When the last generation of graphics cards came out, we found that for the most part NVIDIA was sitting on top. They had the impressive 6800 Ultra which could also be partnered with another 6800 Ultra card at the top of the ladder, and sat in direct competition with ATI’s X850XT. However now we have the 7800GTX sitting at the top with the equally impressive 7800GT just under it. Naturally you would expect ATI to respond with a killer card of their own, but the latest from them hasn’t been a high end replacement, but a card that sits in the midrange, an area that does have a lot more sales than the top end.
The X800GT is a card which is aimed to compare with the 6600GT and be marketed for the performance midrange. Until now, ATI have not had anything that could compete with the 6600GT but as time has moved on and there are inevitably defective GPU’s from higher up the line, then ATI can still use these less than perfect chips in the likes of the X800GT (ATI call this dead-die SKU).
The X800GT uses 8 Pixel Pipelines and 6 Vertex Shaders, which while not stellar, should perform nicely in the intended midrange arena. The card we have for this review is the , which has a few differences from the reference design X800GT.
• Powered by ATI Radeon X800 GT VPU - 500MHz (iTurbo)
• 256MB-256bit quad-channel GDDR3 memory - 1GHz (iTurbo)
• 8 parallel pixel pipelines
• 6 vertex shader process engines
• PCI Express® x16 lane native support
• SMARTSHADER™ HD
• SMOOTHVISION™ HD
• HYPER Z™ HD
Just to clarify on the specifications here, the “(iTurbo)” numbers mentioned indicate the speeds you get when you select to run the HIS X800GT IceQ II Turbo 256MB using the iTurbo software provided by HIS. I’ll get into the iTurbo overclocking software later on, but suffice to say that by default you get 475/980 and not 500/1000.
The box for the HIS X800GT IceQ II Turbo 256MB is the usual HIS high quality. You get plenty of information and a real ‘gamers’ feel from the box graphics; HIS even go so far as to tell you how many Pixel Pipelines you get on this card in a nice big bold label. Every side of the box offers you information on the contents and technical capabilities. You also have a little porthole in the top of the box which lets you see the actual card inside, or at least the cooling solution used.
HIS include with the card a DVI/VGA Adapter, HDTV Output cable, S-VID cable, RCA cable and a converter for Mini-DIN to RCA. You also get the HIS Platinum Pack with this card which includes in the software 2 full games (Flatout racing game and Microsoft’s Dungeon Siege), 3d Album PicturePro, Power2Go4 and Power Director 3SE Plus. You also get trials of Microsoft’s Dungeon Siege II, PowerDVD Copy, Power Backup, Medi@show3 as well as some nifty game movie trailers on the included CD’s and DVD. The manual is also good, and while I can’t speak for the other languages in it, the English is English and not some badly translated mess.
Moving on to the card itself, you can’t help notice the IceQ II cooler that dominates the top of the card. The cooler itself is longer than the card and makes this card a Dual Slot solution, so do keep this in mind before buying.
The cooler is unchanged from previous IceQ II cards, and features the ‘warm air exhaust’ to the outside of the case as well as a funky UV reactive, clear blue plastic surround. The far end of the cooler sports this large blue bladed fan which sucks the case air into the cards cooling system. Considering the GPU used it is probably a little OTT, but it is a great cooling system that works well so you will find no complaints from me.
The power regulation on the card is very reminiscent of the X800XL series, and indeed the whole card looks similar; I wouldn’t be surprised to find out this is in fact an X800XL that didn’t make the grade.
Removing the IceQ II cooling system we can get a better look at the copper based cooler used.
We can also remove the cooler and find out exactly which GPU is being used here; an R423 core.
HIS have done a lot to make sure all the ‘nice little touches’ are covered, including going as far as sleeving the wiring on the fan connector. Turning the card over we find that there is also a heatsink or rather a plate to cool the 128MB of memory on this side (with of course the other 128MB being on the other side).
Like the main cooler, this memory cooling plate is also UV reactive.
The I/O Panel sports (from left to right) a 15 pin VGA connector, the TV out DIN port and a DVI header. One thing you can clearly see here is that the PCI blanking plate grill that comes with the card is a separate item and not attached to the cooling system at all.
Test System - Albatron PX925X Pro, Intel Pentium 4 520 (3.2GHz), 2 x 512MB Kingston HyperX PC2-5400 (4-4-4-12), 2x 80GB Maxtor 7200 SATA's, Windows XP w/SP2
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.
Battlefield 2 - We tested the gameplay on the Songhua Stalemate map with 15 bots. This map features a lot of greenery and water areas, as well as lots of hills and buildings which makes both the fighting tight and the views expansive, all of which gives your graphics card a challenge.
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.
Need For Speed: Underground 2 – NFS:U2 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, outrunning the traffic 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.