Review: A passive graphics card with enough gaming muscle
Back when the HD 4670 was launched, Sapphire was the first company whose cards we’ve found in retail, and so far, Sapphire managed to launch a couple of cards, one of which is passively cooled. Everyone had high expectations for the HD 4670, especially after rave reviews the HD 4800 generation has received. It was priced at $79/€69, and the price hasn’t changed since.
This card is based on the same architecture as the already famous HD 4870/HD 4850 cards, but it’s aimed at a lower segment, for those seeking for a sub-€100 card. The new architecture brought about a couple of improvements over the previous generation, most notably bad antialiasing gaming performance.
Radeon HD 4670 card has a tough task of proving its worth in a quite densely populated sub-€100 segment. Proving its dominance over the Geforce 9500GT isn’t quite a tough task, but its true adversary is the Geforce 9600GSO, as it costs only a couple of Euros more than the HD 4670 GDDR3. These cards in most cases run neck to neck, but 9600GSO’s couple of Euros more bring a couple of frames more as well. In today’s test, this will be the battle to behold.
Two HD 4670 cards were announced, and they’re different from each other in terms of memory speeds and quantity, and thus in bandwidth. One comes with 1GB of memory running at 900MHz and packing a bandwidth of 28.8GB/s, whereas the other one features a 512MB of memory at 1000MHz. The memory speed on the 512MB version results in a higher bandwidth totaling at 32GB/s.
Apart from the aforementioned HD 4670 cards, another RV730 based card hit the market – the HD 4650. This card, however, uses the GDDR2 memory clocked at 500MHz (1000MHz effectively) and runs slower, at core speed of 600MHz. Note that all the HD 46xx cards are stuck with the 128 bit memory interface.
Unlike the RV730 cards, Nvidia Geforce 9600 GSO (formerly known as 8800 GS) features the 192-bit memory interface, which coupled with 384MB of GDDR3 memory running at 800MHz (1600MHz effectively) enables it to score a higher bandwidth (38.4GB/s) than that of HD 4670 cards.
HD 4670’s cores run at 750MHz, and they’re codenamed RV730XT. It features 320 stream processors, whereas the top Radeon HD 4000 cards come with a total of 800 stream processors.
The Sapphire HD 4670 Ultimate card we’re looking at today comes with 512MB of GDDR3 memory, but it’s the total silence that separates it from the pack. Sapphire achieved it by using a dual-slot passive cooler that does a great job. Despite being dual-slot, the most important thing is that the card is inaudible, and the following photo shows it in all its glory.
However, Sapphire UltimateHD4670 512MB GDDR3 PCI-E HDMI/DVI-I/VGA can be considered a single slot card too, since the cooler on the back of the card, if placed in the first slot, won’t obstruct access to the next one. However, this is only the case if there’s no other slots before the first PCI-Express slot on the motherboard, otherwise you can kiss the one next to the graphics card goodbye. It’s not uncommon for cards with a passive cooler on the back of the card to sometimes reach some overly large chipset or CPU coolers, but it’s not a frequent occurrence either.
It’s more likely however to encounter trouble with memory of non-standard height (such as OCZ Reaper Series) on motherboards that don’t have enough space between the memory slots and PCI-Express slots. We personally experienced this using Sapphire’s HD 3850 Ultimate and OCZ Reaper’s memory on Nvidia’s 680i motherboard.
However, you’ve nothing to worry about when using Sapphire HD 4670 Ultimate card, due to it not being as lengthy and featuring an elevated cooler on the back of the card.
One of the things we’ve come to appreciate on the cards is an integrated HDMI connector. Many partners offer it via the DVI-to-HDMI converters, despite the fact that HDMI is supported on all the newer Radeons. Apart from the HDMI outs, this card features a DVI and a bit outdated VGA out. These three outs make this card ideal for HTPCs, although its height might pose a problem in lower cases, as it’s 1.7cm higher than the standard card.
The cooler has two heatpipes going from the front to the rear block, but the blocks are also connected via the aluminum bridge, featuring Sapphire’s logo. In order to make the card passive and inaudible, heatpipe technology was a must. Additional surface provided by the upper aluminum block ensures that the card runs stable under a workload, when the GPU temperatures are at their peak.
The heatpipe is in direct contact with the graphics core, so heat easily transfers to the furthest points of the cooler. If the in-case cooling is appropriate, you can rest assured that your card won’t overheat. However, you should still make sure that your case fans run properly and that the air around the graphics card has a nice airflow to it. If this is not the case you might have excess heat gathering around the passive cooler, which might lead to your GPU overheating.
We measured temperatures during gaming and seen that with adequate in-case cooling, the GPU stays below 59 degrees Celsius. When idling, the GPU temperatures go down to 35 degrees Celsius.
Passive cards’ temperatures depend on the airflow within the case, and if it’s adequate you can rest assured that the passive cooling will do a good job, even in smaller and cluttered cases.
Sapphire strapped their card with 512MB of GDDR3 memory running at 873MHz (1746MHz effectively). The front memory blocks partially touch the cooler, but not the ones on the back of the card, which are left uncooled. The memory in question is Hynix H5RS5223CFR N0C, where N0 says it’s a 1000MHz memory.
You can use the two card’s outs simultaneously.
