|Sapphire Radeon HD 4870 X2 Atomic ST-6026|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Video Cards|
|Written by Olin Coles|
|Thursday, 18 December 2008|
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Sapphire ST-6026 Conclusion
Benchmark Reviews begins our conclusions with a summary rating of different product categories. The first is product presentation, which includes the level or information offered and the interest generated by the product packaging. In regards to this limited-edition Atomic graphics product which has historically been relegated to ultra-elite gaming enthusiasts, the Radeon HD 4870 X2 Atomic foregoes marketing hype and bullet-point specifications in exchange for an ultra-exclusive secret agent aluminum attaché case. This isn't a product destined for store shelves, so the lack of consumer information displayed on the packaging is more forgivable.
Looking different usually works against most products, unless of course it's a result of fashion giving way to function. Such is the case with Sapphire's ST-6026 kit. Teflon hoses connecting to a clean layout really help the 4870 X2 Atomic stand out. As if this product needs it, the radiator fan also lights with a blue LED.
Construction is solid, but when you produce a top-shelf limited edition product there will always be some level of concern. I wasn't particularly happy that Sapphire ignored the LGA1366 mounting bracket; after all, enthusiasts wanting the ST-6026 kit will be the same hardcore gamers with the latest system hardware. The swiveling hose barbs are very nice, and allow a range of motion that rubber hose with clamps cannot attain. Asetek has done an excellent job integrating an entire liquid cooling system into the Atomic video card, and it's impressive that they managed to keep the profile to only a single slot design.
In terms of performance, the Sapphire Radeon HD 4870 X2 Atomic is our undisputed champion. Of course, the competition is already rolling out the next heir to the performance throne, so keep this in perspective. Throughout our benchmark testing, the Atomic 4870 X2 performed so far ahead of any other video card that it redefined the high-end of graphics performance. Based on the unbiased 3dMark06 and Devil May Cry 4 benchmarks, the 4870 X2 usually performed around 60% better than the overclocked GTX 280. There were even a few points where 100% improvement over the competition existed. However, when 4x AA was added into the post-processing effects, performance did actually favor the latest GeForce product line. As a graphics processor, the combined RV770's performed incredibly well; and coupled with the high-performance cooling solution and GDDR5 video RAM there's still a little more speed to be squeezed from this unit for the adventurous overclocker. Gaming performance aside, Sapphire has once again delivered features that nobody else has. But as it stands now, there's only a handful of games that make use of more than 512MB worth of video frame buffer, which makes the 2048MB video frame buffer create a large overhead. 32-bit Windows XP was cut down to a maximum available system memory map of 2GB, which might not be a problem for anyone already using only 2GB of RAM, but 64-bit users will see the perks of having a much larger memory space.
Value is always relative to whatever retailers think they can get consumers to pay for a product at any particular time. Although the Radeon HD 4870 X2 launched back in early August (2008), this is Sapphire's ultra-exclusive limited edition kit for the top-end gamer. Although the Sapphire ST-6026 SKU has yet to be discovered on sale anywhere in North America as of December 2008, NewEgg offers other their most affordable 4870 X2 models for $489.99. Using the Benchmark Reviews price comparison tool I discovered some slightly better deals, so it's a good idea to do some price shopping before you buy. Sapphire expect the Radeon HD 4870 X2 Atomic liquid-cooling kit to retail for around $700.
In conclusion, there's a special place reserved for the Sapphire Radeon HD 4870 X2 Atomic video card, but it's only going to find a limited number of homes for an elite few who can afford it. The Sapphire ST-6026 graphics kit combines a very effective Asetek water-cooling kit that can be used to cool the processor as well. The fact Sapphire has kept the 4870 X2 Atomic contained in a single expansion card slot is impressive, but moot, as you can't exactly run two kits together without major reconstructive surgery. The kit packs a lot of extra's, such as 3dMark Vantage and licensed versions of the CyberLink PowerDVD BD suite, but there are no games to be found inside this expensive set. I won't try to pretend this is the product for everyone, not with the price tag is carries, but for the gamer who wants it all: this is it.
+ Outstanding performance for higher-end games
- Very expensive limited edition top-performance product
Final Score: 9.0 out of 10.
Quality Recognition: Benchmark Reviews Silver Tachometer Award.
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