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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Sapphire Radeon HD 6870 Vapor

According to Steam, over 94% of the computer users using Steam are running Windows 7 with DirectX 11 video cards.  In fact as of the January Steam Hardware and Software Survey the most popular video card is still the NVIDIA GeForce 8800 which is a DirectX 8 part with a 5.77% market share and the 9800 with a 5.55% market share. NVIDIA and AMD both say that most people upgrade their video cards in a 3 year upgrade cycle.

Sapphire is a manufacturer of video cards based upon AMD chips like the Barts and the Cayman. They were one of the first to launch a HD 6870 in October of 2010 and have released a second series of cards this month.  This series is a custom set of PCBs using things like Sapphire’s Vapor-X cooling and different configurations of display options (Flex). Today’s review is on the Sapphire RADEON HD 6870 Vapor-X edition card. It is a reference card in terms of clock speed but the cooler keeps the card running cooler.

·        900MHz Engine Clock each card
·        1GB GDDR5 memory each card
·        1050MHz Memory Clock (GDDR5)
·        134.4GB/second memory bandwidth (maximum)
·        2 TeraFLOPs compute power each card
·        TeraScale 2 Unified Processing Architecture
·        1120 Stream Processors each card
·        VC-1
·        MPEG-1 (SD and HD)
·        Enhanced Video Quality Features
·        Advanced post-processing and scaling
·        Dynamic contrast enhancement and color correction
·        DXVA 1.0 and 2.0 support
·        AMD HD3D technology
·        Stereoscopic 3D display/glasses support
·        Blu-ray 3D support
·        Stereoscopic 3D gaming
·        3rd party Stereoscopic 3D middleware software support
·        AMD CrossfireX multi-GPU technology
·        DisplayPort 1.2
·        Maximum resolution 2560x1600 per display
·        21.6Gbps bandwidth
·        High bit-rate audio

Sapphire’s new card is based upon AMD’s Barts XT chip which was announced last year in October as the replacement for the HD 5770 and 5830. This chip has 1120 SPs which is split into 14 SIMD arrays with 16 SPs per SIMD Each SIMD can do five instructions per clock with four simple and one medium  instructions supported. This brings a total of 1120.

The HD 6870 has 1.7 billion transistors and is manufactured on TSMC’s 40nm fabrication process. AMD’s chip has 56 texture units, 32 ROPs (Outputted Pixels), and 128 Z/Stencil units. AMD says this card can do 2 TeraFLOPs of computing power which is equivalent to last year’s HD 5870.  AMD’s goal with the Barts chip was to deliver near the same performance as last year’s chip for a lower price.

Eyefinity is AMD’s trademarked term for their multi-display technology. With the launch of the HD 5 series last year every video card was capable of 3-display Surround gaming.  This compares favorably with NVIDIA’s solution which requires two video cards running in SLI mode to run 3 monitors. AMD’s solution allows up to six monitors on their Eyefinity Edition cards. With the launch of the HD 6 series AMD has updated their cards with DisplayPort 1.2 connections, allowing daisy chaining of monitors with MST hubs. In the meantime the HD 6870 can connect up to five monitors at once.

DirectX 11 is rapidly becoming the standard for video games being released today. With features such as hardware tessellation, Shader Model 5.0, Compute Shaders and Multi-threading, DirectX 11 really shines in games that support it like HAWX2. HAWX2 uses hardware tessellation to show off detailed terrain including mountains with crevasses and trees, to the tune of 1.5 million polygons just in the terrain alone.  Without tessellation and displacement mapping the terrain is a lot less detailed. Other games such as Aliens Versus Predator also use tessellation to good effect.

Setup and Performance:

Test System

·        ASUS P6X58D Premium motherboard
·        Intel i7 980X CPU
·        24GB Kingston DDR3-1866MHz memory
·        Thermaltake SpinQ CPU cooler
·        Sapphire RADEON HD 6870 Vapor-X video card running Catalyst 11.1 900MHz core/1050MHz memory
·        Windows 7 64-bit Ultimate Edition
·        Thermaltake ToughPower XT 850 PSU

·        Uningine Heaven benchmark 1920x1200 8x FSAA 16x AF benchmark
·        Just Cause 2  1920x1200 8x FSAA 16x AF benchmark
·        Aliens Versus Predator 1920x1200 8x FSAA 16x AF Custom FRAPS walkthrough
·        Dirt2 1920x1200 8x FSAA 16x AF benchmark


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