Sapphire Radeon 4670 GDDR4 Review
Despite offering the potential of higher clock speeds while consuming less voltage than previous memory types, GDDR4 graphics memory never really took off. ATI was first to adopt the technology into a shipping product: integrating GDDR4 for use on their Radeon 3870 GPU, but despite its blazing 1.125GHz clock speed, the memory latency was just too high in comparison to GDDR3 memory. GDDR4 was also pricier than GDDR3.
Considering all this, ATI opted to revert back to more conventional 900MHz GDDR3 memory for their dual GPU Radeon 3870 X2. ATI hasn’t integrated GDDR4 on any of their GPUs since the Radeon 3870, and NVIDIA has passed on the technology altogether.
Now GDDR4 graphics memory is back, with Sapphire integrating the memory into their latest Radeon 4670 card.
Yes, you read that correct. Sapphire has elected to use the high-speed memory on a sub-$100 "budget" graphics card. Sounds crazy doesn’t it? Or perhaps Sapphire’s crazy like a fox? Let’s take a closer look at the card…
Rather than stick with ATI’s reference board design for the 4670, Sapphire’s decided to make a number of changes to their GDDR4 board. The board’s power subsystem has been completely revamped, and as you can see Sapphire employs a dual-slot cooling solution with a massive fan. Finally, the card’s backplate has DVI, VGA, and HDMI video outputs all built into the card itself. No funky adapters required.
And of course, you can’t forget the GDDR4 memory. Sapphire actually clocks the GDDR4 RAM at 1.1GHz, that’s 100MHz higher than the stock Radeon 4670 GDDR3 specifications. (The RV730 graphics core on the Sapphire card runs at the stock 4670 frequency of 750MHz, with the chip sporting 320 stream processors.)
The board’s cooling is its most distinctive looking feature though.
To cool the GPU, Sapphire uses a simple aluminum heatsink. The heatsink itself is thinner than you’d think, measuring just under 0.75” in thickness. While it is an aluminum heatsink (versus the all-copper unit on the ATI reference design), it is spread across a large portion of the card, helping to disperse heat from the GPU across a greater area. Aluminum isn’t as capable as copper at drawing heat off the GPU though.
To help make up for this, Sapphire basically pairs the heatsink up with a large diameter case fan. By employing such a large fan, Sapphire is able to move a lot of air across the heatsink without generating a large amount of noise. Sapphire claims the fan generates less than 20 decibels of noise, and based on what we’ve seen, we believe it: the fan is amazingly quiet.
To further enhance the board’s cooling, Sapphire has grafted RAMsinks onto the board’s memory modules.
With so many video outputs offered on the backplate of the graphics card, Sapphire has elected not to bundle any video adapters with their 4670 GDDR4 card. The only hardware accessory that ships with the card is a CrossFire bridge cable. The software bundle includes a copy of Ruby Rom, CyberLink PowerDVD, and the CyberLink DVD Suite including full copies of PowerProducer4, PowerDirector 5 Express, Power2Go 5.5, Medi@Show 3 and trial versions of PowerBackup 2.5, PowerDVD Copy and LabelPrint 2.