First off, we see the card in its entirety, and what a beauty she is. Like a select few (MSI, ABIT and Powercolor), Gigabyte has elected to do away with the standard green or brown PCB and have elected to go with an attractive color. Like MSI, Gigabyte has chosen red. To me, this looks the best I have seen out of all the others. Even black PCB in video cards doesn't look as good to me as a red one does, but this is entirely up to the end user. Layout wise, it's almost identical to the reference ATi 8500 cards; after all, why change a design that works so well.
The Package Contents
Gigabyte includes a pretty impressive accessories and games package with their graphics flagship. You get a total of five games including MS Motocross Mania, 4x4 Evolution Lite version, Rune, Heavy Metal and a couple of Demos as well as Cyberlink Power DVD XP for the DVD decoding abilities of the AP64D-H. Along with this you get a TV connector cable. This cable includes S-Video and RCA connector in one, so there is no need for converters or anything else. Also included is a DVI to CRT converter. This is used if you have two CRT monitors and want to hook them up in dual display. CRT #1 hooks into the CRT connector already on the card and the converter turns the DVI connector into a CRT connector. This is one handy effort by Gigabyte.
The Chipset, Memory and Cooling
At the heart of the AP64D-H is ATi's latest video accelerator, the Radeon 8500 graphics processor. This baby adds many new features that the 7500 series never had like HyperZ II (Hardware C, T&L) and Smoothvision (ATi's own Anti-Aliasing), all this packed into one chip that is clocked at 275MHz. That's faster by 25MHz over the nVidia GF3 core.
We can't emphasize enough that even with a super core, it's nothing if the memory can't keep up. But there is no fear of that here. Using 64MB of Hynix (Hyundai) 3.6ns memory in synchronization with the core speed (275MHz or 550MHz DDR), the AP64D-H has enough headroom to run and gives the nVidia competitors a good run for their money.
Just like ATi's own 8500 card, Gigabyte has placed four memory modules on the chipset side and four on the back side. This is to promote better signals by having the memory spaced apart and not interfere with its neighboring memory module on the same row. But this is not the only reason; heat displacement. Moving four modules to the back reduced the heat on the GPU side and allows better cooling of the CPU.
Speaking of cooling, anyone for hardcore? Gigabyte has definitely got the cooling method well under their belt. On the GPU side we have a super large heatsink that covers the GPU and four memory chips. The heatsink comes into perfect contact with them, and with proper heat transfer goo, those modules are well off. On the back we have a large alloy heatplace that removes heat not only from the four modules on the back, but also comes into direct contact with the back of the GPU to remove the heat from the back. Now that is thinking! I haven't seen this from ATi.
TV-Out, Best Quality Ever
One thing I am proud to say is that ATi are the leaders when we comes to TV-out quality. Gigabyte has used the very chip that has raised ATi to top of TV-out quality; the ATi Rage Theater chip. This chip is similar in design to the Phillips TV-out chip, however, it has better refresh rate, sync filters, and above all its got true DVD capabilities. Without a doubt, this is the king of TV-out.
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