ATI's current lineup of desktop graphics was recently updated to increase the efficiency of the core, bump the speeds and generally update the line. Nothing extra in the way of features was brought to the series but the reshuffling of the lineup has brought to light a possible gem.
The X800XL is an interesting card on paper. We have clock speeds slower than the X800 Pro, although we have the full 16 pipelines vs. the 12 pipelines found the in the X800 Pro and X800. Core speeds are slightly higher than the X800 and memory speeds are just shy of the 1GHz mark. Best of all, the X800XL should come with a sub £250 price tag. New to the 'Lair's supporters are Club-3D, who have recently opened a and sent us their a little early, so at time of writing this it's not in the shops yet, but that's not going to stop us getting a good look ahead of time.
Features and Specifications
• Fully DirectX 9 Compliant
• 16 Pixel Pipelines
• 6 Vertex Pipelines
• 256 Bit memory interface
• Club 3D White Blinking “intelligent” Cooling
• YPrPb component out 720p 1080i
• 0.11 Low-k technology
Engine Clock: 400MHz
Memory Clock: 500MHz
Memory: 256MB GDDR3
Memory Bus: 256 bit
Pixel Pipelines: 16
RAMDAC: 2x 400MHz
You can read the full information and specifications for this card .
The box for the Club-3D X800XL we received is a work in progress, but I wanted to comment on it anyway. The Club-3D packaging is not as 'flamboyant' as others you will find on the market, and I have to say it works in the designs favour. You get the impression from the packaging that this is more 'exclusive' and that philosophy continues throughout. Inside everything is laid out nicely and I do like this little 'Welcome member …' flap at the inside front. I hope Club-3D don't change the packaging too much as it is quite refreshing from the norm.
Extras included with the X800XL are 3 CD's; a driver, manual and demo disk, PowerDVD 5 and PowerDirector 3 DE, and the obligatory free game of Colin McRae Rally 04. Cabling is plentiful; from left to right in the picture we have the 'HDTV' RGB dongle, a standard VIVO dongle with Composite and S-VID in/out, an S-VID cable, a 4pin Molex to 6 pin PCIe graphics power adapter and a single DVI-I to 15pin VGA adapter. I would have liked to have seen two DVI-I to 15pin VGA adapters since the Club-3D is a Dual DVI card. The final accessory is a black 'Powered by Club-3D' case badge.
Before we get onto the card itself, I just wanted to go back to the driver/manual/demo CD for a second. It's personally been while since I thought that any disk like this was worthwhile except as a backup for your drivers but again to keep with the exclusive club theme, Club-3D have made quite the presentation on this disk.
When the CD auto runs, your web browser will open and show on the left a neat little video presentation that you can set as a screensaver. On the right is the list of manuals for the ATI cards that Club-3D manufacture. And at the bottom we have access to the drivers, ATI demo's to show off the card features, a 2 and a half minute video which talks about ATI creating the Ultimate Visual Experience with comments from game developers, links to both Club-3D and ATI, and finally links for DirectX 9b (needs updating guys, were on 9c now) and Adobe Acrobat Reader. End of the day chances are you will put the disk in, run the items on it the once and then forget about it, but the disk contains nearly 550MB of data, and it's nice to see that Club-3D have made a real effort here. The demo's will likely be of interest (and it's nice not to have to download them), although in comparison with the NVIDIA demo's they are nothing to write home about.
Moving onto the card itself (finally), I wasn't expecting a card quite this heavy. The reason is the HSF adorning the top of the card which is solid copper with a clear bladed fan assembly. You'll note that it doesn't actually cover the ram; however GDDR3 is designed to run cooler at higher speeds to begin with. The ram incidentally is Samsung, and a quick Google search of the Samsung Semiconductor site rates it at 500MHz which is pretty much bang on the cards defaults.
The tail end of the card sports a PCIe 6pin power input, since this is a 16 pipeline card the same as the X800/X850 Pro and XT series cards, although the ATI reference card based on the .11 micron core doesn't call for it. Hopefully the extra power input will provide greater stability while overclocking. The back of the card has this cross member bar which is a bit like a strut brace across the two points that mount the HSF on the front. Also on the back you can find another 128mb of GDDR3 (bringing the total to 256mb) as well as the ATI Rage Theater chip responsible for the VIVO functions of the card.
The I/O Panel features Dual DVI-I ports with the 9 pin VIVO port center.
I just want to go back to the cooling solution here before we move onto the testing phase. Club-3D has implemented their own intelligent cooling scheme which reacts to temperatures and adjusts the fan speed accordingly. During 2D operation the card is pretty much silent, and it's only just before POST of your PC that you hear the sound of the fan at full speed. Even during intense gaming I don't recall hearing the fan speed get as high, and it is a pretty quiet card all round. Temperature wise, idle/2D operation puts the card around the 45C mark with the maximum load temperatures recorded 64C under 3D operation.
To appeal to those with windows on their enclosures there is also a blinking white LED which creates a unique stroboscopic effect in conjunction with the clear bladed fan. My first thought was that it would be a headache inducing flicker but the frequency is very high and it isn't too bad and certainly unique. I did want to get a small video showing off the strobing effect but none of the cameras I have here were sensitive enough to pick up the fast flickering rate.
There isn't anything bad to report so far; we have maybe not an extensive bundle but for around £250 it's a lot more than I expected. The card itself doesn't differ all that much from the reference design, but we have a little added fun from the strobing LED and the intelligent temperature controlled cooling will hopefully keeps the noise and temperatures down.
Test system will be:
Albatron PX925X Pro, Intel Pentium 4 540 (3.2GHz), 2 x 512MB Kingston HyperX PC2-5400 (4-4-4-12), 2x 80GB Maxtor 7200 SATA's, Windows XP w/SP2, Catalyst 5.2
Test Software will be:
Doom 3 - Making good use of the BFG, rocket launcher and plasma gun (the most graphically intense weapons), we'll be kicking ass on the Enpro level and trying not to let the robot score all the points
Half Life 2 - can be very forgiving on hardware, or at least more forgiving than other modern games with the right settings. However when the action gets going and there is a lot on screen, it does help to have a bit of horsepower pushing the graphics. We ran through part of 'Follow Freeman', specifically the part as you exit the Combine building to take on the 3 striders.
Far Cry - featuring lots of outdoor areas with spectacular nature effects such as realistic water and beautiful vista's that all add up to a virtual landscape that stretches off into the distance. We ran through the Rebellion level, and headed outside into the night time chaos.
Unreal Tournament 2004 - We loaded up TDM with 31 bots, everything set to highest levels and tested the gameplay on the Compressed map.
Need For Speed: Underground 2 - NFSU2 features a lot of particle effects, fogging and reflective surfaces. We tricked an RX-8 and went for a blast around town in the rain.
We'll be using FRAPS to record framerates in all our tests, playing the game as anybody would (trying to stay alive), firing weapons, dodging attacks and so on. Unlike our past video game tests, all benchmarks will be done with the audio "on", as we're trying to illustrate real gaming experiences, and I doubt any of our readers mute the audio during gameplay.
The driver settings were manually configured for AntiAliasing and Anisotropic Filtering (on or off), and set to "Quality". All games were set to their highest playable game settings via the in-game menus unless otherwise stated.