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Sapphire Radeon HD 5870 Vapor-X 2GB

Date: May 21, 2010
Author(s): Rob Williams

As our games continue to become even more robust, it would seem likely that having more memory available to the GPU would prove useful, but are we soon to see 2GB cards become commonplace? After many completed tests with Sapphire’s Radeon HD 5870 Vapor-X 2GB, we’re having a hard time settling on that.



Introduction

With the launch of AMD’s Radeon HD 5000 series, all we saw for months and months were 1GB models, and the reason is hard to figure out. GDDR5 pricing might not help, but given today’s games and high resolutions, wouldn’t there be some demand for a 2GB model? Well over the past couple of months, I’ve noticed that such cards are on the rise, and I knew I had to get one in and see if there was a good reason for their existence.

The card we received came in the form of the Vapor-X, from Sapphire. When I received it, I was a bit taken back, because the card as a whole is almost a spitting image of the original Radeon HD 5870 Vapor-X we took a look at this past fall. That’s not a bad thing, though, as the cooler impressed me a lot, as did the performance of the card itself.

Past that, having the exact same model and cooler of a card with more memory is nice, because you can compare the performance from a true Apples to Apples standpoint, and that’s what we’ll be doing here today.

If you’re asking yourself why 2GB on a GPU would ever be needed, in the simplest terms it’s because games are becoming beefier and beefier, and while 512MB was fine for a GPU a couple of years ago, today’s bare minimum is 1GB. 2GB is admittedly not going to deliver night and day performance (as we’ll see), but if you’re not looking to upgrade your GPU for a while, investing in a 2GB card today may not be such a bad idea (as long as it offers reasonable performance to begin with, of course.)

Closer Look

As mentioned in our original HD 5870 Vapor-X article, Sapphire has been pushing its special coolers quite hard the past couple of years, and in our opinion, it’s for good reason. Almost every single Vapor-X cooler we’ve looked at to date has offered stellar cooling performance, in if there had to be one to put at the top of the list, it’d have to be this design right here.

The image does a good job of explaining the cooling design, although it’s rather straightforward. The heat comes up through the middle of the card, spreads across the numerous fins that span it, while the central large cooling fan helps push air both ways, both out the back of the chassis and through the open end of the card, where in this case, the PCI-E power connectors also plug in.

Just a moment ago, I divulged a question I once had regarding the lack of 2GB cards, and in looking up the pricing for this particular model, I believe I have the answer. Currently at one popular e-tailer, a card identical to this is selling for $530, which is $400 above SRP for 1GB models. Oddly, another version that includes higher clocks actually costs less, but it’s out of stock… no surprise.

Without saying, there is a definite premium here, and it’s going to be difficult to justify. It may be easy to justify such a premium for a card that’s +15% faster, but does twice the memory in this case have a chance of delivering such stark gains? It’s unlikely, but that’s what our performance reports are for.

Before we delve further, you can review AMD’s current line-up of GPUs. The Radeon HD 5870 still of course settles up top in the single-GPU category, while the dual-GPU HD 5970 reigns the entire chart alone. Stock clocks for the Radeon HD 5870 are 850/1200, but on this particular sample they’re 925/1225… a fairly healthy boost.

Model
Core MHz
Mem MHz
Memory
Bus Width
Processors
Radeon HD 5970
725
1000
2048MB
256-bit
1600 x 2
Radeon HD 5870 Eyefinity 6
850
1200
2048MB
256-bit
1600
Radeon HD 5870
850
1200
1024MB
256-bit
1600
Radeon HD 5850
725
1000
1024MB
256-bit
1440
Radeon HD 5830
800
1000
1024MB
256-bit
1120
Radeon HD 5770
850
1200
1024MB
128-bit
800
Radeon HD 5750
700
1150
512MB – 1GB
128-bit
720
Radeon HD 5670
775
1000
512MB – 1GB
128-bit
400
Radeon HD 5570
650
900
512MB – 1GB
128-bit
400
Radeon HD 5550
550
400
512MB – 1GB
128-bit
320
Radeon HD 5450
650
800
512MB – 1GB
64-bit
80

Of all the after-market GPU coolers currently on the market, Sapphire’s Vapor-X on this model is my favorite. It’s comprised of metal, a sturdy frame, large quiet fan in the center, and black… arguably the coolest color for any PC component.

Nothing has changed on the back peripheral-wise, as there are still two DVI-I’s and also a DisplayPort and HDMI, and on this particular card, my finger-prints.

Finally, to give a better overview of the cooler itself, I am going to borrow a photo I snapped from our 1GB review this past November. As you can see fins are plentiful, and the large starkly-angled fins on the fan promise quiet operation and effective results.

