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Sapphire TOXIC Radeon X1900XTX - No ear muffs required!

Sapphire sent us their TOXIC X1900XTX graphics card. It comes overclocked and you won't need ear muffs this time!
@ShawnBakerTW
Published Sun, Jul 16 2006 11:00 PM CDT   |   Updated Fri, Sep 18 2020 10:50 PM CDT
Rating: 90%Manufacturer: Sapphire Technology

Introduction






A TOXIC Sapphire - that's what we have on our hands today. We saw the release of the graphics card pop up a little while ago but under a different name, the "Blizzard X1900XTX". Game developers Blizzard were not entirely happy with Sapphire using this name, so to avoid legal dramas, Sapphire quickly re-named the product to the "TOXIC X1900XTX".

The TOXIC is a graphics card that uses an all-in-one water cooling solution much like we saw from PowerColor in the past. Although, our biggest gripe though with the one that PowerColor offered was that it was produced on a mid-range card, which was a bit of a waste in our opinion.

Sapphire on the other hand has done it right as far as we are concerned; they have strapped the water cooling solution on to the best performing ATI Radeon graphics card, the X1900XTX.

This isn't the only thing that Sapphire has improved on when compared to PowerColor but we will leave that for now and get onto what's inside the box.

The Packaging




The Sapphire X1900XTX is not your normal style box; it's big, funky and comes with a handle.



You can clearly see the TOXIC letters on the front of the box with the "Liquid Cooled X1900XTX" at the bottom making it very clear what we are dealing with here today. The front also shows that one of the main features is an all-in-one liquid cooling solution along side two Dual Link DVI ports and 512MB of DDR3 memory. Using the Sapphire Select program you also have your choice of two full version free games.



There are two small boxes which offer extended information on the card including the main specifications the X1900XTX chip has to offer.



As we mentioned the box also comes with a very funky handle so you can travel home in style with your new TOXIC X1900XTX from Sapphire.



Like most high-end graphics cards, we have a multitude of cables - two DVI to VGA connectors, PCI Express power connector, VIVO (Video In/Video Out) cable, HDTV (Component) out along with a longer S-Video and RCA cable.



Paperwork wise we find a small getting started manual which won't get creased at all thanks to it getting tossed aside by 90% of people.



While there isn't much when it comes to the CDs (with only the Installer CD, PowerDVD and PowerDirector being included), using the Sapphire Select program you can download two full version games out of a number that Sapphire offer. This is a fantastic option and it's extremely surprising to find that no one else has followed in their footsteps in this area.

The overall bundle for the card is pretty run of the mill - a bucket load of cables, a manual, some software and two games makes it a pretty standard bundle for a high-end card. The Sapphire Select program does help make it a lot more attractive though when compared to other companies who seem to have bundled the same game for about three generations of graphics cards.

The Card




With all the accessories out the way we get onto the good stuff, the water cooled X1900XTX TOXIC graphics card.



We can see that the design almost works like a dual card solution with the X1900XTX going into your standard PCI Express slot and making room for the water cooling unit in another.



While it's not a huge block it looks very comfortable on the X1900XTX. The block is secured extremely well as you would expect as its going to be shipped all around the world.



Just to the left of the block we have our ATI Rage Theater chip, something we haven't seen on a X1900XTX for a long time as most are covered via the massive ATI reference cooler. The ATI Rage Theater chip gives us VIVO which we know is included thanks to the cables being in the box.



The front of the box mentioned that the two DVI ports support Dual Link DVI for owners of 30" LCD monitors. Dual Link DVI is a feature that is standard in the X1K series of cards from ATI.



Turning the card over, we can see a very typical back side - serial numbers, circuitry and a bracket holding in this case, the water block in place.

Something that we wish PowerColor did but Sapphire have done is include memory sinks. This is great and while it's arguable for the need for heatsinks on DDR3 memory, there is no doubt that it won't cause any harm. With a fan running through the system it is going to help keep them cooler and hopefully help with overclocking, which is what you're going to want to do with a card like this.

The default core clock speed on the X1900XTX comes in at 650MHz but Sapphire has moved this up to 675MHz. Memory default clock speed is 1550MHz DDR and Sapphire has given it a small bump to 1600MHz DDR, which is excellent since the memory is no longer actively cooled.

The Cooler


The Cooling

With the actual card out the way, let's have a closer look at the cooling solution that is on offer which is a prettied up ThermalTake Tidewater. The difference though is we also get warranty on the card.



