Sapphire HD3870 Toxic Video Card

Posted by on Sunday, June 28, 2009 - 6:04am

smallYes you can go out and purchase one of the cards from any of the several manufacturers that endorse the ATI brand. The Toxic HD 3870 is an overclocked version of the ATI 3870 chipset. The Toxic HD 3870 uses a single slot cooler that would be a godsend for those that are tight on space or have motherboards with the PCIe slots too close together. This non-reference cooler helps to cool a RV670 clocked to 825MHz from the default 775MHz. Time to put the Toxic 3870 on the bench and see what poerformance number we can get.



Sapphire HD3870 Toxic


If you can’t afford to fork out $400 dollars or more for one of the newest top of the line video cards; but you think you desperately need an upgrade from that onboard video performance; come take a look at the Sapphire 3870, based on the RV670 core. The 3870 is the first of the ATI chipsets to give you DirectX 10.1 and Shader 4.1 support.

Yes you can go out and purchase one of the cards from any of the several manufacturers that endorse the ATI brand. The Toxic HD 3870 is an overclocked version of the ATI 3870 chipset. The Toxic HD 3870 uses a single slot cooler that would be a godsend for those that are tight on space or have motherboards with the PCIe slots too close together. This non-reference cooler helps to cool a RV670 clocked to 825MHz from the default 775MHz. Time to put the Toxic 3870 on the bench and see what poerformance number we can get.

Sapphire has a few words about the Toxic

Unshackle your PC's performance from the coin in your pocket as the SAPPHIRE HD 3870 liberates your inner gamer without compromising your wallet. Hard pressed to find a comparable product on the market for the price, the SAPPHIRE HD 3870 extinguishes all doubt that the Radeon HD 3870 core is a mid-range performing product. With features such as: DirectX® 10.1 and Shader Model 4.1 support, integrated HDMI and HDCP support for Blu-ray™/HD DVD decoding and for the extreme enthusiast, CrossFire X™ support, the SAPPHIRE incarnation of the HD 3870 will own your imagination and accelerate your performance on the virtual battlefield of your desktop! Reinvent the way you engage your gaming experience with every LOAD!

Sapphire on Sapphire

Pioneers in a new era of how data is displayed and games are played, Sapphire shepherds the performance oriented with ground-breaking solutions to an environment that remains in a constant state of flux and ultimate evolution. For over ten years Sapphire has held true to its unwavering commitment, the commitment to deliver the most feature rich and soundly engineered products. Because of Sapphire's firm position on achieving excellence with each product that leaves our ISO9001 and ISO14001 certified factories, you can rest assured that your customers will recognize YOUR commitment to selling only the highest of quality components.

"Sapphire is ATI's largest and best performing partner World Wide" Dave Orton, CEO ATI

Packaging and contents

And I am here to say that I was very impressed by the box which it arrived in. The box is black and has an awesome drawing of a Silver Surfer-like creature. The back of the box has brokedown of features and specs of the card.

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Inside that box is another cardboard box that protects the card which is also protected by styrofoam. The card come bundles with every single accessory needed to connect it to your PC or high def television. As far as connectivity we have a DVI-HDMI, S Video-S Video, VGA-DVI, HMD-HDMI cable and S Video-RGB connectors.

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As far as CDs included in the bundle there are quite a few. Of course there is a driver CD but besides that there a CD for each of the following: PowerDVD and DVD Suite. But the two added offers that I like are the Black Box and Futuremark 3DMark06 kits.

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  • 666 million transistors on 55nm fabrication process
  • PCI Express 2.0 x16 bus interface
  • 256-bit GDDR4 memory interface
  • Ring Bus Memory Controller
    • Fully distributed design with 512-bit internal ring bus for memory reads and writes
  • Microsoft® DirectX® 10.1 support
    • Shader Model 4.1
    • 32-bit floating point texture filtering
    • Indexed cube map arrays
    • Independent blend modes per render target
    • Pixel coverage sample masking
    • Read/write multi-sample surfaces with shaders
    • Gather4 texture fetching
  • Unified Superscalar Shader Architecture
    • 320 stream processing units
        • Dynamic load balancing and resource allocation for vertex, geometry, and pixel shaders
        • Common instruction set and texture unit access supported for all types of shaders
        • Dedicated branch execution units and texture address processors
    • 128-bit floating point precision for all operations
    • Command processor for reduced CPU overhead
    • Shader instruction and constant caches
    • Up to 80 texture fetches per clock cycle
    • Up to 128 textures per pixel
    • Fully associative multi-level texture cache design
    • DXTC and 3Dc+ texture compression
    • High resolution texture support (up to 8192 x 8192)
    • Fully associative texture Z/stencil cache designs
    • Double-sided hierarchical Z/stencil buffer
    • Early Z test, Re-Z, Z Range optimization, and Fast Z Clear
    • Lossless Z & stencil compression (up to 128:1)
    • Lossless color compression (up to 8:1)
    • 8 render targets (MRTs) with anti-aliasing support
    • Physics processing support