Though not pictured, Sapphire includes two power cables to introduce both a 6-pin and 8-pin PCI-E connector with the help of molex power connectors, a DVI-to-VGA adapter, along with a driver CD-ROM and manual. It’s a very typical bundle, which is a bit unfortunate given this model carries a very hefty premium. With that, let’s move onto our testing methodology and then our benchmark results.

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 2GB (Sapphire Vapor-X) – Catalyst 10.4
Radeon HD 5870 1GB (Sapphire Vapor-X) – Catalyst 10.3
Radeon HD 5850 1GB (Sapphire Toxic) – Catalyst 10.2
Radeon HD 5850 1GB (ASUS) – Catalyst 9.10
Radeon HD 5830 1GB (Reference) – Beta Catalyst (02/10/10)
Radeon HD 5770 1GB (Reference) – Beta Catalyst (10/06/09)
Radeon HD 5750 1GB (Sapphire) – Catalyst 9.11
Radeon HD 5670 512MB (Reference) – Beta Catalyst (12/16/09)
Radeon HD 5570 1GB (Sapphire) – Beta Catalyst (12/11/09)
Radeon HD 5550 1GB (Sapphire) – Catalyst 10.4
NVIDIA Graphics GeForce GTX 480 1536MB (Reference) – GeForce 197.17
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
GeForce GT 240 512MB (ASUS) – GeForce 196.21
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

Race Driver: GRID

World in Conflict: Soviet Assault

Call of Duty: World at War

The Call of Duty series is one that needs no introduction. Although only six years old, CoD has already become a stature where both single-player and multi-player first-person shooters are concerned. From the series’ inception, each game has delivered stellar gameplay that totally engrosses you, thanks in part to creative levels, smart AI and realistic graphics.

World at War is officially the 5th game in the series, and while some hardcore fans claim that Treyarch is simply unable to deliver as high caliber a game as Infinity Ward, the title does do well to hold everyone over until Modern Warfare 2 hits (November 10, 2009). One perk is that World at War focuses on battles not exhausted in other war games, which helps to keep things fresh.

Manual Run-through: The level chosen for our testing is “Relentless”, one that depicts the Battle of Peleliu, which has American soldiers advance to capture an airstrip from the Japanese. The level is both exciting to play and incredibly hard on your graphics hardware, making it a perfect choice for our testing.

So far, there are obvious gains, but I’d attribute those to the pre-overclock that the card has long before the extra memory.

Graphics Card
Best Playable
Min FPS
Avg. FPS
ATI HD Radeon 5870 2GB (Sapphire)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA
46
84.22
NVIDIA GTX 480 1.5GB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA
50
81.669
ATI HD Radeon 5870 1GB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA
44
81.351
ATI HD 5770 1GB CrossFireX
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA
40
81.311
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
ATI HD 5830 1GB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA
30
53.569
NVIDIA GTX 260 896MB (XFX)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA
33
53.314
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
ATI HD 5670 512MB (Reference)
1920×1080 – Max Detail, 4xAA
24
43.96
NVIDIA GT 240 512MB (ASUS)
1920×1080 – Max Detail, 0xAA
30
53.139
ATI HD 5570 1GB (Sapphire)
1920×1080 – Max Detail, 0xAA
27
45.841
ATI HD 5550 1GB (Sapphire)
1920×1080 – Medium Detail, 0xAA
14
27.199

Modern Warfare 2 may be a great-looking game, but it’s not quite as intensive on today’s PC as we’d like. As it is, the card can handle the game at maxed-out detail settings without issue.

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.

There’s not much to be surprised about here. Bound in Blood caters to ATI cards to a small degree, but that’s enough to help Sapphire’s pre-overclocked card soar past the GTX 480 and of course a stock-clocked HD 5870.

Graphics Card
Best Playable
Min FPS
Avg. FPS
ATI HD Radeon 5870 2GB (Sapphire)
2560×1600 – Max Detail
62
85.31
ATI HD Radeon 5870 1GB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Max Detail
58
82.863
NVIDIA GTX 480 1.5GB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Max Detail
58
82.711
ATI HD 5770 1GB CrossFireX
2560×1600 – Max Detail
59
87.583
NVIDIA GTX 295 1792MB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Max Detail
37
80.339
ATI HD 5850 1GB (ASUS)
2560×1600 – Max Detail
51
69.165
ATI HD 5830 1GB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Max Detail
35
54.675
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 5770 1GB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Max Detail
28
45.028
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
ATI HD 5670 512MB (Reference)
1920×1080 – Max Detail
38
47.23
NVIDIA GT 240 512MB (ASUS)
1920×1080 – Max Detail
29
39.446
ATI HD 5570 1GB (Sapphire)
1920×1080 – Max Detail
24
32.931
ATI HD 5550 1GB (Sapphire)
1920×1080 – Medium Detail
19
28.775

Like Modern Warfare 2, this game isn’t too intensive in the grand scheme, so we once again were able to max out the graphics all-around and retain sweet framerates.

