HIS Radeon HD 2900 PRO 512MB Early Test

The HD 2900 PRO blasts into our labs and Shane is ready to see if it deserves your money. Hold on as we venture forth!
@ShawnBakerTW
Published Mon, Sep 24 2007 11:00 PM CDT   |   Updated Fri, Sep 18 2020 10:50 PM CDT
Rating: 92%Manufacturer: HIS

Introduction





We wanted it and now we've got it. The HD 2900 PRO has been one of the most talked about products since the release of the HD 2900 series from AMD. Sure the HD 2900 XT offers great value for money these days due to some excellent driver updates from AMD, but the bottom line is that the card still comes in at around $500 AUD or $400 USD meaning that it's simply out of reach for a lot of people.

When the X1950PRO launched it wasn't greeted with the warmest welcome, much like the HD 2900 XT. While on paper it looked like it was going to be the next best thing, poor drivers at launch and a high price tag saw the card not really wowing a lot of people. The 7900GS from NVIDIA thanks to its extremely high overclocking ability was simply the low high-end card or high mid-range card to have.

Hopefully AMD have learnt from their mistakes and the HD 2900 PRO is simply going to blow us away as the next best thing. Its main competition is the 8800GTS 320MB from NVIDIA.

Initial pricing from HIS shows the card's MSRP at $250USD, for comparison the 8800GTS 320MB starts at about $290 USD. As we see more brands come on though and the initial price premium drop there isn't any reason why we won't see the HD 2900 PRO closer to the $200 USD mark.

All it really has to do is perform better than the 8800GTS 320MB and the card is an absolute shoe-in but that might be easier said than done.

The particular HD 2900 PRO we have in hand today is the 512MB model from HIS. Before we get stuck into the benchmarks we will have a look at the card and what HIS have managed to do with the package.

The Package




Using the new slimmer and smaller boxes which we saw with the HD 2900 XT, HIS have a really nice sleek looking design going on with the HD 2900 PRO, this using the same layout. While we're not too sure what the image on the front of the box is, it looks cool and futuristic none the less and the blue/black combination looks great.



Moving onto the information department it's all very standard, we can clearly see that it's a HIS card along with the fact that it's the HD 2900 PRO. The right side of the box gives us the main features of the card like 512MB of GDDR3 memory along with features like VIVO, Dual Link DVI, HDCP and more. The top left gives us our Vista, HDMI and HDCP logos.



The back of the box continues to give us more information on what the HD 2900 PRO offers along with some more main features of the card. A list of some of the awards that HIS have won are displayed as well.



Moving inside the package we have the very standard line up of extras including the Driver CD along with the normal paperwork. Aside from this we have a few games from Valve. Unfortunately it's not as exciting as TF2 or Portal, we only get a copy of Lost Coast and Half Life 2: Death match. There is also of course the humble Bonus DVD with - wait for it - little longer - almost there - Dungeon Siege *insert the noise of crickets chirping here*. Please HIS we really do beg of you, give us something a bit more exciting than DS. Then of course we have the normal line up of applications that are normally also included on the DVD.



The cable department sees a VIVO cable, HDTV component out cable, two DVI to VGA connectors and a DVI to HDMI connector.

The package is pretty standard from HIS, it's not super exciting but at the same time it could be worse - they could've chosen to include two copies of Dungeon Siege. Let's have a closer look at the card.

The Card




No! You're not looking at a HD 2900 XT. Clearly, thanks to the same large cooler that is used on the HD 2900 XT line-up it looks practically identical.



HIS have managed to place their sticker in the center of the fan so we know where the particular card came from but apart from that we have the same flame design that we see on the reference HD 2900 XT. This isn't really a bad thing, the cooler is generally pretty good, while being a little on the loud side at full speed most of the time it's bearable.





As you would expect we have our two Crossfire connectors across the top and power for the card comes in the form of a 6 Pin/8 Pin connector. The 8 Pin connector is generally quite annoying as a lot of top end power supplies still don't have it but on the bright side you can plug a normal 6 Pin power connector in that lets it run like a dream minus the lack of Overdrive support. Fortunately it doesn't stop you overclocking manually.



Also pretty standard we have our Dual DVI connectors of which both offer Dual Link connectivity for those 30" monitor users. We also have our little S-Video like connector which not only outputs video but also accepts it in thanks to the card's VIVO capability.

