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Sapphire Radeon HD 5770 Vapor-X

Date: December 16, 2009
Author(s): Rob Williams

Of all the current mid-range graphics cards on the market, the Radeon HD 5770 from AMD has proven to be one of the best. It offers great performance, and has other perks such as DirectX 11 and Eyefinity support. With its Vapor-X model, Sapphire has improved the card in numerous ways, including power consumption and temperatures.



Introduction

Hmm, am I addicted to the Radeon HD 5770? Just last week, I posted an in-depth look at its CrossFireX performance (which was awesome), and today, I’m looking at one of the first models that features a non-reference design. When Sapphire told me that this card was en route, I was looking forward to receiving it, because though I’ve only taken a look at a couple of its Vapor-X models in the past, all have impressed me.

What makes Vapor-X cards special, sometimes more so than the competition, is that the cards aren’t shipped out with ultra-high clock speeds, because that’s not the point. Some vendors will overclock the heck out of a card, and charge a sweet premium, but Sapphire is taking a slightly different route by making obvious improvements to the design, but charging only a modest premium. What do these improvements include?

For one, a non-reference cooler, which is for the most part rather self-explanatory. I will admit, though, that while reference coolers used to be something to spit at, things have vastly improved since then, as both the power efficiency and lower overall output temperatures of the cards have improved. Less power means an easier card to cool, and we’ve seen that reflected especially with ATI’s HD 5000 series of cards.

But just because cards have gotten better in that area, it doesn’t mean further improvements couldn’t be made, and Sapphire accomplishes all that and more with its Vapor-X designs. The cards tend to run cooler, and quieter… two things that go great together. That’s not it, though, as Sapphire also implements higher-quality chokes that are said to improve power efficiency, and from the results we’ll see later, I tend to believe the hype.

Last, but not least, Sapphire’s Vapor-X takes all of its improvements and delivers better overclocking-ability over reference cards, and that’s yet one more aspect that proves true in our tests. After all, if higher-quality chokes are used, and an improved cooler, it would make sense that the card would also see better overclocking, and given that ATI’s latest batch of cards have proven to be very overclocker-friendly, you’re usually able to far surpass stock speeds with relative ease.

The biggest goal of a Vapor-X card is to deliver top-rate cooling ability, and to pull that off, Sapphire designs its coolers in such a way that heat will be efficiently expelled from both ends of the card, not just the back. In the case of this particular card, a modest shroud is installed, with the back-end being designed to push the air out through a tunnel in an efficient manner. The other end, closer to the PCI bracket, is a bit strange since it looks to simply let the air go wherever it pleases, but as this isn’t a high-end card, that may not matter.

Before we dive into a look at this particular card, here’s a quick roundup of AMD’s current GPU line-up, with a total of five cards belonging to its HD 5000 series so far.

Model
Core MHz
Mem MHz
Memory
Bus Width
Processors
Radeon HD 5970
725
1000
2048MB
256-bit
1600 x 2
Radeon HD 5870
850
1200
1024MB
256-bit
1600
Radeon HD 5850
725
1000
1024MB
256-bit
1440
Radeon HD 5770
850
1200
1024MB
128-bit
800
Radeon HD 5750
700
1150
512 – 1024MB
128-bit
720
Radeon HD 4890
850 – 900
975
1024MB
256-bit
800
Radeon HD 4870
750
900
512 – 2048MB
256-bit
800
Radeon HD 4850
625
993
512 – 1024MB
256-bit
800
Radeon HD 4770
750
800
512MB
128-bit
640
Radeon HD 4670
750
900 – 1100
512 – 1024MB
128-bit
320
Radeon HD 4650
600
400 – 500
512 – 1024MB
128-bit
320

As I mentioned above, Sapphire doesn’t apply major overclocks on its Vapor-X cards before shipping them out, but up to now, all of them have had some sort of a boost. The HD 5770 model isn’t excluded from that, but what’s unique is that it might be the smallest pre-overclock I’ve ever seen. The model’s reference clocks are 850MHz Core and 1200MHz Memory, and the Vapor-X bumps only the Core clock, to 860MHz. Yes, a mere 10MHz boost to the Core. That’s about all I can say to that.