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.

The extra brawn that is the pre-overclock wasn’t enough to help the card pass NVIDIA’s GTX 480, but it came very, very close, especially at 2560×1600.

Graphics Card
Best Playable
Min FPS
Avg. FPS
NVIDIA GTX 295 1792MB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Gamer, 0xAA
19
40.381
NVIDIA GTX 480 1.5GB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Gamer, 0xAA
23
37.135
ATI HD Radeon 5870 2GB (Sapphire)
2560×1600 – Gamer, 0xAA
16
36.257
ATI HD Radeon 5870 1GB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Gamer, 0xAA
15
34.41
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
ATI HD 5830 1GB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Mainstream, 0xAA
23
41.621
NVIDIA GTX 260 896MB (XFX)
2560×1600 – Mainstream, 0xAA
21
40.501
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
ATI HD 5670 512MB (Reference)
1920×1080 – Mainstream, 0xAA
20
35.103
NVIDIA GT 240 512MB (ASUS)
1920×1080 – Mainstream Detail, 0xAA
19
33.623
ATI HD 5570 1GB (Sapphire)
1920×1080 – Mainstream Detail, 0xAA
17
29.732
ATI HD 5550 1GB (Sapphire)
1920×1080 – Minimum Detail, 0xAA
18
34.363

For a first-person shooter, 30 FPS tends to be a minimum, and that’s really no exception here. But as there is such a nice improvement in detail from Mainstream to Gamer, we feel that sacrificing some extra framerates is worth it, as we still have a very playable game.

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.

The Vapor-X once again dominates the charts… except at 2560×1600, where the GTX 295 just inches past it. I think I could speak for almost everyone when I say that the far improved power consumption and temperatures of the HD 5870 is worth losing a frame or two, especially when we’re dealing with numbers in the 90’s.

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 2GB (Sapphire)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA, 16xAF
65
94.911
ATI HD 5870 1GB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA, 16xAF
65
94.911
ATI HD 5870 1GB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA, 16xAF
62
91.733
NVIDIA GTX 480 1.5GB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA, 16xAF
52
82.357
ATI HD 5770 1GB CrossFireX
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA, 16xAF
57
87.194
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 5830 1GB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA, 16xAF
40
57.093
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
ATI HD 5670 512MB (Reference)
1920×1080 – Max Detail, 4xAA, 16xAF
31
46.87
NVIDIA GT 240 512MB (ASUS)
1920×1080 – Max Detail, 0xAA, 4xAF
30
45.039
ATI HD 5570 1GB (Sapphire)
1920×1080 – Max Detail, 0xAA, 4xAF
22
40.430
ATI HD 5550 1GB (Sapphire)
1920×1080 – Medium Detail, 0xAA, 0xAF
18
34.363

Like Call of Juarez, F.E.A.R. 2 runs well on a variety of hardware, and any current mid-range card will handle the game fine at its absolute top graphics settings and resolution.

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.

Both the reference-clocked and Vapor-X cards really strut their stuff here, offering incredible performance at any resolution. When a card can deliver over 100 FPS at top settings in a game as great-looking as GRID, you know it’s a quality card.

Graphics Card
Best Playable
Min FPS
Avg. FPS
ATI HD 5870 2GB (Sapphire)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA
86
107.442
ATI HD 5870 1GB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA
83
103.622
ATI HD 5770 1GB CrossFireX
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA
81
104.32
NVIDIA GTX 295 1792MB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA
84
103.958
NVIDIA GTX 480 1.5GB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA
81
98.578
ATI HD 5850 1GB (ASUS)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA
68
84.732
NVIDIA GTX 285 1GB (EVGA)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA
54
66.042
ATI HD 5830 1GB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA
53
65.584
NVIDIA GTX 275 896MB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA
52
63.617
ATI HD 5770 1GB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA
45
56.980
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
ATI HD 5670 512MB (Reference)
1920×1080 – Max Detail, 4xAA
36
47.36
ATI HD 5570 1GB (Sapphire)
1920×1080 – Max Detail, 0xAA
33
41.143
NVIDIA GT 240 512MB (ASUS)
1920×1080 – Max Detail, 0xAA
33
51.071
ATI HD 5550 1GB (Sapphire)
1920×1080 – Medium Detail, 0xAA
25
33.275

GRID is still a good-looking game, but it’s getting old in the tooth, and it will be dropped from our suite soon, as pretty-well any current graphics card will deliver really good performance even at max detail settings.

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.

