Sapphire Radeon 7870 FleX
When we looked at previous Sapphire FleX models, we came away impressed with the technology but concluded the cards were generally underpowered for Eyefinity gaming at extreme resolutions. The exception was the 7950 FleX we recently reviewed, as it had a stronger GPU and 3GB of memory to cope with the extreme resolutions. Unfortunately that’s not the case here with the 7870 FleX; despite the great technology incorporated by Sapphire, the horsepower simply isn’t there for effective Eyefinity gaming. You’ll either need two of these in CrossFire, or we suggest moving up to the 7950, which is likely a better move as you’ll find the 2GB of VRAM handcuffing you in many modern games.
In terms of performance, the Radeon 7870 generally beats the previous-gen GTX 580, though it does depend on the particular game title, as some do seem to prefer Nvidia. While the new Kepler cards are juggernauts, Nvidia doesn’t have any new mid-range cards in its stable just yet to directly compete with the Radeon 7870.
Beyond framerates, it’s important to note the temperature output of the 28nm manufacturing process, and specifically the load results. We know that Sapphire typically produces some excellent heatsinks, but we were pleased with the load temperatures, as it’s substantially lower than the reference card, not to mention nearly silent with both fans running at higher RPMs.
So let’s talk about value for a minute. The Sapphire 7870 FleX comes with a price tag of about $350, which is actually very well positioned against the AMD competition, only about $10 to $15 more. So we think the great heatsink, FleX technology, and low noise fans are worth every penny. The difficulty, however, is that if you can afford to splurge just a bit more, you’ll get considerably more horsepower with the 7950 model, or even the juggernaut GTX 670 for that matter. While Nvidia doesn’t yet have a Kepler card to compete with the Radeon 7870, AMD hasn’t truly capitalized on that advantage with a more effective pricing scheme that’s indicative of the card’s capabilities (or limitations either).
We love what Sapphire continues to do with the FleX technology and cooling prowess on cards such as this one. But the horsepower for effective Eyefinity gaming, coupled with the questionable pricing by AMD leaves us a bit disappointed on the whole.