The Sapphire AMD Radeon HD 6870 Dirt 3 has an advanced cooling system, overclocked speeds and the game DiRT 3. The main reason to buy this graphics card may be the dual-fan cooler, considerably improving the user experience.

It's not attractive, the fans covering up most of the card, leaving little room for the attractive pictures and logos which Sapphire likes to emblazon across its cards. But the Sapphire AMD Radeon HD 6870 Dirt 3 will live inside your PC case, so only modders should worry about this aspect.

The system itself is extremely effective. The standard 6870 has a TDP figure of 151W. We don't have a figure for the Sapphire, but our tests showed that the Sapphire AMD Radeon HD 6870 Dirt 3 was typically saving 32-36 watts.

Noise levels were cut to almost nothing, even heavy loads inducing little more than a hum from the Sapphire AMD Radeon HD 6870 Dirt 3 card. Connections haven't changed, an HDMI and pair of DVI ports joined by a brace of Mini DisplayPort. Two power connectors are required.

See also: Group test: what's the best graphics card?

It's perhaps a shame that Sapphire didn't do more in the way of overclocking. The Sapphire AMD Radeon HD 6870 Dirt 3's core clock has been upgraded from 900MHz to 920MHz. But the 1050MHz memory clock and 1GB of GDDR5 haven't changed.

The Sapphire AMD Radeon HD 6870 Dirt 3 is ripe for overclocking, but you'll have to take the risk here yourself rather than letting Sapphire eke out the extra speed for you. Luckily the 6870 is already a decent card, thanks to its 256-bit memory interface.

The drivers have improved marginally as well, and the Sapphire AMD Radeon HD 6870 Dirt 3 offers a few extra frames across most resolutions. At 1680 x 1050 and 1920 x 1200, it produced 31.2 and 25.3fps in Crysis, as opposed to 28.9 and 23.8fps in the case of the original.

Battleforge saw figures go up to 36.4 and 28.7fps, a small but noticeable improvement on the 33.8 and 26.5fps of the standard version. HAWX went up to 154 and 114fps from 146 and 111fps on the older card.

Sapphire AMD Radeon HD 6870 Dirt 3: Specs

  • AMD Radeon HD 6870
  • 1GB GDDR5
  • 920MHz core clock
  • 1050MHz memory clock (4200MHz DDR effective)
  • 400MHz RAMDAC
  • 256-bit memory interface
  • 1120 stream processors
  • 56 texture units
  • 32 ROP units
  • PCI-E interface
  • 2 x 6-pin power connectors
  • DirectX 11.0
  • 2 x DVI, HDMI, 2 x Mini-DP
  • 2-year warranty
  • AMD Radeon HD 6870
  • 1GB GDDR5
  • 920MHz core clock
  • 1050MHz memory clock (4200MHz DDR effective)
  • 400MHz RAMDAC
  • 256-bit memory interface
  • 1120 stream processors
  • 56 texture units
  • 32 ROP units
  • PCI-E interface
  • 2 x 6-pin power connectors
  • DirectX 11.0
  • 2 x DVI, HDMI, 2 x Mini-DP
  • 2-year warranty

OUR VERDICT

In performance terms, the Sapphire 6870 Dirt 3 isn't a fantastic leap forwards, although there is untapped potential for those who want to overclock further. The cooling system helps keep noise levels to a minimum, and given that it should cost only around £15 more, the Dirt 3 could be the most polished version of the 6870 you can buy.

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