Moving to the card specs the core comes clocked in at 600MHz while the 512MB of GDDR3 comes in at 1600MHz DDR. To put this in comparison the HD 2900 XT has a 750MHz core and a memory speed of 1650MHz DDR. The PRO variant continues to carry 320 stream processors along with the 512-bit memory bus making the card nothing more than an under-clocked HD 2900 XT which sounds positive.

Test System Setup and 3DMark05


Test System Setup

Processor(s): Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 @ 3GHz (333MHz x 9)
Cooling: Corsair Nautilus500 (Supplied by Corsair) with Arctic Cooling MX-2 Thermal Compound (Supplied by Arctic Cooling)
Motherboard(s): ASUS Blitz Extreme (Supplied by ASUS)
Memory: 2 X 1GB Corsair XMS3 DDR-3 1066MHz 7-7-7-21 (Supplied by Corsair)
Hard Disk(s): Hitachi 80GB 7200RPM SATA-2
Operating System: Windows XP Professional SP2, Windows Vista
Drivers: Catalyst 7.9 and Forceware 162.18

When it came to benchmarking the most obvious inclusions were the 320MB 8800GTS which is the main competition along with the HD 2900 XT so we know just how far behind the new PRO variant sits.

While we wanted to include overclocking benchmarks, due to time constraints we didn't get the opportunity but this is something that we will dive into separately soon. Firing up AMD GPU clock we had no problems benching at 760MHz/1800MHz DDR which actually put us slightly ahead of the HD 2900 XT in 3DMark06. Hopefully this translates over to real world gaming - we'll have to investigate this more later.


3DMark05

Version and / or Patch Used: Build 130
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark05/
Buy It Here




3DMark05 is now the second latest version in the popular 3DMark "Gamers Benchmark" series. It includes a complete set of DX9 benchmarks which tests Shader Model 2.0 and above.

For more information on the 3DMark05 benchmark, we recommend you read our preview here.




Straight away we can see that the cards perform quite close together in 3DMark05. Let's see what happens when we put a bit more strain on the card.

Benchmarks - 3DMark06


3DMark06

Version and / or Patch Used: Build 110
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark06/
Buy It Here




3DMark06 is the very latest version of the "Gamers Benchmark" from FutureMark. The newest version of 3DMark expands on the tests in 3DMark05 by adding graphical effects using Shader Model 3.0 and HDR (High Dynamic Range lighting) which will push even the best DX9 graphics cards to the extremes.

3DMark06 also focuses on not just the GPU but the CPU using the AGEIA PhysX software physics library to effectively test single and Dual Core processors.




3DMark06 paints the same picture, we can see that the PRO performs better than the 8800GTS and just slightly behind the XT as we expected.

Benchmarks - Half Life 2 (Episode One HDR)


Half Life 2 (Episode One HDR)

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest from Steam
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom Timedemo
Developer Homepage: http://www.valvesoftware.com
Product Homepage: http://www.half-life2.com
Buy It Here




By taking the suspense, challenge and visceral charge of the original, and adding startling new realism, responsiveness and new HDR technology, Half-Life 2 Episode One opens the door to a world where the player's presence affects everything around him, from the physical environment to the behaviors even the emotions of both friends and enemies.

We benchmark Half Life 2 Episode One with our own custom timedemos as to avoid possible driver optimizations using the "record demo_name" command and loading the timedemo with the "timedemo demo_name" command - For a full list of the commands, click here.




Moving to episode 1 we can see at the lower resolution there isn't much difference between the cards, but as we move up the PRO comes ahead of the GTS and the XT reigns supreme as you would expect.

Benchmarks - Prey


Prey

Version and / or Patch Used: Unpatched
Timedemo or Level Used: HardwareOC Custom Benchmark
Developer Homepage: http://www.humanhead.com
Product Homepage: http://www.prey.com
Buy It Here




Prey is one of the newest games to be added to our benchmark line-up. It is based off the Doom 3 engine and offers stunning graphics passing what we've seen in Quake 4 and does put quite a lot of strain on our test systems.




Moving to Prey it comes as no surprise that the 8800GTS is the fastest card here thanks to the better OpenGL optimization. We can see though that at the highest settings there isn't even an FPS separating the three cards.

Benchmarks - F.E.A.R.


F.E.A.R.

