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Sapphire Radeon X800 XT Graphics Card Review

By: Mike Wright | AMD Radeon GPU in Video Cards | Posted: Aug 14, 2004 4:00 am
TweakTown Rating: 9.5%Manufacturer: Sapphire Technologies

The Board



Now that we've covered the extras that come with the retail package, it is time to take a look at the board. Given that it uses one of the fastest video chipsets currently available, we're expecting good things from the beginning. Before we delve in that direction too much, though, lets take a look at some of the features of this board.



Many folks have been concerned about the noise output of these video boards. Given the speeds they run at, it isn't really inconceivable that they might end up being like the nVidia FX5800 "Dust Buster" type boards, but this couldn't be further from the truth. The heatsink is large and reasonable hefty (being made of copper) and does a good job dissipating heat on its own. The included fan is a little larger than you're used to seeing on a graphics board and also has several smaller (read thinner) fins to allow for lower noise levels. While I don't have a decibel reader handy, I can say it makes less noise than my case fans in a water cooled rig, so don't expect a lot of noise from this board.


Sitting under that massive sink is the ATI Radeon X800 XT VPU. Remember, ATI uses the term VPU (Visual Processing Unit) instead of the GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) like their nVidia counterpart. While it is really no more than a marketing title, the bottom line is a chipset that consists of 160 million transistors using a 0.13 micron process and using 16 pixel pipelines to keep data flowing at its best at all times. Considering that the new Athlon FX-53 processor weighs in at just under 106 million transistors, this is already saying quite a bit about the video technology in use today.


While we can get into all sorts of technical terminology here, I'll do away with that and keep it relatively simple. After all, if you want tech specs, ATI has numerous white papers available for your viewing pleasure. What it all boils down to with this board is simple; you are getting one of the very best video boards that money can buy. Sure, there will be other more powerful boards coming in the future, but for the here and now this is about as good as it gets.



When we begin talking about memory, you get 256MB of GDDR3 memory. This memory uses a 256-bit interface for the best data transfer rates possible. With some of the older Radeon based boards you had to ask around to see if you were getting a 128-bit card or a 256-bit version. With the X800 XT there isn't any questions about it.


These Samsung modules are the 1.6ns variety and have a maximum rating of 600MHz. Since it is DDR, this equates to a 1.2GHz effective operating speed. Our Sapphire product tested today comes with default memory speeds set to 560MHz (1.12GHz DDR), so we should have some room for playing when we get into our overclocking tests.



Since the days of the Radeon 9700 Pro variety of video boards, we have seen the addition of a Molex connector. The reasoning behind this is simple, MORE POWER! When you start using the quantities of memory that are the vogue nowadays, you simply need more power to make it operate properly. AGP standards on current 4x/8x boards flows at either 1.5v or 0.8v and isn't nearly enough to feed the memory modules that reside on current high-end graphics boards. So we give it a quick shot of 12v DC and let it thrive.


Don't forget this Molex connector when you install the video board or you won't make it through POST on your system. It really does need that extra juice.


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