We tested Atomic HD 4870 X2 comparing it to reference HD 4870 and GTX 280. Nvidia will showcase their new champion tomorrow, on 8th of January, and although it will be the fastest card around when it launches, it won’t be able to compete with Sapphire Atomic when it comes to temperatures. Water cooling makes Atomic HD 4870 X2 stand out of the high-end graphics card pack.
Asetek water cooling is easy to install and you don’t need a large case. All you need to do is mount the CPU block, stick the card into the PCIe slot and sandwich the radiator between the rear fan and the case.
The radiator comes with a 12cm fan that’s not inaudible during operation, but it’s much quieter than the reference card. It runs at constant rpm and is powered via the PSU, motherboard connector or fan speed controller. Connecting it to the fan speed controller makes it easy to control its speed, thus rendering your computer inaudible. Here we only have one fan running, unlike usual configurations which require one fan for the CPU and one for the graphics card.
The blue atomic light comes from LED lamps in the fan.
In our test system, Sapphire Atomic HD 4870 X2 ran up to 21°C cooler than reference, air-cooled card. You should expect even lower temperatures if you’re not using the hot QX 9770, which in our case runs overclocked from 3.2GHz to 3.6GHz. The water pump is small and inaudible, and the 12cm fan has what it takes to handle this task.
Graphics core temperatures hit a maximum of 69°C during operation, but bear in mind that it cools the QX9770 processor that went up to 52°C. CPU temperatures could’ve been lower since this is a water-cooling setup, but two RV770 graphics processors are just too hot for such a scenario. Of course, you can increase the rpm, but that will result in higher noise levels. After overclocking the card to 850MHz, temperatures increased by 2°C.
Vantage and Mark06 results
Sapphire overclocked its Atomic card by 6% compared to the reference HD 4870 X2, and it resulted in a performance increase from 2% to 7.6% in Vantage tests. Test Mark06 didn’t seem to care much about overclocking, and we see only a 1% better result.
World in Conflict
Depending on the resolution and a workload, Atomic scored up to 10% better results than the reference card. Nvidia GTX 280 lost by up to 40%, but don’t forget that a new 55nm GTX 280 is coming out soon and it should improve on both the performance and the cooling.
Far Cry 2
Sapphire Atomic HD 4870 X2 costs saucy €600, but we must admit that this is a unique graphics card in many respects. Apart from the GPU’s water block, Asetek’s cooling provides CPU cooling at the same time. The entire water cooling system, graphics card included, is a pre-assembled and closed circuit. Atomic HD 4870 X2 is a limited edition that comes in packaging you don’t see every day – a nice large case with a lot of goodies.
Temperatures are much lower than on dual-slot reference card and it runs quiet in 3d mode. The core is overclocked to 800MHz and the card packs 2GB of GDDR5 memory running at 4000MHz. Atomic HD 4870 X2 card takes up only one slot, which is not the case with the reference card.
Overclocking the GPU by 6% results in up to 10% better gaming results. Geforce GTX 280 loses by as much as 40%, but note that GTX 295 will be priced lower than the Atomic card although it will be faster. However, if you’re looking for the fastest single slot card around, then look no further than Sapphire Atomic HD 4870 X2, as it will probably keep that title for some time.
Once again, Sapphire showed that it’s an innovative company that always manages to surprise us with their unique solutions, and Atomic HD 4870 X2 is no exception.