The Joker's demented scheme.
Batman: Arkham Asylum features an original story penned exclusively for the game by famous Batman author and five-time Emmy award winner Paul Dini, whose credits include Lost season one and Batman: The Animated Series.

Note: With support for PhysX NVIDIA based cards will be tested with the technology on and off, while ATI cards will be tested with the technology off due to it not being supported on their cards.

Without PhysX

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While we're not able to make use of PhysX due to the technology being tied from NVIDIA, we're able to still get a beautiful gaming experience at all resolutions including the ultra high 2560 x 1600 setup. We also again see that the few extra MHz that the Vapor-X HD 5870 is offering manages to give us a bump in performance.

Benchmarks - Darkest of Days

Darkest of Days

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.4
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:

Darkest of Days takes the player through time into historic battles in an effort to save key individuals from certain death. The battles range from Custer's Last Stand at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876 to fighting in Pompeii as ash and fire rain down from an erupting Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD. Other locations include the battles of Antietam and Tannenberg, and a German World War II P.O.W. camp. There are different missions in every time period and the game takes about 4 hours to complete.

The game features over twenty weapons, both from the original time period as well as those brought back from the future. In addition, there are artillery weapons from different time periods to assist in battle.

Note: With the PhysX set to Medium or High, Darkest of Days takes advantage of the NVIDIA PhysX abilities. For that reason we will test ATI cards at the Low preset, while NVIDIA based cards will be tested at Low and High.

PhysX set to Low

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Apart from the 1680 x 1050 minimum, we see the Vapor-X HD 5870 again outperform the stock clocked model including a higher average at 1680 x 1050.

Benchmarks - BattleForge


Version and / or Patch Used: Auto Patched at Load
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:

The Gods have disappeared and the old sun has died, letting a vile twilight engulf the world of Nyn. In exchange for all treasures the mortals possessed, the evil giants agreed to forge a new sun and hurl it into the sky.

But the deal was betrayed, the treasure stolen and now the mortals flee the wrath of the giants. Under the light of a new sun the mortals stumble into a world changed and twisted by an age of twilight. The long journey home has become a conquest of survival.

Note: Supporting DirectX 11, we have separated the graphs for NVIDIA and ATI cards. While the numbers between the two brands can be compared, you have to make note that ATI based HD 5000 series cards are running DirectX 11.

DirectX 11 (ATI HD 5000 Series Only)

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We continue to see that across the board the performance jumps with the HD 5870 Vapor-X from Sapphire.

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.

Resident Evil 5

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Turning up the image quality, the HD 5870 Vapor-X continues to see that small bump in performance.

Far Cry 2

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With another small bump in performance we can see the extra MHz on offer from the Vapor-X version of the HD 5870 does help slightly. Unfortunately the HD 5870 isn't the best performer under Far Cry 2 with AA and AF on.

World In Conflict

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Another nice bump in performance with the Vapor-X OC HD 5870, it's just unfortunate that the minimum FPS is below 30.

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.

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Cooling is one of the main features that the Vapor-X offers. Compared to the standard HD 5870 we can see a 4c drop which translates to being almost 10% lower.

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).

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The lower temperatures also manage to come in with the card making no more noise. In this case it's actually a little quieter.

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.

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It doesn't come as any real surprise that there's very little difference in the power draw between the two cards.

Final Thoughts

It's always great to implement some new benchmarks into our video card line-up. The simple fact is that when it comes to purchasing a computer, the video card is one of the most looked at items. By offering more benchmarks that make use of the latest technology, we're able to give you an even greater idea of how the card will perform in current and future releases using technology like DX11 and PhysX where applicable.

The HD 5870 faired very well with a lot of the new games we're using today. We see the model perform strong under the new Batman Arkham Asylum game at all resolutions while also performing well in other games like the new DX11 based BattleForge.

It's also great to see new cooling options on a high-end model and even better when the said cooling offers us better numbers. In this case we manage to get a drop in temperature while also receiving a drop in noise levels. When it comes to comparing a new cooler to its stock one, there's nothing more you can ask for.

If that wasn't enough for you already, you'll find yourself excited by the fact that Sapphire have not only given us a small bump in MHz which gives us a consistent increase in performance, but also a couple of full version games including the future DirectX 11 title, Dirt 2.

Really, the only thing we can fault about the whole card is that it would've been nice to see a bigger bump in the core and memory clock, especially since the cooler that Sapphire are using manages to do a good job of keeping core temperatures down.

With that said, we completely understand why the MHz hasn't been bumped even higher. The cream of the crop for Sapphire when it comes to performance models is the ATOMIC version and we don't doubt they're saving the big clocks for that model. You also have the ability to overclock the card yourself, be it with the internal Overdrive feature or using 3rd party software.

With all that said and done, it's very hard to fault the HD 5870 Vapor-X OC from Sapphire. The simple fact is we've got better cooling numbers, less noise and more performance than the stock model. Sapphire has also helped add a second game to the package to make it stand out that little bit more.

If you're looking for a HD 5870 that stands out a bit more than the normal one, the Vapor-X version is one model worth looking at. If you want even more out of the box performance and you don't mind waiting a little longer, the inevitable ATOMIC version of the card might be what you're after.

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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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