We’ve recently tested a number of top-end graphics cards including Sapphire Radeon HD 6950 Toxic Edition, Gigabyte GeForce GTX 580 Super Overclock, EVGA GeForce GTX 580 Classified and MSI Radeon HD 6950 Twin Frozr III. All of them are undoubtedly very fast but, unfortunately, not quite affordable. It is mainstream ($150-200) or even entry-level ($75-150) products that attract more customers and the manufacturers offer plenty of them to everyone's taste. Sapphire Technology has released a couple of such cards and we're going to the review them today.
Closer Look at Testing Participants
Sapphire Radeon HD 6870 1GB DiRT 3 Edition
Sapphire Radeon HD 6870 1 GB DiRT 3 Edition card is shipped in a beautifully designed large box:
Besides the racing car from DiRT 3 on the face side of the box and the gym girl on the back, there is a lot of information on the packaging: graphics memory amount, interface, technologies supported by the card, and a long list of awards from online and offline media.
Included into the box are two power cables (PATA -> 6-pin connector), an HDMI cable, a mini-DisplayPort->DisplayPort adapter, a DVI-I->D-Sub adapter, a CrossFireX bridge, a coupon for downloading DiRT 3, a Sapphire Select Club member card, a brief installation guide, and a CD with drivers and utilities.
The box contains everything you need to use the card plus a free game. The card is manufactured in China and costs about $209 in retail. Its warranty period is 1 year.
Let’s have a look at it:
Covered with a glossy figured cooler casing with two fans, the card looks quite attractive. It’s far more stylish and elegant than the plain-looking cooler of the reference Radeon HD 6870. The Sapphire Radeon HD 6870 DiRT 3 Edition isn't large at 245x110x36 millimeters.
The card is equipped with one dual-link DVI-I output, one DVI-D output, one HDMI 1.4a port and two mini-DisplayPorts. There is also a vent grid in its mounting bracket:
One CrossFireX connector for building dual-card configurations can be found in the top part of the PCB next to the outputs. On the opposite end of the card there are two 6-pin power connectors.
The Radeon HD 6870 is specified to have a peak power draw of 151 watts but the Sapphire version may need more due to its increased clock rates. Anyway, the company recommends a 500W PSU for this card, just like AMD does in its system requirements for Radeon HD 6870.
The PCB is designed in an original way. The power components have all moved from the front to the back part of the card:
Despite the different location, the power system follows the 4+2 design of the reference Radeon HD 6870. There are no new-fangled components here typical of the top-end cards we’ve discussed in our recent reviews. After all, the Sapphire Radeon HD 6870 DiRT 3 Edition hails from a lower product class.
The Barts XT GPU was manufactured in Taiwan on 40nm tech process on the 47th week of 2010. The open die is 255 sq. mm large. It's protected with a metallic frame surrounding its wafer.
The GPU has the standard Barts XT configuration with 1120 unified shader processors, 56 texture-mapping units and 32 raster operators. The reference AMD Radeon HD 6870 having a GPU frequency of 900 MHz, the Sapphire version is pre-overclocked to 920 MHz, which is 2.2% higher. This factory overclocking can hardly be felt even in benchmarks, let alone actual games, though. The card lowers its GPU frequency to 100 MHz in 2D applications.