Cooling and noise concerns.
“The SAPPHIRE HD 4870 1GB TOXIC Edition features the award winning Vapor-X cooler, SAPPHIRE’s implementation of Vapor Chamber Technology (VCT) first introduced by SAPPHIRE over a year ago on its ATOMIC and TOXIC series of high performance graphics cards. On this new model, the Vapor-X cooling solution is used to efficiently remove heat from the core logic. So the heat from the GPU, memory and other components is carried away by the vapor chamber together with three heatpipes and heatsinks cooled by a thermally controlled fan venting outside the case. This hybrid solution provides more efficient and quieter cooling than competing solutions for this generation of high performance graphics.”
I have to admit, my biggest concern when buying this card was noise. After installing the Sapphire HD4870 512mb GDDR5 PCI-E in a Thermaltake Soprano case, the noise generated by the stock cooler drove my son to distraction, distraction from COD4, and within a week we had changed it for an aftermarket solution. With this in mind I would like to take some time out and test this “thermally controlled fan”.
To measure the cards temps I will be using the onboard sensors and the GPU-Z utility from TechPowerUp. Using the log to file option, I will then take idle and load readings from there. For the noise levels I will use my ears. Whilst not very scientific, and purely subjective to my hearing, it is to the point. My system is housed in a CoolerMaster Cosmos-S case which sits on top of my desk about an arm’s length from my head. Any change in the pitch or tone of my four 120mm fans is easily noticeable. The latest Catalyst 9.4 drivers will be used for fan control and overclocking but the usual benchmarks don’t run long enough to really work up the temps, so I decided that a half hour run on Call Of Duty: World At War would suffice.
When first booting after installing the card I couldn’t hear the fan at all. I had to look to make sure the fan was running, but I expected this after installing my son’s card, which behaved the same way. Installing the catalyst suite and starting the Catalyst Control Centre, I headed for the ATI Overdrive section. When sitting idle, the fan speed hovers around 4%, which is around 900 to 950rpm.
The core clock throttles back when idle from 780MHz to 500MHz. The ATI Overdrive shows the GPU clock as 780MHz and the memory clock as 1000MHz, while the current value shows GPU 500MHz and Memory 1000MHz. Starting GPU-Z for the first time on this card, I don’t know whether to be surprised or not to find that there is no VDDC sensors here. These sensors were a hot topic on some forums, literally.
For the Call of Duty test I played through the intro mission for half an hour in solo mode. If I thought it would end too soon, I would wander off and loot ammo for a while. I made two runs with the fan set on auto, one with default card settings and one with the card overclocked to 830MHz core clock, I used Rivatuner for this part, and 1020MHz memory clock.
During testing the fan never went past 22%, with the RPM reaching 1700, and for the entire hour I never heard it once. But look at those temps, even at default clock speeds the GPU idles at 63c. After this I set the fan speed manually through CCC, turning it up 10% at a time until it became audible. At 30% the RPM reached 2070 and the fan became barely audible, mostly because it was an alien sound coming from my case, at 40% the RPM reached 2400 and it became intrusive, but not too much, and at 50% the RPM reached 2700 and I could not live with that for a week, raising the speed any higher just wouldn’t work for me. So I tried 40% fan speed with the overclock settings for another half hour of COD to see what difference it made.
A drop of 17 degrees while idle, overclocked, across the board, consistent. A drop of 9 degrees for the GPU under load, 10 degrees for the MEMIO and 9 degrees for the SHADERCORE, just as consistent. The payoff for such a little noise increase is well worth it with temps coming back to, I think, a healthier level. All in all a big thumbs up for this cooling system, if you can live with the fan speed set to 30% or even 40% you could give yourself room to overclock. Personally, I don’t think I’ll be using auto fan control.