Because of the robust air cooler, though, we could likely expect to see some hearty gains in our overclocking compared to the reference HD 5770. As you can see below, the Vapor-X cooler looks nothing at all like the reference, with open sides open on each end, and plenty of room for air to escape. The block that connects to the GPU core is rather modest as well, but it would be hard to expect a more robust cooling solution on a mid-range card. Mid-range is called mid-range for a reason, after all.

Like the majority of ATI’s HD 5000 series cards, this one includes two dual-link DVI-D ports, along with HDMI and also DisplayPort. For those stuck with VGA, an adapter is included, as expected. On the opposite end of the card, not shown, is a single PCI-E power port, as that’s all that’s required. This is a great thing, since adding a second card wouldn’t prove difficult to those who use power supplies with just two PCI-E power cables in total.

Another common theme for most of the HD 5000 series cards on the market right now is the inclusion of a voucher for a free copy of Dirt 2, and this card isn’t exempt. If that’s a game you’re planning to pick up anyway, that makes any current HD 5000 card an even better value, since the game itself retails for $40.

By this point in time, I’m sure that most of us are well aware of what the Radeon HD 5770 brings to the table, such as DirectX 11, Eyefinity, along with improved performance and power consumption. With this Vapor-X card, Sapphire aims to improve on almost all of those aspects, which means a card that could be even more power efficient, runs even cooler, and perhaps performs a bit better as a result. Let’s see how many of these hold true throughout all of our tests.

Test System & Methodology

At Techgage, we strive to make sure our results are as accurate as possible. Our testing is rigorous and time-consuming, but we feel the effort is worth it. In an attempt to leave no question unanswered, this page contains not only our testbed specifications, but also a fully-detailed look at how we conduct our testing. For an exhaustive look at our methodologies, even down to the Windows Vista installation, please refer to this article.

Test Machine

The below table lists our testing machine’s hardware, which remains unchanged throughout all GPU testing, minus the graphics card. Each card used for comparison is also listed here, along with the driver version used. Each one of the URLs in this table can be clicked to view the respective review of that product, or if a review doesn’t exist, it will bring you to the product on the manufacturer’s website.

Component
Model
Processor
Intel Core i7-975 Extreme Edition – Quad-Core, 3.33GHz, 1.33v
Motherboard
Gigabyte GA-EX58-EXTREME – X58-based, F7 BIOS (05/11/09)
Memory
Corsair DOMINATOR – DDR3-1333 7-7-7-24-1T, 1.60
ATI Graphics Radeon HD 5870 1GB (Sapphire) – Catalyst 9.10
Radeon HD 5850 1GB (ASUS) – Catalyst 9.10
Radeon HD 5770 1GB (Sapphire Vapor-X) – Catalyst 9.11
Radeon HD 5770 1GB (Reference) – Beta Catalyst (10/06/09)
Radeon HD 4890 1GB (Sapphire) – Catalyst 9.8
Radeon HD 4870 1GB (Reference) – Catalyst 9.8
Radeon HD 4770 512MB (Gigabyte) – Catalyst 9.8
NVIDIA Graphics GeForce GTX 295 1792MB (Reference) – GeForce 186.18
GeForce GTX 285 1GB (EVGA) – GeForce 186.18
GeForce GTX 275 896MB (Reference) – GeForce 186.18
GeForce GTX 260 896MB (XFX) – GeForce 186.18
GeForce GTS 250 1GB (EVGA) – GeForce 186.18
Audio
On-Board Audio
Storage
Seagate Barracuda 500GB 7200.11
Power Supply
Corsair HX1000W
Chassis
SilverStone TJ10 Full-Tower
Display
Gateway XHD3000 30″
Cooling
Thermalright TRUE Black 120
Et cetera
Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit

When preparing our testbeds for any type of performance testing, we follow these guidelines:

To aide with the goal of keeping accurate and repeatable results, we alter certain services in Windows Vista from starting up at boot. This is due to the fact that these services have the tendency to start up in the background without notice, potentially causing slightly inaccurate results. Disabling “Windows Search” turns off the OS’ indexing which can at times utilize the hard drive and memory more than we’d like.

For more robust information on how we tweak Windows, please refer once again to this article.