NVIDIA’s highest-end cards perform well here, so AMD is left behind. Not by far, but it’s still quite measurable.

Graphics Card
Best Playable
Min FPS
Avg. FPS
NVIDIA GTX 295 1792MB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 8xAA, 16xAF
40
55.819
NVIDIA GTX 480 1.5GB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 8xAA, 16xAF
39
53.714
ATI HD 5870 2GB (Sapphire)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 8xAA, 16xAF
41
48.313
ATI HD 5870 1GB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 8xAA, 16xAF
38
45.200
ATI HD 5770 1GB CrossFireX
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA, 16xAF
38
49.335
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 5830 1GB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 0xAA, 16xAF
31
42.543
NVIDIA GTX 260 896MB (XFX)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 0xAA, 16xAF
23
39.365
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
NVIDIA GT 240 512MB (ASUS)
1920×1080 – Max Detail, 0xAA, 4xAF
22
33.788
ATI HD 5670 512MB (Reference)
1920×1080 – Max Detail, 0xAA, 16xAF
21
31.872
ATI HD 5570 1GB (Sapphire)
1920×1080 – Medium Detail, 0xAA, 4xAF
51
79.790
ATI HD 5550 1GB (Sapphire)
1920×1080 – Min Detail, 0xAA, 4xAF
32
46.390

World in Conflict is pretty friendly when it comes to anti-aliasing, so here we were able to crank things up to 8xAA and hardly lose any performance. Just the way we like it.

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.

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.

For temperatures, the 2GB card proved to be just a wee bit hotter, but that could have been compounded by the fact that the room temperature was 4°C warmer (unfortunately) as well. For power, the card happened to use less power at idle, but +24W at full load, which is shared between the boosted clocks and extra memory.

Final Thoughts

By now, you might be asking yourself, “Where the heck are the overclocking results?!”, and if so, that’s fair. The truth is, this card didn’t overclock that well at all, so it seemed like a waste to devote an entire page just to talk about the lack of excitement where overclocking was concerned. Much less was it worth it to take the time to benchmark the differences.

As we received it, the card had clocks of 925MHz Core and 1225MHz Memory, which is +75MHz and+25MHz, respectively. After much tweaking, we could only push the Core to 940MHz and Memory to 1260MHz. Anything higher, and OCCT’s stress-test would conk itself out within a minute or two, which is something I don’t see too often. Usually OCCT will crash right away, or last tens of minutes before crashing, but never after one or two.

So overall, the card isn’t of much interest for overclocking, and if you do happen to pick one up, I recommend not even bothering, because the performance difference you will be seeing is almost nil. You might see improvement in synthetic tests, but real-world? No, quite doubtful.

How about the 2GB vs. 1GB debacle, then? Well, that’s another page I had hoped to dedicate to the subject, but again the results were rather lackluster, so I didn’t bother. Among the six games we tested here, I also tested Aliens vs. Predator, Dirt 2, Just Cause 2, Metro 2033, Need for Speed: SHIFT and Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Conviction and the differences between the latter five were nil.

Aliens vs. Predator was a major exception though, as the difference was literally 55 FPS vs 72 FPS. I sure didn’t expect that, especially after testing out all of the other games and seeing no difference at all. On the 1GB card, and with the game’s settings at their near-highest values (textures was High, not Very High), the game would lag horribly, and it was simply unplayable. The 2GB card on the other hand was a dream, with no lag whatsoever, not even at the beginning of the level where the 1GB card forces a sit down for about 15 seconds for it to smooth out whatever it needs to.

Needless to say, 2GB even today doesn’t make a major difference in our games, even at 2560×1600. I am not quite sure about Eyefinity resolutions, but that’s something I’d like to investigate, as it seems likely that 2GB would be useful, especially if you’re using only a single GPU. Either way, the $100+ premium is a lot to ask for, and difficult to justify based off of what we’ve seen.

If I were to go purchase a Radeon HD 5870 today, I wouldn’t even consider a 2GB card. Even at 2560×1600, the framerates were solid with a 1GB, and barely any better with a 2GB card, if there was a benefit at all. The only reason a 2GB card might be justified is if you only upgrade your GPU every two or more years, because it seems very likely that games down the road will take advantage of the extra memory.

Metro 2033 is what I’d consider to be one of the most hardcore games on the market today graphics-wise, and even it saw almost no benefit (just +1 FPS). Aliens vs. Predator did indeed see an improvement also, but that’s a rarity, because out of the 12 games tested, it was the lone game to take advantage of the extra memory (and for all we know, that could be due to a glutton of an engine).

My recommendation? Stick with 1GB for now, and if you need a particular card, Sapphire’s Vapor-X is ideal, and would still be my personal choice today.

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