Version and / or Patch Used: Unpatched
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.vugames.com
Product Homepage: http://www.whatisfear.com/us/
Buy It Here




F.E.A.R. (First Encounter Assault Recon) is an intense combat experience with rich atmosphere and a deeply intense paranormal storyline presented entirely in first person. Be the hero in your own spine-tingling epic of action, tension, and terror...and discover the true meaning of F.E.A.R.





The PRO continues to be up on the 8800GTS with the XT being the overall fastest card. There really isn't much difference between the PRO and the XT though.

Benchmarks - Company of Heroes


Company of Heroes

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.7
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.relic.com
Product Homepage: http://www.companyofheroesgame.com
Buy It Here




Company of Heroes, or COH as we're calling it, is one of the latest World War II games to be released and also one of the newest in our lineup of benchmarks. It is a super realistic real-time strategy (RTS) with plenty of cinematic detail and great effects. Because of its detail, it will help stress out even the most impressive computer systems with the best graphics cards - especially when you turn up all the detail. We use the built-in test to measure the frame rates.






We continue to see the PRO consistently come out in front with it only sitting just behind the XT at the lower resolution and dropping back a little further at the higher.

Benchmarks World in Conflict


World in Conflict (DX9)

Version and / or Patch Used: Demo
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.massive.se
Product Homepage: http://www.worldinconflict.com




World in Conflict is a real-time strategy video game by Massive Entertainment and to be published by Sierra Entertainment for Windows (DX9 and DX10) and the Xbox 360.

The game is set in 1989 where economic troubles cripple the Soviet Union and threaten to dissolve it. However, the title pursues a "what if" scenario where, in this case, the Soviet Union does not collapse and instead pursues a course of war to remain in power. It is an intensive new game is sure to put plenty of stress on even the latest graphics cards and we use the built-in benchmarking for our testing.





The PRO continues to outperform the GTS in the recently released World in Conflict.

High Quality AA and AF




Our high quality tests let us separate the men from the boys and the ladies from the girls. If the cards weren't struggling before they will start to now.

3DMark 06



Turn on AA and AF we see the PRO take the biggest dive. AA and AF performance have never been a positive feature of the HD 2K series.

Half Life 2 (Episode One HDR)



We see again the PRO performs better then the 8800GTS even when we turn on AA and AF.

PREY



As usual when we venture into OpenGL territory the AMD offerings get beaten, but with only 10FPS it's nothing we would worry about.

Temperature and Sound Tests


Temperature Tests



With the TES 1326 Infrared Thermometer literally in hand we found ourselves getting real-world temperatures from the products we test at load (3D clock speeds).

There are two places we pull temperature from - the back of the card directly behind the core and if the card is dual slot and has an exhaust point we also pull a temperate from there, as seen in the picture.




The temperature is slightly down on the PRO as we would expect due to the lower clocks. It runs just slightly warmer than the 8800GTS but nothing major.


Sound Tests



Pulling out the TES 1350A Sound Level Meter we find ourselves quickly yelling into the top of it to see how loud we can be.

After five minutes of that we get a bit more serious and place the device two CM away from the fan on the card to find the maximum noise level of the card when idle (2D mode) and in load (3D mode).




The noise level increase is noticeable on the HD 2900 series when compared to the 8800GTS.

Power Consumption Tests




Using our new PROVA Power Analyzer WM-01 or "Power Thingy" as it has become quickly known as to our readers, we are now able to find out what kind of power is being used by our test system and the associated graphics cards installed. Keep in mind; it tests the complete system (minus LCD monitor, which is plugged directly into AC wall socket).

There are a few important notes to remember though; while our maximum power is taken in 3DMark06 at the same exact point, we have seen in particular tests the power being drawn as much as 10% more. We test at the exact same stage every time; therefore tests should be very consistent and accurate.

The other thing to remember is that our test system is bare minimum - only a 7,200RPM SATA-II single hard drive is used without CD ROM or many cooling fans.

So while the system might draw 400 watts in our test system, placing it into your own PC with a number of other items, the draw is going to be higher.




Power draw sits slightly down on the XT but it's up when compared to the 8800GTS.

Benchmarks - 3DMark 06 - Vista


3DMark06

Version and / or Patch Used: Build 110
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark06/
Buy It Here




3DMark06 is the very latest version of the "Gamers Benchmark" from FutureMark. The newest version of 3DMark expands on the tests in 3DMark05 by adding graphical effects using Shader Model 3.0 and HDR (High Dynamic Range lighting) which will push even the best DX9 graphics cards to the extremes.

