PowerColor HD 2900 XT Graphics Card
Due to limited availability as well as the fact press in different regions are getting priority over others, we tested an actual retail graphics card from PowerColor. It has the same clock speeds as all other reference cards floating around - 742MHz core clock and 512MB of GDDR-3 memory clocked at 828MHz or 1656MHz DDR.
The PowerColor PCI Express x16 card looks just the same as reference cards. Later on you will see more expensive water cooled HD 2900 XT models from the usual suspects along with overclocked models in the following weeks. We did not get time to perform any overclocking tests but reports are floating around that the core is good to at least 800 - 850MHz and the GDDR-3 memory more than likely has room to increase. You may even see some companies produce HD 2900 XT OC models which use 1GB of faster GDDR-4 memory operating at over 2000MHz DDR or they will use special cooling to get the most out of the default setup.
As far as size goes, the HD 2900 XT is a little longer than the Radeon X1950 XTX but a good deal shorter than the GeForce 8800 GTX, as you can see from the shot above with the PowerColor HD 2900 XT sitting in the middle of the group. Both of the other cards take up two slots and the HD 2900 XT is no different.
In 2D mode (non-gaming in Windows), the clock speeds are automatically throttled back to 506MHz on the core and 1026MHz DDR on the memory. This is done to reduce power consumption and also to reduce temperatures, which seems to pretty important for the HD 2900 XT. Check out this warning from the user manual supplied by AMD:
Ouch! Using some AMD monitoring software, we noted idle temperatures of between 65 - 70-degrees Celsius from the core die and that is just sitting in Windows. At full load halfway through a 3DMark06 benchmark run, we noted a maximum temperature of 84-degrees Celsius from the core die - in other words, very hot! The air exhausting through the back vents on the card was not warm, but hot. I could not keep my hand in the way of the airflow for very long - it would make a good hairdryer if the airflow was a little stronger but people might look at you strangely if you dry your hair this way, not to mention you probably do not want to be waving your dripping wet hair around the back of your PC! Suffice to say, we suggest against trying. To be honest, I was not expecting the card to be so hot - at one time I almost burnt my fingers!
The card is said to be good to 100-degrees Celsius on the core itself but these temperatures are crazy and we tend to think that OC might be limited considering it is already running this hot - at stock speeds. Once AMD moves to 65nm process technology, this should cure some heat related issues while also allowing for higher clock speeds. Nevertheless, the flame design on the cooler is rather appropriate - the flaming hot monster indeed.