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Sapphire Radeon HD 6870 1GB Vapor-X Video Card Review

The latest addition of the Vapor-X line is the HD 6870. We check out this variation from Sapphire and give you the low down.
@ShawnBakerTW
Shawn Baker
Published Sun, Mar 6 2011 10:12 PM CST   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:30 PM CDT
Rating: 93%Manufacturer: SapphireTech

Introduction and Package

Introduction

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It's been a bit of an AMD love fest lately when it's come to VGA with a lot of HD 6000 series making their way through the doors. It's not all that uncommon, though, as we tend to see a few months after launch companies start to release their different variations of the models that we begin to know and love.

Some choose to overclock, others choose to throw a new cooler on it, while some just go all out and do both. Today we're checking out the Vapor-X version of the HD 6870 which is a series we've grown fond of over the years thanks to the superior cooling it's offered over reference cooled cards.

With the HD 6000 series running a little warmer than people previously had hoped, it seems like the perfect candidate for a new cooler. So what kind of performance do we get from the card and does the cooler bring with it lower temperature, lower noise, or even both?

Well, before we find that out, let's check out the package, the card and then the specifications of the card in hand.

The Package

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Cable wise we've got a pretty impressive array included. Apart from all the normal stuff we've also got a HDMI cable and mini-DP to DP connector. One of the better AMD card bundles we've seen when it comes to cables.

Card and Specifications

The Card

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Looking at the card, you may mistake it for something we've seen before. The good news is you're not mistaken and indeed we've seen this cooler with the Sapphire HD 6970 1GB we recently looked at also carrying it. It did a good job on that higher end card, so it will be interesting to see how it performs on the model down.

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Power comes to us in the form of two 6-Pin PCI-E power connectors, while we've got support for one other card with a single Crossfire connector. Connectivity also doesn't hold any surprises with two DVI connectors, one Single-Link, the other Dual-Link, HDMI and two mini-DP.

Specifications

On the specification front there's no surprises with the reference clocks being seen on the card here today. As you can see below, that brings the core in at a nice round sounding 900MHz.

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As for the 1GB of GDDR5, that carries with it the same reference clock speeds which bring it in at 1050MHz or 4200MHz QDR.

Test System Setup and 3DMark 11

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We would like to thank the following companies for supplying and supporting us with our test system hardware and equipment: Intel, ASRock, Kingston, Mittoni, Noctua and Corsair.

For the most part we're not expecting any shockers when it comes to performance of the card, as it carries with it the default clock speeds. Where we hope the card shines is in the cooling department. With that said, for your viewing pleasure we've got a bunch of cards including the lower end HD 6850, the higher end HD 6950 and the new mid-range beast from NVIDIA; the GTX 560 Ti.

Let's get started!

3DMark 11

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.3dmark.com/3dmark11/
Buy It Here




3DMark 11 is the latest version of the world's most popular benchmark. Designed to measure your PC's gaming performance 3DMark 11 makes extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11 including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading. Trusted by gamers worldwide to give accurate and unbiased results, 3DMark 11 is the best way to consistently and reliably test DirectX 11 under game-like loads.

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HD 6870 performance is really quite strong with it performing closer to the HD 6950 than the HD 6850 here under 3DMark 11.

3DMark Vantage

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.

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Performance continues to be strong with the card being closer to that higher end HD 6900 series model than the lower end HD 6850.

Unigine Heaven Benchmark

Unigine Heaven Benchmark

Version and / or Patch Used: 2
Developer Homepage: http://www.unigine.com
Product Homepage: http://unigine.com/press-releases/091022-heaven_benchmark//



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.

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Heaven performance unfortunately doesn't lean the same way, but AMD have really improved performance in this area, more so on its higher end HD 6900 series, though.

Benchmarks - Resident Evil 5

Resident Evil 5

Version and / or Patch Used: Demo Benchmark
Developer Homepage: www.residentevil.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.residentevil.com/




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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Across the board we've got good numbers here with the HD 6870 Vapor-X having no problems dealing with Resident Evil 5 even at the ultra-high 2560 x 1600 resolution.

Benchmarks - Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. 2

Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.2

Version and / or Patch Used: Benchmark Demo
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.ubi.com/UK/default.aspx
Product Homepage: http://www.hawxgame.com/




Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. 2 is an arcade-style flight action game developed by Ubisoft Romania and published by Ubisoft. The game is the sequel to Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X., released in 2009.

