ASUS Matrix & Sapphire Toxic Radeon HD 4870, 4850

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Sapphire HD 4870 1GB TOXIC

The Toxic series of graphics cards is Sapphire's premium brand. For the last few generations, they have featured factory overclocking and custom non-reference coolers using Sapphire's Vapor Chamber Technology. The current version of the Vapor Chamber cooling system is called Vapor-X. The latest product to use the Vapor-X cooler is the new Sapphire HD 4870 1GB Toxic, an upgrade of the existing HD 4870 512MB Toxic.

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At a glance, the Sapphire Vapor-X cooler doesn't look very impressive. In fact it somewhat resembles a standard reference cooler. However the three large heatpipes protruding from the top of the plastic shroud hints at what's underneath. The Vapor Chamber is a large, hollow plate that makes direct contact with the GPU. Inside is a chamber with liquid. The heat from the GPU causes the liquid to vaporize and the vapor then passes through a condensation wick where it cools down and turns back into a liquid to begin the process all over again.

This cycle of vaporization and condensation is a very efficient way of transferring heat and it is the same basic principle as that found in your average heatpipe. The chamber quickly and efficiently draws the heat away from the surface of the GPU and up to the top of the chamber, where the central heatsink and heatpipes are attached. The heatpipes help to disperse the heat further away from the center of the vapor chamber and throughout the large heatsink, which runs the entire length of the card.

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A single fan is mounted directly above the area where the GPU sits. This is a standard bladed fan and not a blower, which means it doesn't move through the body of the card from front to back. Instead, the fan sucks in air and blows it onto the heatsink where it then splits up into two separate air streams; one headed to the grill on the rear I/O plate and the other headed out the back of the card. A disadvantage of this design is some of the exhaust air will end up back in the case rather than being expelled out through the rear grill like in a standard blower design.

Overall the Sapphire HD 4870 1GB Toxic performed and behaved very well during testing. While idle, we found the Toxic to be much quieter than both of the Matrix cards (using the default profile) as well as the standard reference cooler. While it isn't silent, it's quiet enough that it will likely be lost in the sound of your CPU and case fans as they will likely to louder. Under load, the fan speeds up quite a bit but we found the fan speed steppings that Sapphire chose were fairly relaxed and the fan remained relatively quiet. It did get louder to the point where we could hear it over the sound of a standard Intel stock cooler on an open air test bed, but it should be very quiet when tucked away inside a chassis. Compared to the 4870 reference cooler design, it is an overall significant improvement.

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The Sapphire HD 4870 1GB Toxic came with a slightly more elaborate bundle than the one included with the Matrix cards. Inside the box you'll find the following:
  • 1 x DVI-to-VGA video adapter
  • 1 x DVI-to-HDMI video adapter
  • 1 x S-Video adapter
  • 1 x Component video adapter
  • 2 x molex-to-6-pin PCI-E power adapters
  • 1 x Crossfire bridge connector
  • 1 x CyberLink DVD Suite
  • 1 x CyberLink PowerDVD
  • 1 x 3DMark Vantage Advanced Edition
  • 1 x Driver CD
  • 1 x Ruby ROM v1.1
  • 1 x User Manual
  • 1 x Sapphire case badge
This is quite a complete bundle and includes everything you'll need to get started. It has everything in the Matrix bundle with the addition of a second power adapter and the Crossfire bridge connector. Unlike the Matrix series, the bundled driver disk does not contain any additional utilities since the Toxic card does not offer the same level of monitoring or configurability. However, Sapphire has included a number of helpful applications such as the CyberLink suite and PowerDVD.

There are also two fun additions; 3DMark Vantage and Ruby ROM. The Ruby ROM disk contains a number of game demos, applications as well as wallpapers and screensavers. The included demos are for Call of Juarez and Stranglehold as well as the free online RPG Dungeon Runners. The included applications are Earthsim and Gameshadow.

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