Game Titles

At this time, we currently benchmark all of our games using three popular resolutions: 1680×1050, 1920×1080 and also 2560×1600. 1680×1050 was chosen as it’s one of the most popular resolutions for gamers sporting ~20″ displays. 1920×1080 might stand out, since we’ve always used 1920×1200 in the past, but we didn’t make this change without some serious thought. After taking a look at the current landscape for desktop monitors around ~24″, we noticed that 1920×1200 is definitely on the way out, as more and more models are coming out as native 1080p. It’s for this reason that we chose it. Finally, for high-end gamers, we also benchmark using 2560×1600, a resolution that’s just about 2x 1080p.

For graphics cards that include less than 1GB of GDDR, we omit Grand Theft Auto IV from our testing, as our chosen detail settings require at least 800MB of available graphics memory. Also, if the card we’re benchmarking doesn’t offer the performance to handle 2560×1600 across most of our titles reliably, only 1680×1050 and 1920×1080 will be utilized.

Because we value results generated by real-world testing, we don’t utilize timedemos whatsoever. The possible exception might be Futuremark’s 3DMark Vantage. Though it’s not a game, it essentially acts as a robust timedemo. We choose to use it as it’s a standard where GPU reviews are concerned, and we don’t want to rid our readers of results they expect to see.

All of our results are captured with the help of Beepa’s FRAPS 2.98, while stress-testing and temperature-monitoring is handled by OCCT 3.1.0 and GPU-Z, respectively.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood

Crysis Warhead

F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin

Grand Theft Auto IV

Race Driver: GRID

World in Conflict: Soviet Assault

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

When the original Call of Duty game launched in 2003, Infinity Ward was an unknown. Naturally… it was the company’s first title. But since then, the series and company alike have become household names. Not only has the series delivered consistently incredible gameplay, it’s pushed the graphics envelope with each successive release, and where Modern Warfare is concerned, it’s also had a rich storyline.

The first two titles might have been built on the already-outdated Quake III engine, but since then, the games have been built with improved graphical features, capable of pushing the highest-end PCs out there. Modern Warfare 2 is the first such exception, as it’s more of a console port than a true PC title. Therefore, the game doesn’t push PC hardware as much as we’d like to see, but despite that, it still looks great, and lacks little in the graphics department. You can read our review of the game here.

Manual Run-through: The level chosen is the 10th mission in the game, “The Gulag”. Our teams fly in helicopters up to an old prison with the intention of getting closer to finding the game’s villain, Vladimir Makarov. Our saved game file begins us at the point when the level name comes on the screen, right before we reach the prison, and it ends after one minute of landing, following the normal progression of the level. The entire run takes around two-and-a-half minutes.

Given the 10MHz boost to the core, these results weren’t too unexpected. The difference between the reference card and the Vapor-X performance-wise is almost nil.

Graphics Card
Best Playable
Min FPS
Avg. FPS
ATI HD 5770 1GB CrossFireX
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA
40
81.311
ATI HD 5870 1GB (Sapphire)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA
46
79.838
ATI HD 5850 1GB (ASUS)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA
37
68.563
NVIDIA GTX 285 1GB (EVGA)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA
41
66.527
NVIDIA GTX 275 896MB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA
37
61.937
NVIDIA GTX 260 896MB (XFX)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA
33
53.314

ATI HD 5770 1GB (Vapor-X)

2560×1600 – Max Detail, 0xAA
38
61.907
ATI HD 5770 1GB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 0xAA
36
60.337
NVIDIA GTS 250 1GB (EVGA)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 0xAA
30
53.253
ATI HD 5750 1GB (Sapphire)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 0xAA
28
50.727

Like the reference card, our best playable setting is with anti-aliasing turned off. While it does play decently well with it enabled, that extra 15FPS by turning it off is quite noticeable.

Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood

When the original Call of Juarez was released, it brought forth something unique… a western-styled first-person shooter. That’s simply not something we see too often, so for fans of the genre, its release was a real treat. Although it didn’t really offer the best gameplay we’ve seen from a recent FPS title, its storyline and unique style made it well-worth testing.

