Gigabyte Radeon X1800XL Graphics Card

Our second Radeon X1800XL sample is from Gigabyte. We've compared it against the 7800GT to see just where it sits.
Published Thu, Nov 17 2005 11:00 PM CST   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:26 PM CDT
Rating: 90%Manufacturer: Gigabyte



Another day sees another graphics card and this one comes in the shape of the newly released Radeon X1800XL from Gigabyte. This is our first sample to be tested with the new official ATI Catalyst drivers with the previous X1800XL we looked at was still running pre-released non-WHQL drivers.We will be looking at what exactly Gigabyte have on offer for us today with their latest graphics card and thanks to our little overclocking tool, we will be having a look at what happens when we overclock this bad boy.ATI's Radeon X1800XL is designed to compete against nVidia's GeForce 7800GT which is what is supposed to be the more mainstream 7800 card for people who don't want to spend the extra dollars that come with the GTX territory.As always we will be making sure the card is put through its usual paces to see just how it performs with the latest Catalyst 5.11 drivers. Before we get into the benchmarking though we will have a quick look at what's inside the box aside from the graphics card.

The Package

The Package While the color choice might not be for some people, the purple box is very funky looking and would stand out amongst a lot of other brands that have quite a bland looking retail box style.We have all our main features included on the front of the box - Dual Link DVI for people lucky enough to own those 30" Apple LCDs, VIVO, HDTV and 256MB of DDR memory. We also can see that it is PCI Express and supports the new AVIVO technology that ATI is pushing and comes with software bundled worth about $190.
Turning the box over we as always get our extended specifications of the card and a run down including images of some of the technology that is implemented into the latest generation of graphics cards from ATI.
Opening up the box we don't have a huge selection of CDs but enough to keep you entertained for an extended period of time. Included is Counter Strike: Condition Zero, Power Director, Expand Rally along with our old faithful driver CD that we don't use.
Sticking with the purple theme we have the manual included in the package which most people will find themselves throwing aside thanks to a graphics card being quite self-explanatory to install and more useful information being found on the back of the box.
Moving to the final piece of the package we have our normal array of cables - HDTV Out cable, VIVO cable, S-Video Cable, S-Video to RCA and DVI to VGA connector. A power connector is included but the cable included wasn't the proper PCI Express cable - we put this down to the card being a sample. The correct PCI Express power connector should be included in the retail version.

The Card

The CardWith all the little bits and pieces in the package out the way we can move onto the more important part, the graphics card. Gigabyte has continued to use the purple theme on the card with the sticker over the cooler. On the red PCB it looks great and in a case with some good lighting, it would look fantastic.
The top right of the card has our standard 6 pin PCI Express power connector that comes on all high end PCI Express cards. We also have a passive heatsink that runs down the side of the card to cool some of the hotter components on the graphics card outside of the standard core and memory.
Moving to the front of the card we have our Dual DVI ports which both support Dual Link along with the S-Video like plug which lets us use the HDTV Out capability along with the VIVO function.Turning the card over we find a very plain back thanks to the fact that no memory is installed on the back of the card. We simply have a number of screws that help hold the large heatsink on the front in place.
The Gigabyte X1800XL comes clocked at 500MHz on the core and 1GHz DDR on the memory which is the default speed for the X1800XL. We will see later just what we can get out of it when it comes to overclocking.