PCI Express 2.0 x16 bus interface
DirectX® 10.1 support
CrossFire X™ support
ATI PowerPlay™
Hardware processed 1080p video playback of Blu-ray™ and HD DVDs

Closer look

The Toxic HD 3870 is the top end of the 3870 line from Sapphire. This is not the only 3870 that Sapphire makes but it differs from the others due to the fact that it is overclocked for better performance. An addition 50 MHz was added to the core to bring it to 825MHz. This may not seem like a huge overclock but it does add a few frames to your favorite FPS. 75MHz was added to the memory also to bring it to 1200 megahertz. Later we will see if there anymore fuel left in the tank. The closest competition to the 3870 cards would be the 8800GTS (G92) but with clocks like this may put it over the edge.

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Another feature of the Toxic line that makes it a valuable asset is the cooling system. The Vapor X cooler is a single slot cooling solution. This is an advantage as it allows for better cooling and spacing between two graphic cards in Crossfire.  According to Sapphire this allows for more efficient cooling and less noise. Vapor X is Sapphire’s version of Vapour Chamber Technology which allows a low spinning fan or blower to move air. The air is placed into chambers most of the time underneath a finned heatsink. The air is allowed to come in contact with the entire surface of the heatsink allowing for greater heat dissipation.

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What I like about the new card from Sapphire is the tired red cooler and this new black unit. As stated earlier the Vapor X cooler is a single slot cooler that has a more efficient air route. Although it isn’t copper, the Vapor X being made of Aluminum is lighter causing less stress on the PCB card. Also gone is the graphics that we are accustom to seeing on the heat sink; just the Toxic insignia and the Vapor X logo are shown.

The Toxic uses a rather small fan to push air across the surface of the aluminum fins. We have no specs on the fan but the advantage of the new system is quietness so we will see when it is time to test the card.

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Here you get a clear idea of how thin the new cooler really is. No matter how close your slots are on your X38 or X48 chipset motherboard you should not have any issues when using other cards in close quarters of the GPU.

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The card has dual DVI outputs for multi-display viewing. Due the card being HDCP compliant HDMI and RGB connections are also supported.

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Testing Hardware and Software

Testing Experiment

Intel Core2Duo E8400 (overclocked @ 4.0GHZ)

OCZ PC14000 Titanium

Thermalright Ultra 120

Sapphire Toxic HD 3870

Maxtor DiamondMax 10 100GB

HP DVD740 drive

Ultra ProX 800 power supply

Noctua cooling fan


Testing Software


Futuremark 06




Far Cry


Half Life: Episode 2

We used GPU-Z and ATi Over Drive to show core and ram speeds.

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Pushing Sapphire and the Toxic

Futuremark 3DMark 06
Futuremark 3DMark06 Build 1.0.2 3DMark®06 is the worldwide standard in advanced 3D game performance benchmarking. A fundamental tool for every company in the as well as PC users and gamers, 3DMark06 uses advanced real-time 3D game workloads to measure using a suite of DirectX 9 3D graphics tests, CPU tests, and 3D feature tests. 3DMark06 tests include all new HDR/SM3.0 graphics tests, SM2.0 graphics tests, AI and physics driven single and multiple cores or processor CPU tests and a collection of comprehensive feature tests to reliably measure next generation gaming performance today. Futuremark's exclusive Online ResultBrowser tracks and compares 3DMark06 scores.

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Sierra Entertainment F.E.A.R.
“Gamespot’s PC Shooter of the Year is coming to the Xbox 360™ gaming and entertainment system with new levels, new weapons, and more explosive online action - Coming Fall 2006. 
F.E.A.R. ™ (First Encounter Assault Recon) is a paranormal action thriller presented entirely in first-person. An unprecedented adrenaline rush of close quarters combat seamlessly melded with the spine-tingling, shocking intensity of the paranormal unknown.
Already a critical and commercial smash on the PC, F.E.A.R. will bring a new level of FPS game play to Xbox 360 with brand new single-player content designed to immerse the player deeper in the world of the F.E.A.R. team, as well as brand new multiplayer content created to fully utilize Xbox Live®.”