The cooling solution isn't really complex. The coolant agent is already inside when you buy the card. The fan spins to cool it down and then the coolant leaves the unit and goes into the water block to cool down the core. The coolant then leaves the block (now warm rather than cold) and then comes back into the cooling unit to be cooled and continued on its journey again, again and again.

We can see at the bottom of the water cooler is a plastic PCI slot which helps secure the cooler in place in a free PCI slot.



Included on the card is a standard run of the mill molex connector to help power the cooling unit itself.



The side of the card shows where the coolant leaves and enters the card but also the little reservoir that holds the coolant which is already inside the card when shipped. Low refers to the coolant level and the arrow refers to which way you screw it to take the cap off. Don't get confused and think by turning it to the left will lower something while your system is turned on. You could end up with the cap off and coolant all over the back of your motherboard, which is of course something nobody wants.



While the fan is quite large, it is extremely quiet, which is fantastic. This is what helps keep the coolant cool.



The top of the card has a little power LED so you know when the card is running along with a switch that helps you set the fan speed - high meaning it's louder and low meaning it's quieter but doesn't cool as productively.



The whole card is an absolute breeze to install but unfortunately when we switched it all on we didn't get a display. One of our components where in another test system - can you figure out which one?

Benchmarks - Test System Setup and 3DMark05


Test System Setup

Processor(s): AMD Athlon X2 3800+ @ 260MHz FSB x 10 (1:1 RAM)
Motherboard(s): DFI Lanparty UT SLI DR Expert (Supplied by Bronet)
Memory: 2 X 1GB G.Skill HV PC4000 @ 260MHz (Supplied by Bronet)
Hard Disk(s): Hitachi 80GB 7,200RPM SATA 2
Operating System: Microsoft Windows XP Professional SP2
Drivers: ATI Catalyst 6.6 and DX9c



We ran into a problem with the Sapphire X1900XTX TOXIC - overclocking it.

When loading up ATI Tool you find that the core and memory speed have dropped below the defaults, not being overly concerned you slide the bars up to default and find that the card freezes and reboots.

Slightly concerned we thought we would venture across to the old Riva Tuner tool. While not a personal favorite, it seemed to detect the graphics card without any problems and then we proceeded to start overclocking it. Moving the sliders and testing found the card completing the tests with no problems. Increase after increase the test completed fine every time...we couldn't believe our eyes. At around the 1000MHz core and 1000MHz (2000MHz) memory, we become just a little suspicious. Maxing the bars out found the test completing fine again, it was here where we began to realize the card wasn't actually being overclocked.

The only program that wanted to cooperate in overclocking was the ATI Overdrive feature in the Catalyst drivers. The problem with the ATI Catalyst overclocking feature is that it's quite limited so the maximum overclock we pushed to was 690MHz on the core and 806MHz (1612MHz DDR) on the memory.

With that out the way we have continued to run with our new graphics card benchmarking suite. We have included in all our tests the X1900XTX TOXIC overclocked to 690MHz/806MHz along with the Sapphire X1900XT.


3DMark05

Version and / or Patch Used: Build 120
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.




The small overclock can be seen here but the difference is so small that it wouldn't make a difference in real-world gaming. You can clearly see that the lead the XTX carries over the standard X1900XT.

Benchmarks - 3DMark06


3DMark06

Version and / or Patch Used: Build 102
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.




While 3DMark06 is more intensive, the overclock shows a very small difference. When compared to the X1900XT though, the performance when overclocked at 1600 x 1200 is almost 10%.

Benchmarks - Half Life 2 (Lost Coast)


Half Life 2 (Lost Coast - HDR enabled and disabled)

Version and / or Patch Used: Unpatched
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 Lost Coast 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 Lost Coast 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.






Non-HDR tests show us the difference in the cards at the both resolutions and when we move to HDR enabled testing, the low resolutions tests sit very close together with the high resolution separating the two cards.

The overclock has had very little affect though across the board but what is a few FPS when your pumping out 80+ FPS anyway?

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.






F.E.A.R. is still a game that is really taking it tolls on systems. While the low resolution results show the setups very close together, when you move to the high resolution you can clearly begin to see the difference. The overclocked card results are offering a 10% average FPS increase when compared to the standard X1900XT.

Benchmarks - Doom 3


Doom 3

Version and / or Patch Used: Unpatched
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom Timedemo
Developer Homepage: http://www.idsoftware.com
Product Homepage: http://www.doom3.com
Buy It Here




Doom 3 is still one of the most popular games at the moment and is quite intensive in the 3D department, even though it is starting to age. 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.