Benchmarks - Test System Setup and 3DMark03

Test System SetupProcessor(s): AMD Athlon X2 3800+ Motherboard(s): ASUS A8N32-SLI Deluxe - 16x PCI-E lanes (Supplied by ASUS)Memory: 2 X 1GB Corsair PC3500LL PRO DDR (Supplied by Corsair)Hard Disk(s): WD Raptor 74GB 10,000RPM SATA (Supplied by Western Digital)Operating System: Windows XP Professional SP1Drivers: ATI Catalyst 5.11, nVidia Forceware 81.94 and DX9cThe test system has gone through a slight overhaul this week with the ASUS SLI Premium going out and the new and impressive ASUS A8N32-SLI Deluxe coming in to take its place. We have also moved from our 2 x 512MB Mushkin modules to the new Corsair PC3500LL PRO (2 x 1GB) that is specifically suited for the A8N32 motherboard from ASUS. We will be looking further into this combination at a later date. With the new motherboard setup we have an increased CPU overclock to 2.45GHz from the 2.35GHz we have been running.Quickly before we move on, we have used the latest version of ATI Tool from our friend W1zzard @ TechPowerUp, the creator of ATI Tool. This does give us the ability to overclock the core of the X1800XL but unfortunately not the memory as yet. So we will be doing some overclocking just not as much as we had hoped.The X1800XL in the US is similarly priced to the GeForce 7800GT we are going to be comparing it against. In Australia the X1800XL sits a little bit higher and Gigabyte have set a very nice $699 AUD RRP for the card which makes it an excellent price for a card from such a reputable manufacturer. It's also important to keep in mind we're comparing the Gigabyte X1800XL against the BFG 7800GT which comes with higher clock speeds than regular 7800GT cards.The other thing we must mention is that we have used the latest official drivers for both cards - the Catalyst 5.11 and the ForceWare 81.94. The latest ForceWare drivers are able to make use out of the X2 processor so it does sit in a better position before we enter into the benchmarks. We should hopefully see a similar technology implementation in the next release of Catalyst drivers but if not there is no doubt that it will be early next year in the new 6 series.3DMark03Version and / or Patch Used: Build 360Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.comProduct Homepage: It Here
By combining full DX8 and partial DX9 support with completely new tests and graphics over the previous version, 3DMark03 continues the legacy of being the industry standard 3D benchmark.Please Note: Due to recent events with the 3DMark03 series, we are adding results purely for those who are still in favor of 3DMark03. These results should not be taken too seriously and are only added for interest sakes.
3DMark03 performance at the lower resolution shows that the 7800GT is a fair bit faster though when moving to the higher resolution which is what people with these cards will play at we can see that performance is closer.

Benchmarks - 3DMark05

3DMark05Version and / or Patch Used: Build 120Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.comProduct Homepage: It Here
3DMark05 is the latest version in the popular 3DMark "Gamers Benchmark" series. It includes a complete set of DX9 benchmarks which tests Shader Model 2.0 and higher.For more information on the 3DMark05 benchmark, we recommend you read our preview here.
3DMark05 shows that both cards come closer together, the X1800XL just sneaks ahead at the lower resolution and the 7800GT just sneaks ahead at the higher.

Benchmarks - Half Life 2

Half Life 2Version and / or Patch Used: UnpatchedTimedemo or Level Used: Custom TimedemoDeveloper Homepage: Product Homepage: http://www.half-life2.comBuy It Here
By taking the suspense, challenge and visceral charge of the original, and adding startling new realism and responsiveness, Half-Life 2 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 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.
Both cards offer a playable frame rate at both resolutions but we can clearly see that the 7800GT on offer is slightly faster.

Benchmarks - Doom 3

Doom 3Version and / or Patch Used: UnpatchedTimedemo or Level Used: Custom TimedemoDeveloper Homepage: Product Homepage: http://www.doom3.comBuy It Here
Doom 3 is the latest game to hit our test lab and is one of the most intensive games to dates. With our own custom time demo we are able to give a realistic rating on what kind of FPS you will be achieving.For more information on benchmarking Doom 3 we recommend you check out our extensive article regarding it here.
We can understand that ATI has worked on their OpenGL optimization but Doom 3 just doesn't see the benefits that Quake 4 does and in turn the higher resolution benchmarks really show the X1800XL lag right behind its immediate competition.

Benchmarks - Quake 4

Quake 4Version and / or Patch Used: UnpatchedTimedemo or Level Used: Custom TimedemoDeveloper Homepage: Product Homepage: http://www.quake4game.comBuy It Here
Quake 4 is one of the latest new games to be added to our benchmark suite. It is based off the popular Doom 3 engine and as a result uses many of the features seen in Doom. However, Quake 4 graphics are more intensive than Doom 3 and should put more strain on different parts of the system.
We can see that performance is closer on Quake 4 between both cards but with 43.3 FPS only being an average, it would drop to an unplayable state at some points forcing you to run at 1280 x 1024.

Benchmarks - F.E.A.R.

F.E.A.R.Version and / or Patch Used: UnpatchedTimedemo or Level Used: Custom TimedemoDeveloper Homepage: Product Homepage: 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.
Both cards offer an unplayable experience when the settings are maxed out and at 1600 x 1200. When it comes to 1024 x 768 we can see that the 7800GT with its minimum FPS hitting 27 is going to offer a slightly better experience over the X1800XL.