So far we’ve said a lot about Sapphire HD 4670, and what we might’ve missed can be read from the following picture.
Note that this card is Direct 10.1 and Shader model 4.1, which ATI never fails to emphasize. Still, some might think that this is not overly important and that DX10.0 is quite enough before transitioning to DirectX 11.
We, on the other hand, found the card’s sub-75W consumption much more interesting, as the card draws all the power it needs via the PCI-Express slot. Also, note that only software Crossfire is possible with this card, as you might’ve deduced for yourself seeing that it lacks the Crossfire connectors.
The box is as pretty as the card, with a refreshing design and imaginative characters of the prettier gender, of course.
In the box you’ll find: CyberLink PowerDVD 7, CyberLink DVD Suite, Ruby ROM, installation CD and a written user’s manual with no additional cables or connectors.
Motherboard: MSI P45D3 Platinum ( Provided by: MSI );
Processor: Intel Core 2 QX9770 Extreme edition na 3.6GHz ( Provided by: Intel );
Memory: Corsair Dominator 12800 7-7-7-24 ( Provided by: Corsair);
HDD: WD VelociRaptor 300G 10,000RPM ( Provided by: SmoothCreation );
Drivers: AMD ATI CCC 9.1,Nvidia Geforce drajver 181.22
Today we’re looking at an interesting passively cooled card, featuring the RV730XT GPU at 750MHz. This GPU packs enough juice to provide pleasant gaming at 1280x1024, or even higher depending on the game and detail settings.
Our testing will reveal that the card is much better than Geforce 9500 GT with 512MB of GDDR3 memory, but also that the Geforce 9600GSO with 384MB of GDDR3 memory is its fierce adversary. We also included the XFX 9600 GSO 680M 384MB GDDR3 results, as it’s priced same as the reference card at the time of writing this review, despite being overclocked from 550MHz all the way up to 680MHz.
XFX 9600GSO initially beats the HD 4670 Ultimate with results higher by as much as 50%, but the advantage ducks to as little as 4% by the end of the test. In Vantage Mark’s Extreme settings, the reference 9600 GSO loses to Saphire’s HD 4670 Ultimate by 6%. The same test sees the 9500 GT trail behind the Sapphire’s card by almost 70%.
The first tested game, FarCry 2 shows that both HD 4670 and Geforce 9600 GSO have no business lingering around the highest Ultra settings that we’ve used. The graphics is too demanding but the frame count will surely go up as soon as you bring the detail settings down. We did exactly that and tried gaming at 1680x1050, successfully. Still, we still made sure that we finished the “Ultra settings” test in order to see just how many frames can these cards churn out.
The Radeon HD 4670 Ultra even managed to beat the overclocked Geforce 9600 GSO, whereas the Geforce 9500 GT lagged behind by a hefty margin – more than 80% at certain resolutions. Still, it would be wrong to say that this card is bad as it’s priced under €50 and will provide decent gaming at low resolutions and minimum detail setting. After all, not all games are as graphics-hungry as the games we use for our testing.
Left 4 Dead
Unlike the previous game where Sapphire’s HD 4670 outmuscled both 9600 GSO cards, Left 4 Dead shows another side of the story. Here we see a greater advantage of the XFX’s overclocked 9600 GSO over the reference 9600 GSO card.
In this game, Geforce 9600 GSO cards are better if you’re gaming at 1680x1050 and higher. Still, note that Left 4 Dead is playable on pretty much all the graphics cards. Even the weakest Geforce 9500 GT proves good enough to squeeze out 32 fps at the aforementioned resolution.
Just like in Vantage tests, we see the XFX 9600 GSO at high 680MHz separating from the pack, leaving the likes of HD 4670 and Geforce 9500 by 50% and 160%, respectively.
World in Conflict
Sapphire’s passively cooled card holds up nicely, although World in Conflict is every graphics card’s nightmare when maximum detail settings are used. Still, the HD 4670 Ultimate proves that it has what it takes for decent frame rate at 1280x1024. Compared to the last game, it lags behind Geforce 9600 GSO cards, mostly due to their 192-bit interface advantage.
Sapphire HD 4670 Ultimate is a card with decent capabilities that, besides gaming, offers total silence during operation. It uses a passive cooler with heatpipe technology and no movable parts. It’s one of the rare graphics cards that, apart from DVI and VGA outs, feature an HDMI out. Coupled with integrated ATI Avivo and UVD (Unified Video Decoder) technology, it provides great HD multimedia capabilities. We must admit that a combination of silence and HDMI outs are a dream come true for HTPC enthusiasts.
The graphics core features 320 stream processors and runs at 750MHz. It comes with 512MB of GDDR3 memory at 873MHz (1746MHz effectively). Although the cooler is passive and not too large, thermal properties are great, but only if the in-case airflow is appropriate. Otherwise, you might experience the card overheating. There’s no power connectors meaning it consumes less than 75W. With €72 price it is just a few dollars more expensive then the actively cooled card, and if you want the passive one, this one makes a perfect sense.
Although the Geforce 9600 GSO is just a tad pricier, we’ve seen that it’s slightly better too. Passive cooling combined with HDMI outs leave us no choice but to recommend Sapphire HD 4670 Ultimate. For gaming at 1280x1024 resolutions, the card runs just fine, but it’s the “golden silence” that sets it apart from the rest.