After we retired the original title from our suite, we anxiously awaited for the sequel, Bound in Blood, in hopes that the series could be re-introduced into our testing once again. Thankfully, it could, thanks in part to its fantastic graphics, which are based around the Chrome Engine 4, and improved gameplay of the original. It was also well-received by game reviewers, which is always a good sign.

Manual Run-through: The level chosen here is Chapter I, and our starting point is about 15 minutes into the mission, where we stand atop a hill that overlooks a large river. We make our way across the hill and ultimately through a large trench, and we stop our benchmarking run shortly after we blow up a gas-filled barrel.

The performance once again is neck-and-neck, and at some points, the end results are even less than the reference card. While the Vapor-X is the faster of the two, the results are just too close, and that’s bound to happen.

Graphics Card
Best Playable
Min FPS
Avg. FPS
ATI HD 5870 1GB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Max Detail
58
81.945
NVIDIA GTX 295 1792MB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Max Detail
37
80.339
ATI HD 5850 1GB (ASUS)
2560×1600 – Max Detail
51
69.165
NVIDIA GTX 285 1GB (EVGA)
2560×1600 – Max Detail
45
54.428
NVIDIA GTX 275 896MB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Max Detail
41
51.393
ATI HD 4890 1GB (Sapphire)
2560×1600 – Max Detail
36
51.334
ATI HD 4870 1GB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Max Detail
31
46.259
ATI HD 5770 1GB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Max Detail
28
45.028

ATI HD 5770 1GB (Vapor-X)

2560×1600 – Max Detail
30
44.98
NVIDIA GTX 260 896MB (XFX)
2560×1600 – Max Detail
35
44.023
ATI HD 5750 1GB (Sapphire)
2560×1600 – Max Detail
27
38.686
NVIDIA GTX 250 1GB (EVGA)
2560×1600 – Max Detail
25
33.751

Is this much of a surprise? The game ran like a dream at the game’s top settings, so that becomes our “best playable” without a second thought.

Crysis Warhead

Like Call of Duty, Crysis is another series that doesn’t need much of an introduction. Thanks to the fact that almost any comments section for a PC performance-related article asks, “Can it run Crysis?”, even those who don’t play computer games no doubt know what Crysis is. When Crytek first released Far Cry, it delivered an incredible game engine with huge capabilities, and Crysis simply took things to the next level.

Although the sequel, Warhead, has been available for just about a year, it still manages to push the highest-end systems to their breaking-point. It wasn’t until this past January that we finally found a graphics solution to handle the game at 2560×1600 at its Enthusiast level, but even that was without AA! Something tells me Crysis will be de facto for GPU benchmarking for the next while.

Manual Run-through: Whenever we have a new game in-hand for benchmarking, we make every attempt to explore each level of the game to find out which is the most brutal towards our hardware. Ironically, after spending hours exploring this game’s levels, we found the first level in the game, “Ambush”, to be the hardest on the GPU, so we stuck with it for our testing. Our run starts from the beginning of the level and stops shortly after we reach the first bridge.

More of the same here. The performance couldn’t get much closer between the two cards than this.

Graphics Card
Best Playable
Min FPS
Avg. FPS
NVIDIA GTX 295 1792MB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Gamer, 0xAA
19
40.381
ATI HD 5870 1GB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Gamer, 0xAA
20
32.955
ATI HD 5850 1GB (ASUS)
2560×1600 – Mainstream, 0xAA
28
52.105
NVIDIA GTX 285 1GB (EVGA)
2560×1600 – Mainstream, 0xAA
27
50.073
NVIDIA GTX 275 896MB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Mainstream, 0xAA
24
47.758
NVIDIA GTX 260 896MB (XFX)
2560×1600 – Mainstream, 0xAA
21
40.501
ATI HD 4890 1GB (Sapphire)
2560×1600 – Mainstream, 0xAA
19
39.096
ATI HD 4870 1GB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Mainstream, 0xAA
20
35.257

ATI HD 5770 1GB (Vapor-X)

2560×1600 – Mainstream, 0xAA
19
35.923
ATI HD 5770 1GB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Mainstream, 0xAA
20
35.256
NVIDIA GTX 250 1GB (EVGA)
2560×1600 – Mainstream, 0xAA
18
34.475
ATI HD 5750 1GB (Sapphire)
1920×1080 – Mainstream, 0xAA
21
47.545

Gamer is for the most hardcore cards out there, which the HD 5770 isn’t. So, we had to back down our detail profile to Mainstream, which delivered very playable framerates.

