When everything is finished up, we end up with a video board that doesn't crush the venerable X800, but does show a consistent trend of better performance numbers. Considering that the X850 has gone thorough some price cuts of late (with more rumored to come down the path very soon), the X850 can be had for just $10 more than the X800. Both are very solid performers so why not get the better of the two for just $10 more?
As far as actual performance goes, the X850 provided by Sapphire offers excellent frame rates in any type gaming scenario currently available. Granted, the new nVidia 7800 series kicks some major butt, but this board is over $100 more expensive (the cheapest being about $500) and it doesn't have an AGP offering. For those who still have a perfectly serviceable system using the AGP bus, the X850 is the cream of the crop.
We've been beating around the bush with regards to pricing of the X850, but to come right out with the information, the X850XT PE can be had for about $400. Add to this the rumored price cuts that will likely be hitting the streets soon and you have some very high performance numbers for the money. Yes it is still a good deal of cash for a video board, but nowhere near the top price you might expect to pay.
I was also very impressed with the overclocking of the VPU core. I don't generally expect to see great overclocking potential from a core, especially with stock air cooling in place. Getting to 586MHz with perfect stability and no artifacts was excellent and hitting over 600MHz with no crashes was a lot more than I expected. If you're into water or other alternative cooling, you will likely get even higher. The memory wasn't that great in the overclocking department, but given that it is almost running at its rated speeds to begin with, this isn't too surprising.
Some have probably been thinking about that monstrous cooler I showed you earlier. Just to give a more complete picture of it, the thing cranks up to full speed when you first boot the system. After between 5-10 seconds it kicks back down to a more normal operating speed. Even during my overclocking tests I never heard the fan get any louder so you won't have to worry about this being another nVidia dustbuster.
Bottom line... If you're happy with your AGP based rig but still want to get a top-end video card, then let me say up front that you've found your board. For those with AGP, this is as good as it gets and with recent price cuts it won't completely break the bank.
- Where to buy it
Priced right for a performance card
Good software package
Air cooler starts off loud
Memory has limited overclocking headroom
Rating - 9 out of 10 and TweakTown's "MUST HAVE" Best Features Award!