Sapphire Vapor-X HD 4850 vapour-cooled graphics card
The cooler that turns a Vindaloo into a Korma
Review The Sapphire Vapor-X HD 4850 is a reference Radeon HD 4850 with an after-market cooler. That might not sound like a big deal, but Sapphire has come up with something special.
Most graphics card manufacturers try to differentiate their products from the competition and they often use the trick of changing the reference cooler for their own design to add some visual impact. Sapphire has plenty of history in this department and seems to be constantly developing new coolers for its range of AMD ATI Radeon HD-based graphics cards.
The starting point with the HD 4850 is the reference ATI cooler:
It's very compact. The GPU and memory are covered by a copper heatsink with a slim line cooling fan at the far end that draws air across the heatsink. This allows the HD 4850 to be manufactured as a single-slot design but the downside is that the cooler sheds its heat inside the casing and it runs unpleasantly hot at all times. Once the HD 4850 has warmed up, the GPU operates at a constant 80-82°C regardless of whether your PC is displaying the Windows desktop or working hard playing Crysis.
We measured the temperature of the body of the graphics card at 60°C so we’re talking about a hefty slab of metal and plastic that is working hard to heat up the guts of your PC.
Sapphire has made a number of attempts to overcome this antisocial behaviour starting with its Dual Slot cooler:
This is a conventional design that locates the heatsink and fan directly over the GPU and the relatively large fan is able to operate quietly while still keeping the HD 4850 under control. As the name suggests, the Dual Slot cooler increases the size of the graphics card but it also does away with the copper heatsink that retains so much heat in the body of the reference graphics card.
The reduction in power consumption and enhanced cooling is not that big a surprise when you take into account the fact that this newer version of the card uses the same updated board layout that the dual-slot cooler model uses. In the photo of the dual slot cooler version you can clearly see that the ram cooling heatsink and power circuit capacitors are located towards the duct end of the card like in the latest review model. This enhanced board layout requires less power and with the addition of the dual slot fan produces a lot less heat. This review is mostly a testimony to the effectiveness of the new cooler.
nice indeed, I was waiting for nice and quiet card
last week checked few other reviews and then ordered its bigger brother - 4870 2GB. Can't hear it at all, perhaps because power supply started whining contest and won straight away. Need bigger one , 600W won't do anymore with these big cards ...
About damn time they did something new, and effective, with cooling tech.
Sick of loud buzzy fans.
Phase-change cooling is nothing new; the latent heat of vaporisation and condensation make for an especially effective method of heat transfer (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Latent_heat and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computer_cooling#Phase-change_cooling).
It's always nicer when you can do it without a compressor, but as far as I can tell the only major innovation here is the "wick" technology. The only time I've ever read about vaporisation coolers on production (as opposed to experimental and demonstration) systems is on supercomputers, where individual CPUs have a closed module attached inside which the vaporisation and condensation occurs. This only really works when you know what the orientation of the module is likely to be (since the gases tend to bubble 'up' through the more-dense liquids), which I gather is the main reason why you don't see this on PC CPU and GPU coolers, since they may be mounted in a variety of orientations.
It looks as though the Vapor-X retains all of the liquid within the wick, which means that it would work [almost?] as effectively upside-down, so thumbs up for the engineering!
From the top it looks like an older version of the Batmobile.