For a period there every six to eight months or so we'd see a new GPU and leaps of performance gained from the cards that had just come out but over the past few years this seems to have slowed down and for better of worse since ATI released the Radeon 4870 last June there haven't been too many major jumps ahead of that card except of course the 4870X2 and not much from Nvidia as well. Mid-range has seen tremendous improvement, however, offering phenomenal value in the sub-$100 market but above it things have slowed down. Recently AMD did at last follow the 4870 up with the Radeon 4890 which we looked at launch and now with some time since then we're seeing 1GHz variants of the 4890 and non-reference cards. Today we'll be looking at one of these non-reference design cards with the Sapphire Radeon 4890 Vapor-X.
If you're not up to date on the 4890, as the name might implies it basically shares the same basic specs as the Radeon 4870 except 1GB of GDDR5 is standard as opposed to 512MB of GDDR5 on some 4870 cards and the memory and core speeds have increased as well as some improved power management.
Sapphire's Vapor-X line has been around now for some time and is Sapphire's custom heatsink and fan combination. It runs quieter than the standard heatsink and also should allow for better overclocking. Our model came pre-overclocked with a core of 875MHz (25Mhz more than normal) and 1GB of GDDR5 running at 1050Mhz (75MHz above the standard clock). It also is a very slick design and on Sapphire's blue PCB as opposed to ATI red. It is a very aesthetically pleasing card and a lot of that also has quite a bit of function such as the ramsinks covering all the memory modules.
Sapphire have also decked out the video output ports of the card with every type on the market: DVI, VGA, HDMI, and even DisplayPort, which hasn't quite caught on yet with monitors. Sapphire also includes a DVI-to-HDMI cable rather than the standard dongle with other ATI cards which is a nice bonus.
The box is quite cool, no pun intended, and should stand out among the typical CGI characters on most video card boxes and all of the features of the 4890 series are shown off in the specs on the box.
The bundle is fairly standard other than the previously mentioned DVI-to-HDMI cable with a driver CD, two PCI-E to molex power adapters, Cyberlink DVD software, and as a bonus they also include 3DMark Vantage. Game bundles have come in and out of favor over the years and these days the trend is to not include a game unless you get it as a combo with hardware.
We've been over the standard features of the Radeon 4000 series time and time again but we'll go over them again very quickly: 2nd-gen 55nm production process, UVD2 for H.264 decoding, the only card with DX 10.1 support, and 7.1 uncompressed audio over HDMI.
Time is a little tight right now as other articles are cooking so we'll jump right into Sapphire's techincal specs and what you want: benchmarks.
Here are the specs from Sapphire.
1. Award winning Vapor-X Cooler with heatpipe, silent and powerful
2. Sapphire patent pending Black Diamond Choke
3. 4 display outputs: DP+HDMI+DL-DVI+VGA
4. Full solid capacitor design
5. Microsoft DX10.1 support
6. PCI Express 2.0 x16 bus interface
7. Dynamic geometry acceleration
8. Game physics processing capability
9. 1GB/256-bit GDDR5 memory interface
10. Supports all display resolutions up to 1920x1080
11. On chip HDCP support
12. ATI CrossFireX™ multi-GPU support for highly scalable performance. (Use up to four discrete
cards with an AMD 790FX based motherboard)
13. ATI Avivo HD Support
ATI Unified Video Decoder 2 (UVD) for Blu-ray™ and HD Video.
Accelerated Video Transcoding (AVT)
Built-in HDMI with 7.1 surround sound support
14. Dynamic power management with ATI PowerPlay™ technology
15. ATI Stream technology
Of all the games we tested Crysis seemed to show the biggest gains, perhaps due to using more memory bandwidth than the others despite the lower resolution Crysis: Warhead is full of detail.
Left 4 Dead continues to be a very popular multiplayer game thanks to Valve's touch but we don't see much gain here from the extra 75MHz memory clockspeed despite maxing out AA and AF settings.
UT3 is a highly popular engine but may not stress memory bandwidth. As we see not a huge gain over the standard 4890.
World in Conflict shows similar results to the other games we tested.
3DMark 2006 is an older synthetic benchmark but we don't want to move to Vantage with the heavily weighed PhysX optimizations for Nvidia. We see a similar pattern to our other numbers.
Power consumption was measured from the wall socket directly from the computer. Idle was taken after 5 minutes into the Windows desktop and Load was tested emphasizing gaming performance and the video card in Crysis' GPU demo. Cool 'n Quiet was enabled.
|Radeon 4890 1GB||172||281|
|Sapphire Radeon 4890 Vapor-X||188||303|
|GeForce GTX 260 "216"||165||265|
|Radeon 4850 512MB||140||235|
The extra memory clock seems to suck up some extra juice as well unfortunately compared to the standard 4890.
Overclocking we maxed out at 990MHz for the GPU which was actually slightly below our Gigabyte 4890 and 1.15GHz for the memory. A higher core clock seems to be more effective in increasing the framerate 10-15% than overclocking the GDDR5 memory which may not be saturated by today's games.
As mentioned earlier the card does run quieter than the standard 4890 fan and as far as cooling they appeared in our testing to be about even in temperature.
Overall we're very pleased with Sapphire's Radeon 4890 Vapor-X, it offers a good alternative to the standard 4890 design and does so at the same price point of $229. This is what 4890 cards go for right now so that means there is no price increase. Unfortunately, we thought we'd see more gains at higher resolutions from the extra memory clock but it doesn't seem to be that large although in our testing Crysis did show some better results. The card overclocks well but so did our standard 4890 card so there it is a wash. It does run quieter, features a good bundle, and looks great so it is a card we can highly recommend. If you find a deal on a 4890 and the Vapor-X offers nothing extra you like you can't really go wrong with the 4890 but at the same or similar price or if you're looking for a non-standard or quieter card, the Vapor-X is a great choice.Pricing:
We don't see the Vapor-X in our pricing system yet but you can buy the Sapphire reference 4890 for $199 after rebate from Amazon.Score: 96%