When you are looking for video cards there are so many things to consider it can be very over whelming. Even after you have picked the model you are going to go with, what brand do you pick? Overclocked? Something has to stand out from the crowd or you’re more likely just going to pick the cheapest card available and go on with life. Sapphire has a product line that hopes to do just that. The Flex edition cards are designed to be more functional than a standard card and depending on the situation they can be a MUCH better deal. Today I am going to take a look at their HD6870 Flex edition and explain why you should consider a Flex card next time you are on the market.
Product Name : Sapphire HD6870 Flex
Review Sample Provided by: Sapphire
Review by: Wes
Pictures by: Wes
Radeon HD 6870
PCI-E x16 (PCI-E 2.1)
1024MB / 256-bit GDDR5
900 MHz Eclk / Effective 4200 MHz Mclk
Dual slot Fan with auto fan control
Mini Display Port x2
VGA (via included adaptor)
Native Hardware Crossfire
PCIe Graphic External 2x 6 pin
Crossfire Interconnect Cable x 1
DVI to VGA Adaptor x 1
6 PIN to 4 PIN Power Cable x 2
Mini DP to DP Adaptor x 1
HDMI 1.4a 1.8 meter cable x 1
HDMI to DVI Adapter x 1
Sapphire TriXX Utility CD
The HD6870 Flex is packaged in a box with the same layout that we normally see from Sapphire. This time around though the metallic finish has a blue hue to distinguish itself as a Flex edition compared to Sapphire's other models. Short of a couple small stickers they have avoided using stickers to distinguish itself from other models, this packaging was made specifically for this card. Along the bottom you can find all of the important features for the card. Around back they have broken down the cards key features and included more in depth descriptions of each in-case you need to know. Inside the card is wrapped in a static free bubble wrap bag and then tucked into a tray for added protection. There is no way this card is going to be damaged, short of being crushed. Along with the card you will find all of the included accessories which include a HDMI cable, a HDMI to DVI adapter cable for Eyefinity use, and a mini DisplayPort to full size DisplayPort adapter. Each adding to the value of this card, but we will talk about that later.
What does Flex mean to you?
Sapphire has had “Flex” video cards before, which we have covered in the past (HERE). Their Flex lineup takes a standard AMD video card and gives you the ability to run an Eyefinity without having to invest in costly active adapters by building the adapter into the card itself. That means without picking up an adapter or display port monitor you can run three HDMI or DVI monitors to expand your gaming screen real estate. If that’s not enough, you still have two display port connections tucked away on the card, you have the ability to daisy chain up to 4 monitors to each of those ports. (using compatible monitors or a MST Hub, both are not available yet though)
If you haven’t heard about Eyefinity yet you must really be living under a very large rock. Back in July of 2009 AMD (ATI at the time) invited press and analyst to join them on the USS Hornet museum to introduce both their Eyefinity technology along with their HD5800 series of graphics cards. Eyefinity is AMD’s name for supporting multiple independent displays as one monitor. When gaming on one monitor isn’t enough you can now look at 3, 6, 9, 12, ect. variations. The most popular and most affordable would be a three monitor setup, something that we love setting up here at the office. A three monitor setup gives you an expanded peripheral vision in game and can even draw you into the action even more. For our testing with the HD6870 Flex we used three 1080p monitors in landscape for this configuration, but you can also run your monitors in a portrait if you are looking for more height and a little less width. You really haven’t enjoyed BattleField Bad Company 2 until you have run it at 5760x1080!
Sapphire didn’t go with a reference cooling on the Flex addition, rather with a very sharp design with blue inlays. The cooler looks good and isn’t over done like we have seen with a few other manufactures.
The fan design is a little larger and each blade has a curve to it to full in more air to keep the HD6870 as cool as possible
For power you will need two six pin adapters, in this case they face up, giving you more room in cases that have a limit to how long of a video card that they will fit
Two DVI (one single the other dual link), one HDMI, and two mini DisplayPort connections round out the back panel. They did still manage to fit a small rear exit vent for the cooling system also.
Around back there is nothing to see other than the blue PCB
Our Test Rig
Intel i7 930 CPU Running at 2.8 (Stock)
Gigabyte X58A-UD5 Motherboard
Patriot Sector 7 Ram Triple Channel
Seagate Constellation 2tb Hard drive
Corsair H50 Water Cooling
Sparkle Gold Class 750 Watt PSU
http://www.highspeedpc.com/ Test Bench
Our Testing Procedures
All of our in game performance testing was run at 1920x1080, you can see the exact settings below. Here are the details for each of our tests.
Call Of Duty Black Ops (1920x1080 – high settings, first scene starting after the cut scene, recorded using fraps)
Battlefield Bad Company 2 (1920x1080 – high settings, first scene starting after the cut scene, recorded using fraps)
Dirt 2 (1920x1080 – 4x MSAA – high settings, in-game benchmark)
Metro 2033 DX11 test (built-in benchmark, 1920 x 1080; DirectX: DirectX 11; Quality: Very High; Antialiasing: MSAA 4X; Texture filtering: AF 4X; Advanced PhysX: Enabled; Tessellation: Enabled; DOF: Disabled)
Metro 2033 DX10 test (built-in benchmark, 1920 x 1080; DirectX: DirectX 10; Quality: Very High; Antialiasing: MSAA 4X; Texture filtering: AF 4X; Advanced PhysX: Enabled; Tessellation: Enabled; DOF: Disabled)
Mafia 2 (built-in benchmark, 1920x1080, PhysX on, high settings)
Synthetic Benchmarks For video cards our synthetic benchmarks are limited to 3DMark Vantage and 3DMark Vantage 201. 3DMark Vantage is run with PPU turned off with results from both the performance and high settings. In 3DMark Vantage 2011 we run both performance and extreme benchmarks.
We have tested a few HD6870’s in the past and our benchmarks for the HD6870 Flex showed performance similar to what we have seen in the past. This time around we had a GTX 560 Ti to test it against. Has it that affected our opinion of their performance? To a point yes, the GTX 560 Ti outperformed the 6870 in the Physx intensive games considerably, but with Nvidia controlling the Physx standard that isn’t surprising. In our other tests the HD6870 still out performed the 560 considerably. Because of that you really have to know what games you are planning on playing if you want to make a decision between the two.
Outside of in game performance I was also interested to see how well that aftermarket cooler would keep the HD6870’s temperatures down while keeping its noise to a minimum. Surprisingly enough it did a good job at both, most likely to its large fan size paired up with AMD’s efficient performance on 6000 series cards. Even when doing all of our Eyefinity testing I wasn’t able to load the card up in a way that the fan had to speed up to cool everything down. By going into Catalyst and turning the fan speed up I was finally able to hear the fan, but only at 75%+ work load, something you should never hit outside of the Catalyst software.
When it’s all said and done the HD6870 Flex performs just like any other HD6870 short of one important feature, Eyefinity. If you hope to run Eyefinity now or later without picking up a costly adapter (between 30 and 100), the Flex is most defiantly the way to go. Currently on Newegg you can get the Flex Edition for about $10 more than a standard reference card, a lot cheaper than picking up a video card and the adapter. Not to mention the HD6870 comes with a nice cooler, an improvement over the reference design. If you are looking for an HD 6870 I can only think of good reasons to look at Sapphires Flex edition over the others.