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XGI Dual GPU Benchmarked - Volari Duo V8 Ultra

By: Shawn Baker | Editorials in Video Cards | Posted: Mar 15, 2004 5:00 am




- True DirectX 9 Support


The XGI Volari Duo, like its competition, offers full DirectX 9 support giving you better support for all the latest games. While the amount of DirectX 9 titles is quite slim at the moment (mainly demos such as Far Cry and Pain Killer) we are finally beginning to see the release of some. With speculation that Doom 3 is just around the corner, you are going to get the best performance from a card that offers true DirectX 9 support. While this is all good and well, performance in DirectX 9 games is a different story.


While we don't have much of a chance to test DirectX 9 games out, we will find out how it does handle the older games and what people are playing at the moment. DirectX 8 games are still well and truly the most mainstream version of DirectX to date.


- Dual GPU Support


Due to the design behind this graphics card and its dual GPUs, the card has the ability to spread the workload across the two processors which should be able to offer increased gaming performance due to the workload being shared. We will see how it affects the performance when we start benchmarking.



Dual GPU was seen in the later Voodoo cards before 3DFX closed shop but the opportunity for a lot of people to play with them was extremely slim.


- V Drive & Cooling


V Drive gives you the ability to get the absolute most out of your graphics card by automatically overclocking the card enabling you to get the most performance out of your graphics cad when gaming.



As you can see from the photo above, the XGI Duo comes with quite a meaty heatsink giving you the ability to cool the multiple GPUs. Unfortunately spotted a few flaws - we find that the jump to a copper design is always welcomed with open arms. Choosing to stay with aluminum may keep costs down and weight down but does affect the overall overclock which is quite disappointing. Another problem with this cooler is that the fans don't throttle their speeds like ATI's 9800XT and nVidia's FX5950 - at least not yet with the current developed drivers by the XGI team. The graphics card is very loud when in operation and can divert your attention away from what you're doing due to its loud noise output.



Finally, the blue LEDs are a nice touch but the money could have gone towards a better cooling solution we feel - such as an all copper heatsink.


- DDR and DDR-II Compatible - But what does our sample use?


The Volari offers support for both DDR and DDR-II memory and after spending a considerable amount of time trying to get the heatsink off, we discovered that it uses Hynix 2.8ns DDR memory.


This is similar memory to cards seen on the Radeon 9600 XT offered by ATI and the FX 5700 offered by nVidia, both mid-range cards. This will probably affect the performance of the card in the game tests but we will see what the multiple GPUs can do for the card in its defense.


- Reactor Drivers


When using the drivers you feel like your back in Windows 3.1 days. The interface isn't as graceful as nVidia nor as advanced as the offerings from ATI. Being a new card with equally new drivers, we can't expect the best of the best at their first attempt as we all remember how annoying and slow ATI's drivers were not that long ago before they stepped up their game.


We are sure the driver team at XGI in Taiwan is hard at work and hopefully as time goes on we will see more speed come from the card as we hope to see here today from nVidia's and ATI's new drivers.


Fortunately the drivers are unified and no matter what card you have from XGI you won't run into any problems hunting down the right driver for the right card as there is only one. This is definitely a bonus for the consumer and reseller as it reduces customer confusion.


- More than just a driver?


The Reactor drivers, version 1.02.05 in our case here today, offer more then just an excellent gaming experience; we have a host of other features within the driver which we will take a quick look at now.


Rotech - If you are fortunate enough to own a monitor that has the ability to be tilted, Rotech offers you the ability to move your desktop with your monitor. While such monitors from Samsung do offer software with their various packages, with the Rotech system you don't have to worry about installing an extra piece of software on your system.


Desktop Plus - Desktop Plus offers you many "Virtual Desktops." If your computer is used for work and home you can simply adjust through your desktops and display the icons that you need. Also a very handy tool when you see the boss coming into the office. Simply go from your "Fun" Desktop back to your "Work" Desktop.


Navigator - Navigator gives you the ability to zoom in on your screen if you only have a small monitor. Displaying a mini pop up window of your overall desktop you can move across it and look at what you are doing. Such software has been seen before and it really isn't much use as it can become more annoying than anything else.


As you can see the Reactor drivers are more then just a simple display driver offering a host of extra features. From here it's time for XGI to work in tweaking the performance of the drivers as we will see how they perform in just a minute.


- Overclocking


We ran a quick little overclocking test on the XGI Duo and found that it maxed out at 420MHz core and 400MHz memory (800MHz DDR). The overclock wasn't bad but 1MHz more on either of them would instantly cause artifacts or a lock up. The memory overclock was pretty standard for 2.8ns memory from what we've seen on other cards from nVidia and ATI. With newer DDR-II memory which comes with certain other XGI cards will yield better results.



It was interesting to find that the drivers did have their own little setting for overclocking under the 3D settings area which meant we didn't have to go hunting around for a tool to do it.


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