We are currently in a very transitional time when it comes to PCs. SATA connections, new socket formats for CPUs such as the LGA775 or Socket 939. We now have DDR II and of course the PCI-Express standard that's found on Intel's i915 and 925 chipsets. PCI-Express is set to replace both PCI and AGP formats giving us a singular format for both, although the graphics side of things are handled by a 16x lane socket.
Now whilst currently these new formats don't offer much of a performance boost (if any) over their older counterparts, it always nice to get the latest when you upgrade, although this time around that will be a lot more expensive since chances are you will need to update everything all at once. If you are going to be going for the latest tech, you'll either need deep pockets or to buy sensibly.
One area you can save a bit of cash on is the graphics card. manufactures and markets ATI based cards, and they like to differentiate themselves with their own unique touch, hence they have a mid range gamers card in the , which features a PCI-Express interface, as well as VIVO in their Platinum Edition bundle.
HIS Excalibur X600XT VIVO Platinum Edition
||ATI Radeon X600 XT VPU
||Native x16 lane PCI Express
||DirectX 9.0 & OpenGL
||VGA, S-Video, DVI-I & VIVO
The HIS Excalibur X600XT VIVO Platinum Edition
I do like the HIS packaging. It's plainly a box, has some nifty graphics on the front, lots of info without overwhelming you, and most important, you don't need power tools to get in it. The rear of the box gives us even more info and specifications and its all laid out in an easy to read format. Inside the box we find the contents.
HIS have included a manual which describes the card, its functions, usage and installation, in different languages and in a basic format. The software disks included are the HIS driver disk, , Video Studio 7 SE, a games collection disk with some older games and Counter Strike: Condition Zero (not personally my bag but I know a lot of folks will enjoy seeing that included). The PictureEZ Premium Digital Photo Suite 3.1 is a limited edition package, and is available for a short time only. The software can manage and edit photos, as well as some page design.
Extra cabling is provided with a 1.5m S-Vid cable, a S-Vid to Composite adaptor and the VIVO dongle that provides S-VID and Composite in and out. The other item you can see in the picture is the obligatory DVI to VGA adaptor for use with the singular DVI port on the I/O Panel.
Moving on to the card itself, you'd be forgiven for mistaking this as a 9600XT from HIS. HIS stuck with the standard red PCB as found on most ATI products but do use their own cooling solution.
Like the 9600XT, we once again have the rather nice iCooler with its less than 24dB fan and blue led, although this time round the HIS logo is a raised logo rather than printed on.
Surrounding the fan assembly HIS have used aluminium heatsinks on the ram (on both sides).
The ramsinks appear to be quite large and of a good design, so they should hopefully provide us some extra headroom in overclocking later on. The overall appearance is of a less than busy card which is nice, and the blue LED on the GPU cooler is good addition.
The I/O Panel gives us from left to right, the VGA port, VIVO port and DVI port.