3DMark06 also focuses on not just the GPU but the CPU using the AGEIA PhysX software physics library to effectively test single and Dual Core processors.




We can see when we move to Vista the performance continues to be up on the PRO when compared to the GTS.

Benchmarks - Call of Juarez (DX10) - Vista


Call of Juarez (DX10)

Version and / or Patch Used: DX10 Benchmark Demo
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.techland.pl/en/
Product Homepage: http://www.coj-game.com
Buy It Here



Call of Juarez is a Western-themed FPS from Techland. The North America release was one of the first games to utilize DX10.

Call of Juarez is loosely based on a number of Western movie hits from the last four decades, particularly the Spaghetti Westerns that became popular in the sixties and early seventies. The game features two different characters: Billy "Candle", a young fugitive accused of murder and the Reverend Ray, an ex-outlaw who turned to religion, believing that God Himself has chosen Ray to be the instrument of His wrath.






While the minimum jumps around a little bit we can see that the averages across the board sits pretty inline with each other. This is the first time outside of an OpenGL test that the GTS has sneaked ahead.

Benchmarks - Lost Planet (DX10) - Vista


Lost Planet: Extreme Condition

Version and / or Patch Used: Demo
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.capcom.com
Product Homepage: http://www.nzone.com/object/nzone_lostplanet_home.html




Driven to the brink of extinction on ice-covered wastelands, humankind fights to survive. From extreme conditions and insurgent Snow Pirates to hostile gargantuan alien Akrid, all that you can trust are your instincts.

Combining a gripping single player campaign and intense multiplayer modes with support for up to 16 players online, Lost Planet is an epic gaming masterpiece. Enormous world maps unfold as players' battle across vast snow fields and deserted cities either on foot or in armed, robotic Vital Suits.



Lost Planet sees the 8800GTS perform ahead of both cards and as we expect the PRO only sits behind the XT.

Benchmarks - Company of Heroes (DX10) - Vista


Company of Heroes

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.7
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.relic.com
Product Homepage: http://www.companyofheroesgame.com
Buy It Here




Company of Heroes, or COH as we're calling it, is one of the latest World War II games to be released and also one of the newest in our lineup of benchmarks. It is a super realistic real-time strategy (RTS) with plenty of cinematic detail and great effects. Because of its detail, it will help stress out even the most impressive computer systems with the best graphics cards - especially when you turn up all the detail. We use the built-in test to measure the frame rates.




Moving to COH Vista performance we again see that the HD 2900 PRO is ahead of the GTS while the XT sits just ahead as usual.

Final Thoughts




WOW! What will NVIDIA do now? The HD 2900 PRO is a power house and is simply going to be the card to own in this price bracket. Hopefully the NVIDIA driver team is hard at work creating a new driver that will help boost the performance of the 8800GTS but you have to wonder just how much more performance there is in it.

This card is going to be extremely popular amongst users, the simple fact is that for the money there really is no better bang for buck and the current overclocking potential is beginning to look very positive. The card is actually that good that it forces the HD 2900 XT to lose some of its bang for buck due to just how close the PRO performs to the XT.

HIS have done a pretty standard job with the package and line-up and while it isn't anything extremely exciting it's better than some other packages we see these days. The main thing is that the purchase of the PRO is going to depend on the package and price for most people. HIS aren't the cheapest brand yet their price looks extremely good when compared to the 8800GTS. It's going to be interesting to see what happens when we see some of the cheaper brands hit the market and just how low the PRO can go.

I'm kind of baffled by the PRO as well as being somewhat speechless (or should that be typeless?) - While it looked like it could perform great at first glance, the fact that it actually does is kind of mind blowing. It's been a while since we have seen an AMD card come out and hit us like this.

The only real problem is the AA performance but it's not horrendous, it could simply be better. No doubt AMD are going to continue to be concentrating on the HD series of cards and performance will continue to improve as time goes on.

Simply put if you're looking for a new card that doesn't break the bank - we've found it for you!

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Shawn takes care of all of our video card reviews. From 2009, Shawn is also taking care of our memory reviews, and from May 2011, Shawn also takes care of our CPU, chipset and motherboard reviews. As of December 2011, Shawn is based out of Taipei, Taiwan.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.
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