It's been an interesting year for video cards as the economy has worsened and video cards have been released with price/performance becoming more important to consumers having less disposable cash. Video card sales on the high-end of the price spectrum have slowed because, quite frankly, the performance of the mainstream cards is enough for most users and the number of games that require the highest end graphics cards being at a minimum. There is always a market for the enthusiast wanting the best performance but we have to keep in mind that not everyone wants or needs to spend $500+ on a video card.
ATI started a new trend last year with the release of the Radeon HD 4870. This was the first of their inexpensive high performance chips. Instead of releasing expensive cards that took a lot of power to operate, they released a single chip that performed better than the last generation but on a smaller chip and smaller manufacturing process than the competition, leading to equivalent performance on a chip that drew less power, required fewer transistors, costing less to manufacture than the competition from NVIDIA. Sapphire has long been an ATI partner from before the Radeon 9700 Pro was launched in 2002. Today's review is of the Radeon HD 4870 Vapor-X 2GB card from Sapphire.