The Video Board
Once we take the wrapper off and bring out the board, the first thing we see is a very large cooling system mounted on the front of the PCB. This cooler uses copper fins under the colorful name panel and covers not only the VPU, but all memory modules as well. The fan system is a good deal taller than you might be used to, and requires the use of the PCI slot directly below the AGP port. It is a vented system similar to the Abit OTES setup, so it maintains a constant airflow from within the case and directs the exhaust out the back of the case.
One note regarding the cooling system... it has a thermal control installed so the fan isn't running at full speed all the time. When you first boot up the system you will be greeted by the full sound of the fan, but it kicks itself back after 5-10 seconds and it is about the same volume as the 120mm fan I use on my radiator for my water setup. So be forewarned, it is not totally quiet, but it isn't like the old nVidia FX5800 either.
Hiding under the cooler is the ATI R480 VPU. It is designed for high performance and requires the added cooling shown above. Also tucked up under the hood is 256MB of GDDR3 memory. While not one of the monster 512MB boards that have been peeking their heads of late, the memory installed here is reasonably fast and can handle any of the games that are available now as well as giving you the ability to play games for seasons to come.
The back side of the board doesn't offer much except the bracket system for the cooler and one other little feature...
Well, well, what have we here?
If you recall, I mentioned a bit earlier that this board is capable of both Video In as well as Video Out. Many times this means having to put up with software encoding and decoding, but that is not the case with the X850XT board we have on the bench today. This Rage Theater chipset allows for hardware encoding and decoding of video data. This means not only a better quality video stream, but also allows the video board to take the reins in providing the horsepower needed to handle these video functions. This allows the processor of the computer to work harder on other chores.
With the trend of building lower power requirements into modern motherboards, something had to be done to allow for compatibility as well as providing enough power for high-end video boards. What happened is the addition of a 4-pin Molex connector that gives this video board the juice necessary to take care of business.
One word of caution; this connection is required for the board to function. Without the extra power, your system won't boot.
From the angle of the bracket you can see that the ports offered are standard fare. You get one analog port (referred to by monitor manufacturers as 15-pin D-Sub), one S-Video port, and one digital port for those who use LCD displays with digital capabilities.
Also seen is the dual bracket that handles the exhaust functions of the cooling system. From this angle you can also see that the fan has a good deal of heft to it. The blades are larger than you generally see in a video cooler and the pitch allows for very good airflow.
How much does it cost?