Sapphire Radeon HD 4890 Vapor-X 2GB review

Written by Antony Leather

August 25, 2009 | 11:16

Tags: #bfg #gpu #graphics-card #gtx-285 #gtx-295 #hd-4770 #hd-4850 #hd-4870 #radeon-hd #single-pcb

Companies: #asus #ati #nvidia #sapphire #xfx

Sapphire Radeon HD 4890 Vapor-X 2GB review

Manufacturer: Sapphire
UK Price (as reviewed): £181.53 (inc. VAT)
US Price (as reviewed): $249.99 (ex TAX)

There might be a recession on but there are still some great graphics bargains out there. Radeon HD 4870 1GBs are now available for about £100 and 1GB versions of AMD's flagship single-core graphics card, the HD 4890, can be picked up for less than £130. While it might not handle our Crysis tests in DirectX 10 above 1,280 x 1,024, the HD 4890 1GB is more than a match for all our other benchmarks even at 2,560 x 1,600.

With DirectX 11 cards due before Christmas, the next few months should see prices reduced even further but if you're in the market for a new graphics now, then bit-tech is at hand to see whether Sapphire's Radeon HD 4890 Vapor-X 2GB is worthy of your cash. When we looked at Sapphire's Radeon HD 4870 Vapor-X 2GB, we were impressed with the Vapor-X cooler which managed to keep the GPU a massive 11°C cooler than the stock HD 4870 cooler.

However, its price and the fact that running cooler didn't yield any overclocks that were more impression than other HD 4870 cards meant value was its Achilles heel. At £181, this new card is already £50 the wrong side of a standard HD 4890 so those value demons are present and correct already.

Sapphire Radeon HD 4890 Vapor-X 2GB review Sapphire Radeon HD 4890 Vapor-X 2GB review

This time round, Sapphire has overclocked the core speed from 850MHz to 870MHz and the memory from 975MHz (3.9GHz effective) to 1,050MHz (4.2GHz effective) so in addition to the Vapor-X cooler, you're also getting a faster graphics card. True, speed-wise it's a far cry from the 1,000MHz core speed of the Sapphire Radeon HD 4890 1GB Atomic but the Atomic retails for well over £200, so the game is far from over for the Sapphire Radeon HD 4890 Vapor-X 2GB. As we can see you shouldn't need any adapters to connect the Sapphire to your display as it has D-Sub, DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort outputs. There's also a copy of Cyberlink's PowerDVD and DVD Suit along with 3DMark Vantage as well as sundry PCI-E to molex and DVI to HDMI adapters in the box.

Sapphire Radeon HD 4890 Vapor-X 2GB review Sapphire Radeon HD 4890 Vapor-X 2GB review

Top down, there's plenty to be seen with the large copper core of the vapor chamber visible beneath the heatsink and fan. Of course the extra bank of GDDR5 has to be situated on the other side of the PCB to the core. As this gets pretty damn hot, it's good to see Sapphire have included some fairly hefty heatsinks here. During our benchmarks these got almost too hot to touch and that's in an Antec Twelve Hundred case. The only issue here is installing expansion cards above the Sapphire as the RAM sinks will either get extremely close or actually interfere with them.

Sapphire Radeon HD 4890 Vapor-X 2GB review Sapphire Radeon HD 4890 Vapor-X 2GB review

With the cooler removed by unscrewing four sprung screws on the opposite side of the PCB, it's much easier to take a peek at the vapour chamber which utilises the same technology as heatpipes. Liquid inside the chamber evaporates above the core and condenses on a cooler section transferring heat around the heatsink more rapidly than a solid copper block in theory. While there is a vent at the rear of the cooler, the heatsink spills air at all angles out the sides of the fins so a majority of heat will find it's way back into the case.


The Sapphire comes complete with a two-year warranty that includes cover for parts and labour. During the first year of the product’s life, your point of contact should be the retailer. However, if you’re having problems getting hold of the retailer (or the retailer goes out of business), you should contact Sapphire’s support team directly. During the second year of the warranty period, you should talk directly with Sapphire. This is pretty much in line with what other ATI board partners offer, and while the two year warranty is more than you’re legally entitled too, it isn’t as comprehensive or as long lasting as what’s available from some of Nvidia’s board partners.
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