F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin

Five out of the seven current games we use for testing are either sequels, or titles in an established series. F.E.A.R. 2 is one of the former, following up on the very popular First Encounter Assault Recon, released in fall of 2005. This horror-based first-person shooter brought to the table fantastic graphics, ultra-smooth gameplay, the ability to blow massive chunks out of anything, and also a very fun multi-player mode.

Three-and-a-half years later, we saw the introduction of the game’s sequel, Project Origin. As we had hoped, this title improved on the original where gameplay and graphics were concerned, and it was a no-brainer to want to begin including it in our testing. The game is gorgeous, and there’s much destruction to be had (who doesn’t love blowing expensive vases to pieces?). The game is also rather heavily scripted, which aides in producing repeatable results in our benchmarking.

Manual Run-through: The level used for our testing here is the first in the game, about ten minutes in. The scene begins with a travel up an elevator, with a robust city landscape behind us. Our run-through begins with a quick look at this cityscape, and then we proceed through the level until the point when we reach the far door as seen in the above screenshot.

With results such as these, I’m really starting to wonder why Sapphire increased the core clock by any amount at all.

Graphics Card
Best Playable
Min FPS
Avg. FPS
NVIDIA GTX 295 1792MB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA, 16xAF
45
95.767
ATI HD 5870 1GB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA, 16xAF
65
91.34
ATI HD 5850 1GB (ASUS)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA, 16xAF
51
73.647
NVIDIA GTX 285 1GB (EVGA)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA, 16xAF
39
62.014
NVIDIA GTX 275 896MB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA, 16xAF
37
57.266
ATI HD 4890 1GB (Sapphire)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA, 16xAF
38
56.726
ATI HD 4870 1GB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA, 16xAF
34
50.555

ATI HD 5770 1GB (Vapor-X)

2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA, 16xAF
33
48.356
NVIDIA GTX 260 896MB (XFX)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA, 16xAF
29
48.110
ATI HD 5770 1GB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA, 16xAF
31
47.411
ATI HD 5750 1GB (Sapphire)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 0xAA, 16xAF
27
39.563
NVIDIA GTX 250 1GB (EVGA)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA, 16xAF
24
36.331

Because the game runs without a hitch at the game’s maxed out settings, that’s the best playable here.

Grand Theft Auto: IV

If you look up the definition for “controversy”, Grand Theft Auto should be listed. If it’s not, then that should be a crime, because throughout GTA’s many titles, there’s been more of that than you can shake your fist at. At the series’ beginning, the games were rather simple, and didn’t stir up too much passion in certain opposers. But once GTA III and its successors came along, its developers enjoyed all the controversy that came their way, and why not? It helped spur incredible sales numbers.

Grand Theft Auto IV is yet another continuation in the series, though it follows no storyline from the previous titles. Liberty City, loosely based off of New York City, is absolutely huge, with much to explore. This is so much so the case, that you could literally spend hours just wandering around, ignoring the game’s missions, if you wanted to. It also happens to be incredibly stressful on today’s computer hardware, similar to Crysis.

Manual Run-through: After the first minor mission in the game, you reach an apartment. Our benchmarking run starts from within this room. From here, we run out the door, down the stairs and into an awaiting car. We then follow a specific path through the city, driving for about three minutes total.

Crysis is one of the most gluttonous games on the market today, and GTA IV doesn’t follow too far behind. The game as a whole requires a beefy system to run at all, and if you have the barebones of what it requires, then the gains seen with faster graphics hardware shrinks the higher you can go. Memory is king in this game, and it’s a prime example of benefits that 2GB cards can offer.

