Packaging & Appearance
Straight out of the blocks, the Sapphire 4890 Vapor-X looks ice cold to the touch with Antarctic scene. I must say this is a pleasant break from the tired routine of displaying CGI Characters and as aesthetically pleasing ATI's Ruby might be, I do tire of seeing her plastered on every ATI product I come across. It's plainly obvious by the front of the box that Sapphire intend to promote this cards cooler being that the Vapor-X emblem takes pride of place in the centre of the box. A brief run down of the features are also displayed on the front with the main title of Radeon HD4890 displayed towards the bottom of the package on an icy silver backdrop. Flipping the box over, Sapphire go on to display the product highlights and features in greater detail.
One thing I have heavily criticised Sapphire for in the past is the lacklustre packaging methods but the Vapor-X 4890 has seen a revised method of using a plastic insert to hold the anti-static, bubble wrapped card in place. Beneath this is a further cardboard box holding the accessories meaning a much improved package overall. The included accessories quite good with a DVI-HDMI dongle, two twin Molex to PCI-6 pin power cables, a Crossfire bridge, PowerDVD, DVD suite, a copy of Futuremark Vantage and the driver CD concluding the list.
The card itself is a very attractive affair with the Vapor-X cooler sitting atop a fetching blue PCB. While I'm not a great fan of coloured PCB's, blue does match the cards aesthetics quite nicely. The card is as long as a standard ATX motherboard is wide so there should be no issues with fitting the card in a standard ATX sized case. A further heatsink sits abreast the MOSFETs with the Sapphire name emblazoned across the top.
The black plastic fan is very quiet in operation being almost silent when idle. Cool air is taken in from the fan and then blown over the Aluminium finned heatsink underneath which in turn cools the copper Vapor chamber. Because of the thickness of the cooling design, the card is a dual slot version, much the same as the reference cards. Like the reference ATI cooler, the Vapor-X cooler is partially shrouded to prevent hot exhaust air from escaping into the PC case and instead directs the flow to the rear finned I/O plate.
The I/O plate itself interestingly houses DVI, VGA as well as HDMI ports allowing all the technology of today to be connected through this card. At the back end of the card we see that the 4890 requires 2x 6-pin PCI power cables to be connected despite the cards revised power circuitry. Regulating the power behind the PCIe ports are solid capacitors ensuring greater reliability of the card along with Sapphires own 'Black Diamond' power choke which Sapphire claim run 10% cooler and offer up to 25% better power efficiency than a standard choke.
Removing the heatsink assembly was as easy as removing a stock reference heatsink as just four screws hold it in place around the GPU core area. A further two screws hold the MOSFET cooler in place. With these coolers removed we can see the 4890's nakedness in all it's glory.
The Vapor-X cooler is based on the same principles of heatpipe technology we have become familiar with in the past with a liquid coolant vaporising closest to the core and then condensing towards the top of the cooler only to be returned back to the hot surface. If you want to know more about Vapor-X click, HERE
. How good this process works will be examined in our test setup area when we place the card under some extreme load conditions. Nevertheless, it is nice to see Sapphire have used copper as the contact surface rather than inefficient aluminium.
The Sapphire HD4890 Vapor-X uses the same memory chips as the stock reference cards. In this case however the 1GB of GDDR5 Qimonda chips are clocked to a massive 4.2GHz. This will hopefully negate the very conservative GPU core overclock. Below right, we see the 16 MOSFET's which also interestingly have space for an additional two. This leads me to believe that perhaps 14 are used for the core with two reserved for the memory being that this version is the 1GB GDDR5 rather than the separately available 2GB which would likely incorporate the additional MOSFETS required to regulate the power of an extra 1GB.
Sapphire have designed a very attractive card, not only in the packaging but also the card itself. The accessory list is complete enough to get everyone started and one might even wish to venture into the world of benchmarking given that Sapphire have also included Futuremarks Vantage. I would perhaps liked to have seen an included game but if this omission keeps the price down then I can see the reasoning behind not including one.