While you can clearly see the difference between the X1900XT and X1900XTX TOXIC from Sapphire, the slight overclock is giving us absolutely nothing to get excited about.

Benchmarks - Quake 4


Quake 4

Version and / or Patch Used: Unpatched
Timedemo or Level Used: Necro666 Demo
Developer Homepage: http://www.idsoftware.com
Product Homepage: http://www.quake4game.com
Buy 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.




Quake 4 shows a similar result to Doom 3 but not quite as major. The scores of the two cards are very close to each other and the overclock is really giving us nothing extra.

Benchmarks - Serious Sam 2


Serious Sam 2 (HDR enabled and disabled)

Version and / or Patch Used: Unpatched
Timedemo or Level Used: Branchester (HardwareOC Bench)
Developer Homepage: http://www.croteam.com
Product Homepage: http://www.serioussam2.com
Buy It Here




Picking up where Serious Sam: Second Encounter left off, Sam has rocketed off towards the conquered planet of Sirius, the new home of the notorious Mental. While en route, the Great Wizards Council of the nearly eradicated Sirian civilization telepathically contacts Sam to aid him in his quest to destroy Mental and help restore Sirius. He is then sent on a quest to find the fragments of a mystical medallion scattered throughout the galaxy that will bestow Sam with the power to defeat Mental.

While Serious Sam 2 is not one of the most intensive games in our benchmark suite, we can stress the system by enabling HDR.






Like Half Life 2 the performance at 1024 x 768 with and without HDR shows both cards very close together, but when moving up to the high resolution you can clearly see that the X1900XTX outshines the X1900XT thanks to the increased memory and core speed.

Benchmarks - High Quality AA and AF


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 graphics cards weren't struggling before, they will start to now. ATI are able to offer HDR and AA at the same time unlike nVidia so we have ran our HQ Lost Coast and Serious Sam 2 test with HDR enabled.




What we saw in our non AA and AF tests has translated over to our high quality tests. The X1900XTX gets a clear lead when compared to the X1900XT but the overclock shows us very little gains.




Our final synthetic test continued to show what we have seen all along with the TOXIC X1900XTX offering a clear lead over the X1900XT.




The performance difference can be seen on both cards at both resolutions but at 1024 x 768 the X1900XTX has no trouble hitting an average of over 60FPS while the X1900XT is sitting close to 55FPS translating to almost 10% slower.




On our final test we leave with the X1900XTX showing it can clearly justify its price with a nice increase at the high resolution with AA, AF and HDR all enabled.

Final Thoughts




Initially we went into the review thinking "Oh water cooling, we can clock this thing hard!" but the slight problem we ran into made us think a little harder about the card.

You don't buy this graphics card to overclock it like crazy. The biggest gripe we have always had with the Radeon X1900XT(X) is the amount of noise its produces. The TOXIC X1900XTX from Sapphire is so quiet. Even on the high fan speed setting, it is surprisingly quiet. You buy a card like this because you want extreme performance with as little noise as possible.

This is the best way to look at the TOXIC X1900XTX. We know that the water cooling solution is going to be nowhere near as effective as a custom made job and the effectiveness of the Liquid Cooling Solution in use here isn't amazing from a performance point of a view, but when you stand back, close your eyes and then think... "I have an X1900XTX and I cannot hear it!"

You combine this along with the fact it does come pre-overclocked, it has no trouble maxing out the ATI Catalyst over drive feature, it is extremely easy to install and offers X1900XTX performance you have got a real winner on your hands.

Performance is as you would expect - high. It's a X1900XTX after all. Package is great as always thanks to Sapphire Select and it's just so easy to setup without having to worry about leaks and all that crap.

Performance comes in many forms with this product - be it the fact that its just blistering fast or it performance is excellent when it comes to noise. The Sapphire X1900XTX TOXIC offers both. Give us a Crossfire master card utilizing the same design and we have all the performance you would want with all the noise you can handle. The only problem is your going to lose a PCI slot to the cooling unit.


- Pros
X1900XTX Performance
X1300 Noise
Sapphire Select
Normal X1900XTX features (VIVO)
Effortless installation
Liquid Cooling + Warranty = Big Pro

- Cons
Lose a PCI Slot
Pricey


Rating - 9 out of 10 and TweakTown's "MUST HAVE" Best Performance 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.

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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