Sapphire HD 5870 2GB Toxic Edition Review

Product Number: 11161-10-40R
Availability: April 8th, 2010
Price: Approx. $450USD

If we rewind to a few weeks ago, ATI’s HD 5000-series sat atop the graphics card market without any competition when it came to offering DX11 compatibility and extremely good performance per dollar. Times were good since the competition didn’t have anything to offer and there were constant rumors of NVIDIA’s next gen products sporting horrible performance and power sucking characteristics coming from several sources. However, the GPU market just got a lot more competitive and even though the GTX 480 and GTX 470 do consume gobs of electricity and at times exude blast furnace-like heat, they have proven to be equal to the task of competing with ATI’s latest and greatest.

While NVIDIA just launched their GTX 400 series after nearly a year of delays, ATI’s board partners are already well into their revisions of the HD 5000 series. We have seen numerous overclocked and custom cooled versions of the lower-end cards but the HD 5870 hasn’t seen much up-market treatment other than a few products sporting advanced cooling and minor clock speed increases. Due to the new market realities, several manufacturers have decided to cut loose and introduce impressive-looking HD 5870 cards which many hope will bridge the sometimes-substantial gap between ATI’s single GPU prize fighter and the GTX 480. Gigabyte will soon have their Super Overclock Edition, ASUS has announced a Matrix-branded card and of course Sapphire has their Toxic version. While we will be reviewing both the Gigabyte and ASUS versions very soon, it will be the Sapphire HD 5870 2GB Toxic we will be taking a closer look at today.

Back when the HD 5870 Vapor-X was reviewed, we mentioned that Sapphire had yet to announce their usual limited-edition Toxic but it was on its way. Well, it has finally landed and in addition to sporting the expected high clock speeds and Vapor-X heatsink, this card also packs an interesting surprise: 2GB of GDDR5 memory. Many of ATI’s fans have been hoping the extra gigabyte of memory will lead to better performance at higher resolutions and IQ settings which could make this card a direct competitor to the GTX 480. What is even more surprising is the fact that Sapphire’s MSRP for the Toxic is $449USD, making it a good $50 less than the paper launched GTX 480 and a mere $25 more than most HD 5870 cards on the market. The only problem we see with this price is actually how popular it will cause the Toxic Edition to be. Historically, Toxic branded cards only see a very limited release and then they are gone for good. As with the HD 4890 Toxic we reviewed last year, we are not expecting stock to last more than a few days.

There is no denying the fact that Sapphire has come to play with the big boys by launching the HD 5870 Toxic 2GB but the real question many people will want to know is how it competes with NVIDIA’s GTX 480. We intend to answer that in this review.