Benchmarks - High Quality AA and AF

High Quality AA and AFIn our High Quality tests we bump the Antialiasing (AA) and Anisotropic Filtering (AF) up causing the card(s) to be put under more load.This usually helps us remove the CPU limitation. We use 4 x AA and 8 x AF as this is quite a common setup for most people who are venturing into the AA and AF area.
3DMark 5 again shows that performance is quite close between the two cards but this time around the 7800GT does offer a more visible difference.
Half Life 2 with AA and AF on brings both cards to exactly the same point which is interesting seen the 7800GT saw larger improvements when running without AA and AF.
Doom 3 shows huge differences when running without AA and AF but as soon as you turn it on, the X1800XL really begins to close the gap on the 7800GT.

Benchmarks - CPU Overclocking

CPU OverclockingEven with the power of the AMD Athlon X2 and Intel Extreme Edition processors, we still find ourselves hitting a CPU limitation in a lot of our benchmarks. That is, the graphics cards have more performance to give but the processor is letting the team down.By overclocking the processor we can see what kind of a performance increase we get. When something isn't CPU limited the performance increase isn't all that major but when we do have a CPU bottleneck, every MHz extra we can get can show us an excellent jump in performance.The Athlon X2 3800+ was increased from 2GHz to 2.45GHz with a slight increase in the front side bus utilizing the stock X2 heatsink fan.
Even with the extra 100MHz we have pumped out on the processor we are still finding it not impacting the score all that much.
3DMark05 sees the exact same situation as above with the overclocking not helping us.
Far Cry as always sees a performance jump thanks to its CPU limitation.

Benchmarks - Graphics Card Overclocking

Graphics Card OverclockingThanks to motherboard and VGA manufactures, overclocking has become such an effortless task, giving literally anyone the chance to overclock their components with very little risk.When it comes to overclocking graphics card we use and recommend two program - for ATI cards you can't go past ATI Tool and if you're on the other side of the fence and using an nVidia card the Coolbits 2 registry hack is it. Both programs offer an Auto Overclock feature which is what we use. The Gigabyte X1800XL was increased from 500MHz on the core to 577MHz and the memory remained the same (at 1GHz DDR) due to our overclocking tool limitation.
We saw a nice performance increase when it came to overclocking the card almost hitting 7500 Marks with just the GPU overclocked. This then puts us well and truly in front of the 7800GT.
Doom 3 saw a slight increase in performance which again begins to significantly close the gap that the 7800GT had in the earlier benchmarks.
With the CPU limitation we see no extra performance when we overclock.

Final Thoughts

Final ThoughtsWe really had a chance to get down and dirty with the latest X1800XL sample to hit our labs from Gigabyte. We were able to run more benchmarks and start to tinker a little bit more with the overclocking side of things and as you can see, we really began to start seeing a difference in performance with the overclock.As we mentioned earlier the GeForce 7800GT with the latest drivers really begins to take advantage of the Dual Core processor capabilities on offer from the Athlon X2 and even with that leg up on the X1800XL, it still doesn't manage to blow the ATI competition away totally.Dual graphic card setups are going to become a whole lot more interesting when ATI can get its act together with Crossfire but at the moment the 7800GT SLI capability does light up a lot of people's eyes and lean them towards this option over the ATI offering.The Radeon X1800XL is an excellent GPU and the Gigabyte based solution is pretty good - it's available now and the architecture behind it is more advanced then the nVidia offering which has more MHz and more pipes. The Gigabyte X1800XL is packed full of features such as two Dual Link DVI ports, HDTV output and VIVO support - it's pretty much got everything you could ever need right now as far as IO goes. On top of this, it's a single slot design and the cooler isn't loud plus the entire package is quite stylish and very easy on the eye.Die hard ATI fans are going to opt for this option over the other thanks to better driver support (monthly releases) and the image quality and options available by ATI are greater then its nVidia counterpart as it's not always about frames per second, even though the gap between the X1800XL and 7800GT is closing especially when we start to overclock.- ProsGood package bundleAvailable now to buyDual Link DVI, HDTV and VIVOMonthly driver updatesSingle slot designGood performance and even better when overclockedGreat overclocking ability (core only currently through ATI Tool)Competitively priced- ConsOverclocking is still difficult (at the moment)Still waiting for X1K Crossfire master cardsRating - 9 out of 10 and TweakTown's "MUST HAVE" Editors Choice Award

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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.

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