The game begins with Colonel David Crenshaw participating in a routine patrol mission in the Middle East. After halting an insurgent attack, a volley of missiles is fired at the Air Force base that Crenshaw was stationed at, with one of the missiles disabling Crenshaw's aircraft, resulting Crenshaw being in enemy captivity. A joint strike force composed of the U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, and a Ghost Recon squad executes an operation to rescue Crenshaw. In Scotland, Royal Navy Pilot Colin Munro encounters an unidentified passenger aircraft that explodes from an on-board bomb when undergoing training exercise. In Russia, an air force squadron led by Colonel Denisov and Captain Dmitri Sokov engages separatist aircraft but is ordered to retreat from the region after numerous Russian military installations have been attacked.

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While the AMD cards aren't as strong under HAWX 2 as the NVIDIA ones, it's important to know we still have good performance that puts the model over 60 FPS again at every resolution.

Benchmarks - Mafia II

Mafia II

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update
Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark
Developer Homepage: http://www.2kczech.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.mafia2game.com/
Buy It Here




Mafia II is a third-person action-adventure video game, the sequel to Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven. It is developed by 2K Czech, previously known as Illusion Softworks, and is published by 2K Games. The game is set from 1943 to 1951 in Empire Bay (the name is a reference to New York's state nickname "The Empire State"), a fictional city based on San Francisco and New York City, with influences from Chicago and Detroit. The game features a completely open-ended game map of 10 square miles. No restrictions are included from the start of the game. There are around 50 vehicles in the game, as well as licensed music from the era.

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While we don't see the same performance at all resolutions under Mafia II, we do see strong performance at 1920 x 1020 and 1680 x 1050. You can also see the kind of boost you get over the HD 6850 and at 1920 x 1200 moving well away from that 60 FPS average will be appreciated.

Benchmarks - Lost Planet 2

Lost Planet 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Benchmark Demo
Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark - Test A Scene 1
Developer Homepage: http://www.capcom.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.lostplanet2game.com/




Lost Planet 2 is a third-person shooter video game developed and published by Capcom. The game is the sequel to Lost Planet: Extreme Condition which is also made by Capcom, taking place ten years after the events of the first game, on the same fictional planet. The story takes place back on E.D.N. III 10 years after the events of the first game. The snow has melted to reveal jungles and more tropical areas that have taken the place of more frozen regions. The plot begins with Mercenaries fighting against Jungle Pirates. After destroying a mine, the Mercenaries continue on to evacuate the area, in which a Category-G Akrid appears and attacks them. After being rescued, they find out their evacuation point (Where the Category-G appeared) was a set-up and no pick up team awaited them. The last words imply possible DLC additions to the game, "There's nothing to be gained by wiping out snow pirates... unless you had some kind of grudge."

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We really see a lot of cards struggle under LP2, more so AMD ones which struggle to hit the 60 FPS average we want at any resolution. Here is no different and you can see even the HD 6950 runs into problems.

Benchmarks - Aliens vs. Predator

Aliens vs. Predator

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark
Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark
Developer Homepage: http://www.rebellion.co.uk/
Product Homepage: http://www.sega.com/games/aliens-vs-predator/




Aliens vs. Predator is a science fiction first-person shooter video game, developed by Rebellion Developments, the team behind the 1999 original PC game, and published by Sega for Microsoft Windows, the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360. The game is based on the Alien vs. Predator franchise, a combination of the characters and creatures of the Alien franchise and the Predator franchise. There are three campaigns in the game, one for each race/faction (the Predators, the Aliens and the Colonial Marines), that, while separate in terms of individual plot and gameplay, form one overarching storyline.

Following the storyline of the campaign modes comes the multiplayer aspect of the game. In this Multiplayer section of the game, players face off in various different gametypes in various different ways.

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Similar to LP2, Aliens vs. Predator is very intensive. Fortunately it's not as bad with the average we want being met at 1680 x 1050, even if it's just. The good news is that the AvP benchmark is actually more intensive than most of the game.

Benchmarks - Street Fighter IV

Street Fighter IV

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark
Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark
Developer Homepage: http://www.capcom.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.streetfighter.com/




While Street Fighter IV features models and backgrounds rendered in 3D, the gameplay remains on a traditional 2D plane, with the camera having freedom to move in 3D at certain times during fights, for dramatic effect. Producer Yoshinori Ono has stated that he wanted to keep the game closer to Street Fighter II. A new system called "Focus Attacks" ("Saving Attack" for the Japanese version) has been introduced, as well as Ultra moves. The traditional six-button control scheme returns, with new features and special moves integrated into the input system, mixing classic gameplay with additional innovations.