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3D Realms Prey
“Tommy is a down-on-his-luck garage mechanic, stuck in the middle on who-knows-where on some forgotten reservation, where Native Americans are tucked away out of sight, out of mind.
And then the unthinkable happens! Earth becomes prey to the galaxy's largest predator, a space bound Texas-sized alien that's looking to satiate its hunger with the organic goodness that most populates Earth: Us. And the first course is a certain forgotten reservation.
Tommy and his girlfriend have become prey, his grandfather killed, and hundreds of his tribal nations have been abducted through space-warping portals. Freeing himself, all Tommy cares about is saving Jenny. But the spirit of his grandfather beckons him to embrace his heritage, accept the ancient teachings, and prepare to battle the menace that threatens to destroy all the planet's life.  It's a choice between love and responsibility. It's a choice that cannot be made easily.”

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Electronic Arts Crysis
“Earth, 2019. A team of US scientists makes a frightening discovery on an island in the South China Sea. All contact with the team is lost when the North Korean Government quickly seals off the area. The United States responds by dispatching an elite team of Delta Force Operators to recon the situation. As tension rises between the two nations, a massive alien ship reveals itself in the middle of the island. The ship generates an immense force sphere that freezes a vast portion of the island and drastically alters the global weather system. Now the US and North Korea must join forces to battle the alien menace. With hope rapidly fading, you must fight epic battles through tropical jungle, frozen landscapes, and finally into the heart of the alien ship itself for the ultimate Zero G showdown.”

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Ubisoft Far Cry
“A tropical paradise seethes with hidden evil in Far Cry, a cunningly detailed action shooter that pushes the boundaries of combat to shocking new levels.
Freelance mariner Jack Carver is cursing the day he ever came to this island. A week ago, a brash female reporter named Valerie had offered him an incredible sum of cash to take her to this unspoiled paradise. Shortly after docking, however, Jack's boat was greeted by artillery fire from a mysterious militia group swarming about the island.
With his boat destroyed, his money gone, and the gorgeous Valerie suddenly missing, Jack now finds himself facing an army of mercenaries amidst the wilds of the island, with nothing but a gun and his wits to survive. But the further he pushes into the lush jungle canopy, the stranger things become.
Jack encounters an insider within the militia group who reveals the horrific details of the mercenaries' true intentions. He presents Jack with an unsettling choice: battle the deadliest mercenaries, or condemn the human race to a maniac's insidious agenda.”

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Valve Half Life 2: Episode Two
‘Half-Life® 2: Episode Two is the second in a trilogy of new games created by Valve that extends the award-winning and best-selling Half-Life® adventure.
As Dr. Gordon Freeman, you were last seen exiting City 17 with Alyx Vance as the Citadel erupted amidst a storm of unknown proportions. In Episode Two, you must battle and race against Combine forces as you traverse the White Forest to deliver a crucial information packet stolen from the Citadel to an enclave of fellow resistance scientists.
Episode Two extends the award-winning Half-Life gameplay with unique weapons, vehicles, and newly-spawned creatures.”

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Inserts taken from respective deverloper's website.


Even with the Toxic being overclocked from the factory we decided to push it. We did this by utilizing the ATI Overdrive application. Which is simple to use and safe as it does all the work for you.

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Well we managed to achieve almost a 9% overclock on both the GPU and Ram not too bad.


One question you may ask is “Did the Vapor X system work?” We will let you see for yourself. At idle we saw temps that resemble those of a well cooled CPU which was 37 degree C. running a round or two of Crysis got the card a little heated and jumped the temps up to 64 degrees.

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The Sapphire Toxic 3870 is a pretty special card when it comes to the price-to-performance ratio. The ability to play any games at high settings and at higher resolutions is a godsend to most of us. For someone upgrading from an older would be overly impressed when they see their frame rates of their favorite game grow. And with this model being slightly overclocked adds to its value as well as performance compared to other 3870 available. Being overclocked also eliminates the user from having to do it themselves. This leaves more time to gaming and fragging.

Visually I look this card as well as it doesn’t use the ATI reference design. For lucky individuals that are privileged enough to buy two of these will find it easier to Crossfire them on any board compatible. We have seen motherboards over the past few months with PCIe slots so close that Crossfiring them would starve the top card of air. This would not be the case for the Toxic.

I am not much of a movie watcher on my PC but for those that are Sapphires bundles enough DVD software to maintain an awesome HTPC system. And for the gamer in you the Valve bundle is great. Who wouldn’t want a free download of HL2: Episode Two, Portal and Team Fortress? A free copy of Futuremark 3DMark is also included.

You can get the Toxic from various online retailers. Cost range from about $200 to $250 depending on how well you shop around. At this price point you get a high performance video card at a reasonable price.

The only noise you will heard from the Toxic was at startup with a high whine. But after that it’s pretty quiet at idle at times. There were moments the fan would spin up without any activity. Under load the fan got faster yet resulting in a rotation noise but it wasn’t anything to get discourage about.

We award the Toxic the Highly Recommended award here at Pro-Clockers.