Graphics Card
Best Playable
Min FPS
Avg. FPS
NVIDIA GTX 295 1792MB (Reference)
2560×1600, H/H/VH/H/VH Detail
27
52.590
ATI HD 5870 1GB (Reference)
2560×1600, H/H/VH/H/VH Detail
29
45.767
NVIDIA GTX 260 896MB (GBT SOC)
2560×1600 – High Detail
30
46.122
NVIDIA GTX 285 1GB (EVGA)
2560×1600 – High Detail
32
45.573
NVIDIA GTX 275 896MB (Reference)
2560×1600 – High Detail
30
44.703
NVIDIA GTX 260 896MB (XFX)
2560×1600 – High Detail
24
38.492
ATI HD 5850 1GB (ASUS)
1920×1080, High Detail
27
42.102
ATI HD 4890 1GB (Sapphire)
1920×1080 – High Detail
32
50.300
ATI HD 4870 1GB (Reference)
1920×1080 – High Detail
33
48.738

ATI HD 5770 1GB (Vapor-X)

1920×1080 – High Detail
34
47.813
ATI HD 5770 1GB (Reference)
1920×1080 – High Detail
33
47.719
NVIDIA GTX 250 1GB (EVGA)
1920×1080 – High Detail
21
34.257
ATI HD 5750 1GB (Sapphire)
1920×1080 – High Detail
27
39.904

That 10MHz to the core didn’t help us out too much here. 1080p was our best playable.

Race Driver: GRID

If you primarily play games on a console, your choices for quality racing games are plenty. On the PC, that’s not so much the case. While there are a good number, there aren’t enough for a given type of racing game, from sim, to arcade. So when Race Driver: GRID first saw its release, many gamers were excited, and for good reason. It’s not a sim in the truest sense of the word, but it’s certainly not arcade, either. It’s somewhere in between.

The game happens to be great fun, though, and similar to console games like Project Gotham Racing, you need a lot of skill to succeed at the game’s default difficulty level. And like most great racing games, GRID happens to look absolutely stellar, and each of the game’s locations look very similar to their real-world counterparts. All in all, no racing fan should ignore this one.

Manual Run-through: For our testing here, we choose the city where both Snoop Dogg and Sublime hit their fame, the LBC, also known as Long Beach City. We choose this level because it’s not overly difficult, and also because it’s simply nice to look at. Our run consists of an entire 2-lap race, with the cars behind us for almost the entire race.

I’m truly running out of things to say here, because there’s simply put, nothing to say! The performance is just as we’d expect to see from this card.

Graphics Card
Best Playable
Min FPS
Avg. FPS
ATI HD 5870 1GB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA
87
106.43
NVIDIA GTX 295 1792MB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA
84
103.958
ATI HD 5850 1GB (ASUS)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA
68
84.732
ATI HD 4890 1GB (Sapphire)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA
57
70.797
NVIDIA GTX 285 1GB (EVGA)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA
54
66.042
NVIDIA GTX 275 896MB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA
52
63.617
ATI HD 4870 1GB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA
51
63.412
ATI HD 5770 1GB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA
45
56.980

ATI HD 5770 1GB (Vapor-X)

2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA
42
56.665
NVIDIA GTX 260 896MB (XFX)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA
45
54.809
ATI HD 5750 1GB (Sapphire)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA
39
47.05
NVIDIA GTX 250 1GB (EVGA)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA
35
43.663

GRID offers anti-aliasing options above 4xAA, but in all my tests in the past, they’re extremely buggy, so they’re a non-option. Given that, and the performance of our 2560×1600 setting, that remains our best playable.

World in Conflict: Soviet Assault

I admit that I’m not a huge fan of RTS titles, but World in Conflict intrigued me from the get go. After all, so many war-based games continue to follow the same story-lines we already know, and WiC was different. It counteracts the fall of the political and economic situation in the Soviet Union in the late 80’s, and instead provides a storyline that follows it as if the USSR had succeeded by proceeding with war in order to remain in power.

Many RTS games, with their advanced AI, tend to favor the CPU in order to deliver smooth gameplay, but WiC favors both the CPU and GPU, and the graphics prove it. Throughout the game’s missions, you’ll see gorgeous vistas and explore areas from deserts and snow-packed lands, to fields and cities. Overall, it’s a real visual treat for the eyes – especially since you’re able to zoom to the ground and see the action up-close.

