Summary: With vapor chamber cooling and heatpipes, Sapphire's 5850 Toxic ships with cooling that blows the Radeon 5850 reference design out of the water. But it doesn't stop there, the board is OC'ed for even more performance. See how it fares against the GeForce GTX 285, Radeon 5870, and stock 5850 in today's review!
Now that ATI’s sorted out their supply issues with the Radeon 5800 series, they’re opening things up and allowing their board partners to differentiate their cards from each other: in the coming months, ASUS, MSI, PowerColor and others will begin releasing custom Radeon 5850 boards that don’t rely on ATI’s reference board design and cooling. As a result, you’ll finally see some variety amongst the 5850 boards at retail; finally the cards themselves won’t be exact replicas of each other!
They’ll all be hard-pressed to top Sapphire though.
Sapphire’s latest creation is the Radeon 5850 Toxic Edition. Like many of the high-end 5850 boards that are already available on the market, the 5850 Toxic Edition is factory OC’ed to deliver even more performance than the stock 5850 specifications provide. Where the Toxic differs from those other boards though is in its cooling, as Sapphire ships the Toxic with their own custom cooling solution. If you recall our review of Sapphire’s 5870 Toxic board from November, you know that we were enamored with Sapphire’s custom cooler, which relies on vapor chamber cooling technology along with heatpipes.
This combination proved to be quite potent, allowing the 5870 Toxic to run up to 11 degrees Celsius than ATI’s stock cooler in our testing, all while running five decibels cooler at load.
Sapphire makes even bolder claims for the 5850 Toxic. Their PR states that the 5850 Toxic runs up to 15 degrees cooler than reference, while generating 10 dB less noise than stock 5850 cards.
Those are pretty bold claims, especially considering that the Radeon 5850 runs fairly cool and quiet in stock form. Let’s see if Sapphire can deliver…
At the heart of Sapphire’s 5850 Toxic is without a doubt its vapor chamber cooler.
The cooler itself is very similar to what Sapphire used last year on the 5870 Toxic. The vapor chamber cooler is placed inside a copper baseplate, just like the 5870 Toxic. It rests directly above the GPU, drawing heat off the chip. This heat is then transferred into various wicks inside the vapor chamber.
There’s a vaporization wick, where heat from the GPU causes the liquid inside the vapor chamber to vaporize. This water vapor then moves through the vacuum until it hits the condensation wick. Here the water vapor condenses and forms back into a liquid (releasing the heat in the process); this liquid is then absorbed by the transportation wick by capillary action, where it’s then transported back to the vaporization wick and the process is repeated.
To keep the vapor chamber cool, Sapphire uses three copper heatpipes, these are attached directly to the vapor chamber. Any remaining heat from the vapor chamber is transferred to the heatpipes, which are massive in size.
This heatpipe+vapor chamber cooling combination can dissipate a large amount of heat, and needs to be cooled in order to prevent creating a huge hotspot on top of the GPU. To accomplish this Sapphire employs a dual-slot aluminum heatsink+fan unit. The fan Sapphire uses is a 2-ball bearing unit, rather than sleeve bearings. Ball bearing fans tend to be more expensive than sleeve bearing fans, but they tend to generate less noise and are also more durable. In operation the 5850 Toxic generates so little noise that we couldn’t get a reading from a distance of 6” with our Extech sound level meter (our meter can read down to 40dB).
The cooler is encased inside a stylish plastic duct. Here we should note that the duct isn’t completely enclosed – there are multiple gaps for heat to escape. As such, not all the hot air from the GPU is exhausted out the back of your system case. In fact, more hot air probably escapes out the sides and back of the card than is exhausted outside the case, so you will want to plan accordingly and ensure the inside of your case is adequately ventilated with good airflow near the graphics card.
To make room for the vapor chamber cooler, Sapphire uses a 10.1” PCB on the 5850 Toxic. This is a little longer than ATI’s reference design for the 5850, which measures in at 9.5”, but far shorter than NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 285, which is 10.5” long in stock form.
Like all Toxic boards, Sapphire overclocks the 5850 Toxic from the factory. While the Radeon 5850 runs at 725MHz core/1000MHz memory in stock form, Sapphire’s Toxic 5850 is clocked at 765MHz core/1125MHz memory. This is an improvement of 5% and 11% on the graphics core and memory and makes the board one of the fastest 5850 cards on the market in terms of clock speeds.
Intel Core i7-870
ASUS P7P55D Deluxe
4GB (2x2GB) OCZ Reaper HPC 1600 @ DDR-1333 Speeds
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 275
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 285
ATI Radeon HD 5870
ATI Radeon HD 5850
Sapphire Radeon 5850 Toxic
2TB Seagate Barracuda XT
Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Max Settings
CoD: MW2 – DirectX 9
Crysis – DirectX 10
Far Cry 2 – DirectX 10
Resident Evil – DirectX 10
Batman:AA – DirectX 9
STALKER – DirectX 10/11
Vapor Chamber Cooling: Sapphire’s vapor chamber cooler did a tremendous job of cooling ATI’s RV870 chip while also generating very little noise. Despite the fact that the board is OC’ed to 765MHz, the 5850 Toxic ran 7 degrees Celsius cooler than the stock Radeon 5850 at load, and 8 degrees cooler at idle.
Limited stock OC’ing options in Overdrive: Because Sapphire OCs the card so far from the factory, you’re limited to OC’ing the graphics core just 10MHz in Overdrive, while the memory can’t be OC’ed at all with ATI Overdrive.
|© Copyright 2003 FS Media, Inc.|