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HIS X800XL IceQ Turbo HIS X800XL IceQ Turbo: If you're not ready to spend the big bucks for ATI's latest, you can get similar performance at close to 40% less money.
Date: July 20, 2005
Manufacturer:
Written By:

Testing

The test system for this card will be:
ECS PF21 extreme motherboard, Intel Pentium 4 (Socket T) 3.4GHz, 2 x 512MB Patriot PC2-5600+ DDR2 , 2 x Western Digital 74GB Raptors, Windows XP Pro W/SP2 and Catalyst 5.5 drivers.

Software used will be Doom 3, Half-life 2, FarCry, Unreal Tournament 2004. For all test drivers will be manually configured for AA/AF settings (on or off) other than the AA/AF settings all games will be set to the highest in game settings available. I wont be using any special benchmarking software like Benchemall or performing any synthetic benchmarks. The benchmarks will consist of doing what anyone with a new graphics card would do, and that's play all the games they have and see how they run. Each game was played through the same level from the same starting point each time, since I'm not using any recorded demos or benchmarks each pass isn't EXACTLY the same, but I feel this way gives a more "practical use" benchmark. The only game that wasn't played in the standard single player mode was UT2K4. For UT I started a deathmatch server on my local network, loaded it up with 30 bots and played through a full 25 point match in each resolution. FRAPS was set to record minimum, maximum and average frame rates over a 5 minute period. Results will be displayed in a head to head graph to represent how each game performs on this card.

As you can see all of the games fared well at all resolutions and settings, Doom 3 and FarCry where the only games tested that dropped below 30 FPS in any of the tests. As has been noted before in other reviews here at Viperlair, Doom 3 benefits the least from cranking up the eye candy settings, since due to the darkness of the game you cant see the majority of the detail anyway unless you crank up the gamma, then you loose the entire atmosphere of the game. In my opinion FarCry is the most visually impressive game to date, and it really pushes home the fact it requires a lot of power to pump out those graphics. FarCry was the only game of the 4 tested that the HIS X800XL ever really struggled with and it was due to the fact there were 12-15 bad guys on the screen all at once trying to kill me.

Image quality has been covered to death with the X8xx line of cards, however I did include a couple of screen shots from HL2, one with AA/AF disabled and one with it enabled. As expected, the IQ on this card was fantastic. No AA/AF on the left, with AA/AF on the right

Overclocking:

Overclocking is where things get interesting with this card. HIS also provides what appears to be a nice overclocking utility called iTurbo, I say appears to be because I couldn't get it to work on my system. It has been used in other reviews here at Viperlair, as well as reviews on other sites, but for some reason it just didn't like my PC and would freeze up. As mentioned before the X800XL is somewhat of a hybrid, it provides exceptional performance at a mid range card price, add in some overclocking ability and your sure to have a VERY popular card among gamers and enthusiasts. First off lets see how the memory and core speeds compare to a couple of other ATI cards, the X800 Pro and the X800XT PE.

X800 Pro
X800XT PE
X800XL
Memory Clock Speed
450
575
490
Core Clock Speed
475
520
400

As you can see the X800XL has a faster memory clock, but a slower core speed than the X800 Pro, but the X800XL has the advantage of 16 pixel pipelines rather than the 12 on the X800 Pro. Depending on overclockability you just might have a card that comes close to the X800XT for a fraction of the price.

Since I was unable to get iTurbo to work with my PC I chose ATI as my OC utility of choice. I didn't waste a lot of time testing core speed and memory at first and bumped it right up to the 432MHz core and 1GHz memory that's advertised right on the box of the X800XL. I fired up HL2 and ran it through a few levels and it was artifact and error free so I decided to push it some more. This time I took my time, making small increases until I found my max OC of 445 core and 575 Memory. This puts the memory speed right on par with the XT, but still quite a bit lower than the Pro when it comes to core speed. It's easy to see why the X800XL line has become so popular, 16 pixel pipelines and decent overclockability put it closer to being on par with it's big brother the XT.

I reran the HL2 1280 x 1024 AA/AF enabled benchmark with the card overclocked just to get an idea of the performance increase and the results are as follows.

1280 x 1024 default: 79.36 average FPS
1280 X 1024 OC 86.19 average FPS

7 FPS may not seem like much to some, but that is definitely a noticeable increase in performance

Final Thoughts:

With the rate that new cards are introduced onto the market, buying a new graphics card can be scary. With newer "the next big thing" cards seeing prices over $600 it is no wonder that the mid range bracket is where the bread and butter is for video card manufacturers. Sure we all want the latest and greatest, but when it comes down to making a choice in paying $600 for a video card, and paying your rent you start looking for way to make that paycheck stretch even further.

When ATI put out the X800XL they did what a lot of gamers have been hoping for for a long time, put out a mid range card with HUGE potential for greatness. I'm kind of reminded of the buzz created with the GeForce 4 TI 4200 and it's overclockability.

When comparing the performance to cost ratio I think you'll have a tough time finding a card that performs as well at this price. It ran all of the current popular games well at the midrange resolutions (1024 X 768 and 1280 x 1024) of course if you insist on running at 1600 x 1200 with max AA and AF you might want to consider looking at a more powerful, and generally MUCH more expensive card.

For a card that can be had for under $300 and it run all current games at an acceptable level with all of the eye candy enabled there's not much bad that can be said about this line of cards. The bundle of included software and utilities that HIS provides is sufficient without being bloated with useless crap most of us will never use anyway.

Pros: Excellent performance, overclockability, price (can be had for under $300), quiet cooling solution, Crossfire ready

Cons: Size (card and cooler takes up two slots)

Bottom Line: The HIS X800XL is an exceptional card, the cost to performance ratio is tough to beat, and if you are like me you always look to get the biggest bang for your buck. A video card is a sizable investment, even if it is a mid range card. If your looking to get the most performance for your money this HIS card deserves a good look.

If you have any questions or comments on this or other reviews, feel free to discuss them in our Forums.

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