All the characters and environments in Street Fighter IV are rendered as 3D models with polygons, similar to the Street Fighter EX sub-series Capcom produced with Arika. However, there are a couple of key differences. Art director and character designer Daigo Ikeno, who previously worked on Street Fighter III 3rd Strike, opted for non-photorealistic rendering to give them a hand-drawn look, with visual effects accented in calligraphic strokes, ink smudges and ink sprays during the fights.

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No surprise we've got playable numbers under SFIV.

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.

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Like some of our earlier games we tested, the performance under Far Cry 2 is strong at all resolutions with the minimum numbers we want to achieve being seen at all resolutions.

Benchmarks - Batman Arkham Asylum

Batman Arkham Asylum

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.batmanarkhamasylum.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.batmanarkhamasylum.com/





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.

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Batman AA is just one of my favorite games. Not only was the story great, but the graphics are as well. This is made even better by the fact it runs well on so many cards and you can see that 30 FPS minimum at the highest resolution is doubled.

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.

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Cranking up the AA, the HD 6800 series begin to struggle and we see it fall down to unplayable numbers in most situations. Far Cry 2 is border line and if you push to only 4x AA you could probably get the FPS. Of course, SFIV isn't an issue even at the ultra-high resolution.

Temperature Test

Temperature Tests



The temperature of the core is pulled from MSI Afterburner with the max reading used after a completed run off 3DMark Vantage and the Performance preset.

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Cooling looks strong and compared to the reference cooler we can see we're running 6c cooler under load coming in well under the 70c mark.

Sound Test

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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At load the card runs just a little louder than the normal HD 6870. Idle noise is fantastic, though, with it being near silent.

Power Consumption Tests

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 SSD hard drive is used with a single CD ROM and minimal 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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At just under 300 Watt power draw holds absolutely no surprises.

Total Performance Rating (TPR)

Total Performance Rating

The TPR graph is a combination of all our benchmarks in which NVIDIA and AMD are on an even playing field.

The TPR number is a combination of:

3DMark 11, Heaven Benchmark V2, Resident Evil 5, Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.2, Mafia 2 (PhysX Off), Lost Planet 2, Aliens vs. Predator, Street Fighter IV, Far Cry 2, Batman: Arkham Asylum (PhysX Off) and our four High Quality tests which include Mafia 2, Aliens vs. Predator, Street Fighter IV and Far Cry 2.

All of the benchmark results achieved are then combined into a single number. As this graph will grow over time and cards won't be re-tested, next to each model you'll find the driver version that was used when the card was benchmarked.

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The reference clock nature of the card means that performance doesn't hold any overall surprises with it performing pretty much at the same level as the HD 6870. We can also see that really over the last four months we haven't seen much extra performance from drivers either.

Total Value Rating (TVR)

Total Value Rating

The TVR graph is the TPR score divided by the price of the video card. The price of the video card is based on the list price of the model on Newegg.com. In the event the card isn't listed, it will be based on the U.S. $ MSRP given to us by the manufacturer.

In the event we can't source a price from either, the product will not receive a TVR rating. As with our TPR graph, the amount of video cards on the list will grow over time and the price of the model won't change from what it was when first reviewed. For this reason the U.S. $ price that the card is based off will be included next to the name of the model.

In the event you want to find the TVR rating yourself based on the current price, all you have to do is simply divide the TPR number by the list price.

TVR numbers are rounded to the nearest whole number; 100.3 will be 100; 100.8 will be 101 and 100.5 will be rounded down to 100.

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Value on the model is strong and there's good reason for that, as we do get some great performance for the price. Of course, this doesn't put into equation the cooling and that is one of the main reasons you would buy this model.

Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts

The Sapphire HD 6870 Vapor-X didn't shock us. We've come to expect the Vapor-X series from Sapphire to deliver, and again it does with the HD 6870 getting the treatment in this case.

Performance doesn't hold any surprises with Sapphire choosing to just use the reference clocks in these situations, but you can always overclock yourself. The higher quality cooler should also bring with it a little more headroom thanks to the temperature being a little lower at stock speeds.

What is great to see from the model, though, is the cables included in the box. It's nice to see that Sapphire hasn't just added the mini-DP to DP convertor and HDMI cable to its higher end HD 6900 series, but has also put it in this HD 6870. There's nothing worse than getting the card home to find you can't make use of that sexy DisplayPort connection, and instead have to order an adapter separately which will take time to come and also add more expense on the card.

We've looked at a couple of great HD 6950s in the last few days, but for some the card continues to be a little expensive. If you want to take it a step down, save some money but still get strong performance, the HD 6870 Vapor-X from Sapphire is a great buy at $229.99 over at Newegg.

With strong performance and excellent cooling, it's another hard AMD model to pass up if it's in the price range you're looking at.

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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.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.

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