Low noise is generally sought after in modern PC systems, so a number of years ago Sapphire introduced a special family of graphics products using Vapor-X technology, known as the Vapor-X Series. This family is aimed at the discerning user who wants low noise and high reliability, but does not want to pay the premium for the faster memory and overclocking capability of the ATOMIC and TOXIC models targeted at the enthusiast user. Basically what you are getting with the Vapor-X series is a reference designed card with the custom Sapphire cooling solution. The memory chips and the GPU itself have not been speed binned in order to help keep the price of the Vapor-X package down.
Vapor Chamber Technology is based on the same principles as heatpipe technology. A liquid coolant is vaporized at a hot surface and the resulting vapor is condensed at a cold surface then the liquid is returned to the hot surface. The recirculation process is controlled by a wick system. Sapphire Vapor-X flattens the whole system into a slim chamber – which in the graphics application is mounted in contact with the surface of the graphics chip.
Actually, the coolant is water, but because the chamber is evacuated to a very low pressure, the vaporization process occurs at a much lower temperature than normal boiling point. The complex wick arrangement inside the module controls the flow of water and water vapor so that the system can be used in any orientation. Sapphire has a page on their website that goes into greater detail on this, so be sure to check it out if you are interested in this technology.
Trying to peak under the heatsink to see the actual cooler doesn’t work too well, so let’s take the card apart!
The Sapphire Vapor-X cooling system appears to be using both copper and aluminum for the heatsink assembly as you can see from the image above. The vapor chamber is the large square copper base plate that the GPU was making contact with and is made by Microloops. Everything was making contact and nothing was shorting out, so nothing to gripe about when it comes to assembly. The RV870 core looks so small and it really is at just 334mm2 in size. The GDDR5 memory IC’s are made by Samsung (part number K4G10325FE-HC04) and all the other components on this AMD reference designed ‘Evergreen’ card appear to be the same as any other Radeon HD 5870.
Here is a shot with the fan shroud removed so you can get a better idea of how the fan assembly works. The Sapphire 5870 Vapor-X has a dual-slot cooler and since it is open at both ends there will be some heat output into your computer system as there no way that the majority of the air will exit the chassis. You can also see the three heatpipes that are used to transfer heat away from the GPU.
The 92mm fan is held onto the heatsink rather than being attached to the shroud as one would guess. The chrome fan screws in the shroud serve no purpose at all and are just there for looks! The fan Sapphire used on the Vapor-X 5870 is manufactured by ADDA and is model number AD0912UB-U7BGL. This is a seven blade, 92mm, DC brushless fan that operates on 12 volts DC, with ball bearings.
Noise Measurements From 1 Meter Away:
At idle the sound of the Vapor-X was close to the 27dBA heard on the reference design, but at full load it was much quieter than the 40+dBA of the reference video card. It also cools better, but you’ll see that in the testing section.