Manual Run-through: The level we use for testing is the 7th campaign of the game, called Insurgents. Our saved game plants us towards the beginning of the mission with two squads of five, and two snipers. The run consists of bringing our men to action, and hovering the camera around throughout the duration. The entire run lasts between three and four minutes.

We wrap up our game results exactly as we expected… with both the Vapor-X and reference card neck-and-neck.

Graphics Card
Best Playable
Min FPS
Avg. FPS
NVIDIA GTX 295 1792MB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 8xAA, 16xAF
40
55.819
ATI HD 5870 1GB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA, 16xAF
35
47.195
ATI HD 5850 1GB (ASUS)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA, 16xAF
29
40.581
NVIDIA GTX 285 1GB (EVGA)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 0xAA, 16xAF
34
49.514
NVIDIA GTX 275 896MB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 0xAA, 16xAF
36
46.186
ATI HD 4890 1GB (Sapphire)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 0xAA, 16xAF
31
46.175
ATI HD 4870 1GB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 0xAA, 16xAF
28
40.660
NVIDIA GTX 260 896MB (XFX)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 0xAA, 16xAF
23
39.365

ATI HD 5770 1GB (Vapor-X)

2560×1600 – Max Detail, 0xAA, 16xAF
28
37.511
ATI HD 5770 1GB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 0xAA, 16xAF
28
37.389
NVIDIA GTX 250 1GB (EVGA)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 0xAA, 4xAF
24
32.453
ATI HD 5750 1GB (Sapphire)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 0xAA, 4xAF
23
31.769

Like the reference card, this game ran much better with no anti-aliasing with the Vapor-X card.

Futuremark 3DMark Vantage

Although we generally shun automated gaming benchmarks, we do like to run at least one to see how our GPUs scale when used in a ‘timedemo’-type scenario. Futuremark’s 3DMark Vantage is without question the best such test on the market, and it’s a joy to use, and watch. The folks at Futuremark are experts in what they do, and they really know how to push that hardware of yours to its limit.

The company first started out as MadOnion and released a GPU-benchmarking tool called XLR8R, which was soon replaced with 3DMark 99. Since that time, we’ve seen seven different versions of the software, including two major updates (3DMark 99 Max, 3DMark 2001 SE). With each new release, the graphics get better, the capabilities get better and the sudden hit of ambition to get down and dirty with overclocking comes at you fast.

Similar to a real game, 3DMark Vantage offers many configuration options, although many (including us) prefer to stick to the profiles which include Performance, High and Extreme. Depending on which one you choose, the graphic options are tweaked accordingly, as well as the resolution. As you’d expect, the better the profile, the more intensive the test.

Performance is the stock mode that most use when benchmarking, but it only uses a resolution of 1280×1024, which isn’t representative of today’s gamers. Extreme is more appropriate, as it runs at 1920×1200 and does well to push any single or multi-GPU configuration currently on the market – and will do so for some time to come.

3DMark Vantage is a highly scalable benchmark, taking full advantage of all available shaders and literal GPU cores, along with copious amounts of memory. Given that, our results above fairly accurately scale each card with its real-world performance.

Overclocking Sapphire’s HD 5770 Vapor-X

Before tackling our overclocking results, let’s first clear up what we consider to be a real overclock and how we go about achieving it. If you read our processor reviews, you might already be aware that we don’t care too much for an unstable overclock. It might look good on paper, but if it’s not stable, then it won’t be used. Very few people purchase a new GPU for the sole purpose of finding the maximum overclock, which is why we focus on finding what’s stable and usable.

To find the max stable overclock on an ATI card, we stick to using ATI’s Catalyst Overdrive tool. Compared to what’s available on the NVIDIA side, it’s quite limited in the top-end, but it’s the most robust and simplest solution to use. For NVIDIA, we use EVGA’s Precision, which allows us to reach heights that are in no way sane – a good thing.

Once we find what we believe might be a stable overclock, the card is put through 30 minutes of torture with the help of OCCT 3.0’s GPU stress-test, which we find to push any graphics card harder than any other stress-tester we’ve ever used. If the card passes there, we then further verify by running the card through a 2x run of 3DMark Vantage’s Extreme setting. Finally, games are quickly loaded and tested out to assure we haven’t introduced any side-effects.

If all these tests pass without issue, we consider the overclock to be stable.

