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Club3D Radeon X800XL PCI Express Club 3D Radeon X800XL PCI Express: Can't spare the $600 for an X850XT? The X800XL's performance offers similar performance at a much lower cost.
Date: March 18, 2005
Written By:

NFS: Underground 2

Club-3D X800XL @ 1280x1024, 4AA, 8AF
Club-3D X800XL @ 1600x1200, 2AA, 4AF

NFS: Underground 2 will play pretty well at 1600x1200, 2x AntiAliasing and 4x Anisotropic filtering. The only time you will really notice the slowdowns is getting off the startline as the particle effects from the tire smoke and all the other cars on screen at once does drop the frames. However, once off the start line and it's only you, the traffic and the city skyline to render then fps will rise again. The general dips in the graph indicate sections heavy on traffic with the major dips at the end being me crashing and taking off with a tire smoking burnout. I personally prefer to drop the resolution to 1280x1024, 4x AntiAliasing and 8x Anisotropic filtering, which the Club-3D Radeon X800XL handles well. For online play you will likely want to make sure of no slowdowns at the startline with perhaps 2x AntiAliasing, 4x Anisotropic filtering, but for a quick blast around the city in single player you will be fine.

Image Quality

1280x1024 is the resolution of choice for Need For Speed: Underground 2 for more than just the ability to increase the graphic enhancements; the difference from the resolution change to 1600x1200 won't be noticed by most in the same way that 1024x768 to 1280x1024 will be. It's tough to show this in a side by side comparison from screenshots as they are different sizes on your screen rather than being different sizes filling your screen.

While we're on the subject of IQ, there has been some debate regarding NVIDIA's latest GPUs supporting Shader Model 3 and ATI VPUs sticking with Shader Model 2.0B. Shader Model 3.0 is a combination of Pixel Shader 3.0 and Vertex Shader 3.0, and also includes the SM2.0, SM1.1 and of course the other previous Pixel and Vertex instructions prior to 3.0. Another addition to Shader Model 3.0 is Displacement Mapping, which is similar to Bump Mapping, although unlike with Bump Mapping where you merely get the illusion of a raised surface, Displacement Mapping will actually raise the surface.

The other big thing with Shader Model 3.0 is Geometry Instancing which is a method of copying objects that are rendered the same rather than rendering more than one object. For example, perhaps you have a forest full of trees in a game, and all the trees look the same. Rather than rendering each individual tree, Geometry Instancing will copy the first one and duplicate it for the others.

When it comes to current graphics cards, the GeForce 6 series cards support Shader Model 3.0, although ATI cards currently do not. However, in practice, Shader Model 3.0 currently doesn't bring all that much to the table in the way of either performance or image quality; you can render just as well with Shader Model 2.0b (supported by ATI's X700/X800 Series).

Far Cry Patch 1.3 offers support for Shader Model 3.0 and this will in some instances give you a slightly smoother instance of light rendering, especially visible on metallic surfaces that reflect light. You can also see it in action when looking at certain levels with water which will appear darker due to the way the light source is calculated into the pixel shader rendering of the water.

To enable SM3.0 in Far Cry you will need to set the game to 'Very High' settings and of course have a GeForce 6 series card. Alternatively, you can also use the console command -

\r_sm30path 1

Geometry Instancing will be enabled as part of SM3.0 with GeForce 6 cards but you can enable it for ATI cards as well.

For ATI cards, you enable geometry instancing in the Catalyst Control Center under the 'API Specific' tab, then start Far Cry and type in the console -

\r_geominstancing 1

Here are a couple screenshots using a 6600GT and X800XL:

SM 2.0B
SM 3.0

As you can probably see, there is virtually no difference between the two.


Like the Albatron 6600GT review, I was really looking forward to overclocking the Club-3D Radeon X800XL. It has so far proven itself to be a particularly good card with very high performance, especially when you consider the RRP. Let's see if we can't push things further.

According to the specifications the Club-3D Radeon X800XL comes standard clocked at 400MHz Core and 500MHz memory, although ATI tool reports the memory lower at 490MHz.

I started overclocking with the core, raising from the 400 upwards in 5MHz increments, but came to an early stop at 425Mhz. Higher than this and slight random artifacts appeared. It wasn't too often or frequent but the image certainly wasn't perfect. 428MHz was possible but the artifacts become more pronounced and more frequent. Resetting the core to 400 I then proceeded to overclock the memory in a similar fashion. Despite being rated for 500MHz, the memory did have enough headroom in it to give us another 30 on the default speeds for a total overclock of 521MHz. The final combined overclock sat us at the 424/520 mark. How did this effect performance?

Doom 3
Half Life 2

Since the boost on the Core and the Memory wasn't particularly high, it's no surprise that the boost in performance also wasn't a huge gain, although since this is a 16 pipeline card the gain is greater than a 12 pipeline card would have been. As with any overclocking, YMMV and it's up to you to decide if the risk is worth it.

Final Words

I've not had a chance to look at a product before; I've seen them in the shops occasionally along with other brands but for some reason I've not actually picked one up. It would seem from the overall package of this Club-3D Radeon X800XL that was an error. The overall package is not what I would call extensive, but there isn't any crap included either. Also, this is going to retail for around the £250 mark so the package fits the price well. You do get a feeling of exclusiveness from the bundle which is exactly the image Club-3D are after.

Performance from the X800XL was fantastic, quite happily keeping pace with our X850XT PE in many tests, although the highest resolutions and heavy AntiAliasing/Anisotropic filtering did slow it down slightly in comparison.

Doom 3 performance on the Enpro level showed us that the Club-3D Radeon X800XL was able to run at 1600x1200, although for the majority of gameplay or online play you might want to drop to 1280x1024. This will give you a little headroom for some AntiAliasing should you feel you need it.

Half Life 2 ran acceptably at 1600x1200 without AntiAliasing but image quality does improve with some AntiAliasing/Anisotropic filtering requiring you to set a 1280x1024 resolution.

Far Cry really does like your graphics card to be as powerful as possible, as both resolution and enhancements are welcome to the image quality, obviously at the cost of performance. The Club-3D Radeon X800XL will let you run 1280x1024 with some AntiAliasing/Anisotropic filtering, and while 1600x1200 is possible for much of the game, there will be a few area's that slowdown a little too much

UT2K4 can be more forgiving on your card than the previous 3 games but you still need to know that when you get right down to it, a sudden drop in frame rate when you get into the action heavily won't get you killed. Again the Club-3D Radeon X800XL will be more than sufficient.

NFS: Underground 2 maintains a pretty steady frame rate unless you are at the startline or it begins to rain, but since your car will always be there right in the front of the screen, you will want to make sure that it looks good. Even at 1600x1200 you can get away with some enhancements on the Club-3D Radeon X800XL.

A lot of what has been said about this card may not seem that impressive in comparison with the likes of the X850XT PE but it is impressive when you factor in the price and the small gap between the two. At time of writing I don't have an exact RRP but it should retail for around the £250 or less area which makes it great value.

Pros: Great performance, Great value for money, Decent overall package, Single slot solution, Dual DVI, Nice 'presentation' and driver disk, Looks good, Temperature controlled 'intelligent' cooling – low noise output

Cons: None of note*

*Editor's Note: March 21, 2005 - Since this review has gone live, Club-3D have decided to include a second DVI adapter with the X800XL, negating the one main issue we had with this card. It is best to inquire with your local reseller if the card in stock has the 2nd adapter.

Bottom Line: The is a great card. If you are thinking about updating your card or moving to a PCIe system, you really do want to keep this card in mind. For , you can't go wrong.

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