Overclocking Sapphire’s Radeon HD 5770 Vapor-X

Though Sapphire’s Vapor-X card is technically pre-overclocked, it has the weakest one I’ve ever seen. As the reference HD 5770 has fairly good overclocking-abilities, I was hoping that coupled with the improved chokes and far superior cooler, that our overclocking headroom would increase, and it did. While the stock clocks are 850MHz/1200MHz, the top overclock here was 960MHz/1400MHz. That’s a major improvement over the reference card’s overclock of 910MHz/1225MHz.

As odd as it is, though, the performance we saw after the overclock wasn’t actually that great compared to what we’d expect. Let’s face it… 110MHz to the core and 200MHz to the memory is a huge boost, and while we continued to see improved performance the higher we went, the benefits were slow to grow. One reason for this may be the limited memory bus, at 128-bit (compared to 256-bit of the larger cards), because common sense would tell me that we should be seeing far larger gains than this:

Still, for completely stable performance, the results are fantastic, especially as the card managed to retain reasonable temperatures throughout all testing (~75°C). At that temperature, that’s actually better than what the reference card can manage at stock speeds, so if that’s not an impressive accomplishment by this card, I’m not sure what is.

Power & Temperatures

To test our graphics cards for both temperatures and power consumption, we utilize OCCT for the stress-testing, GPU-Z for the temperature monitoring, and a Kill-a-Watt for power monitoring. The Kill-a-Watt is plugged into its own socket, with only the PC connect to it.

As per our guidelines when benchmarking with Windows, when the room temperature is stable (and reasonable), the test machine is boot up and left to sit at the Windows desktop until things are completely idle. Once things are good to go, the idle wattage is noted, GPU-Z is started up to begin monitoring card temperatures, and OCCT is set up to begin stress-testing.

To push the cards we test to their absolute limit, we use OCCT in full-screen 2560×1600 mode, and allow it to run for 30 minutes, which includes a one minute lull at the start, and a three minute lull at the end. After about 10 minutes, we begin to monitor our Kill-a-Watt to record the max wattage.

The results are undoubtedly impressive here. Not only did the Vapor-X manage to keep the card 14°C cooler at max load and 9°C at idle, it even managed to have a lower power consumption as well, despite having that 10MHz boost.

Final Thoughts

The more I use an HD 5770, the more I like it, and one of the latest reasons is the Vapor-X. Compared to a reference card, the Vapor-X carries a ~$15 premium, and from what we saw here, I’d have to say that it’s well worth it. I should make it clear that I’m someone who appreciates improvements on power consumption and cooling, though, so if you don’t weigh those as heavily as I do, then picking up a reference card is going to be fine.

From the cooling standpoint, the Vapor-X is hands-down a winner. It dropped 14°C off of the load temperature (compared to reference), and 9°C at idle. This was all while retaining decent noise levels (it sure didn’t stand out). It’s a major improvement over the reference cooler, especially when its overclocked temperatures still came well under what the reference card could pull off with stock clocks.

Then there’s the power consumption improvements. I didn’t expect the higher-grade chokes to improve much, but I was wrong, because the differences were clear after testing. At load, the reference card hit 245W, while the Vapor-X topped out at 234W… an 11W drop. There was also a 6W drop at idle, which was also nice to see. Any drop at all is interesting since the card does have that 10MHz boost.

In addition to those perks mentioned above, the card managed to hit a much higher overclock than our reference card, which was to be expected. What wasn’t to be expected was the lack of real performance gains with such an impressive overclock. The tighter memory bus seems to be rearing its ugly head here. Still, the fact that we could overclock the card so high, and not have to worry about temperatures at all was nice.

Like most current HD 5000 cards on the market, this Vapor-X includes a voucher for Dirt 2, making the card an even greater value if you were looking to purchase that game anyway. To add to it, the HD 5000 series arguably still has the best graphics cards on the market thanks to its inclusion of DirectX 11 and Eyefinity (if you yearn for multi-monitor gaming). Add the much-improved power consumptions and temperatures, and AMD is really, really hard to beat right now, and this Vapor-X just improves things even further.


Sapphire’s Radeon HD 5770 Vapor-X

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