I would have to say one of the joys of doing reviews for Viperlair is that I get the opportunity to test competing equipment of products I would typically purchase, and hopefully pass on pertinent information to the reader that allows them to make an informed decision. This usually means that I am testing middle to high end Motherboards, CPU's and Hard Drives. However, in the graphics card arena, the typical card I would and have purchased is that of the median category. Somewhere in the $150 to $250 range is a comfort zone to a lot of us when purchasing our video hardware. When Viperlair asked me to review an X850XT graphics card, one of ATI's flagship offerings, I was at first a tad intimidated, as this is not a product you would see me typically laying down my credit card for. I mean truly, how many of us have a spare $450+ lying around for a high end graphics card? Then I thought of what I could and hopefully will bring to the table for our readers. I mean, here is a guy that is like the majority of you when it comes to purchasing equipment; semi-frugal. Hopefully, I can give all of you some insight into what this particular Graphics solution has to offer.
, probably one of the better known enthusiast graphics OEM as of late, has just delivered their latest , based on ATI's R480 (X850) VPU. Not only is this graphics card a VIVO solution, it has Dual DVI output for those of you with 2 DVI capable monitors (there is also a single DVI with VGA version available). The is a dual slot graphics card, and the HS/Fan appears to be the reasoning for this. The ATI Radeon X850 VPU is a native PCIE processor, though recently ATI has announced AGP products and we'll be posting our look at the AGP version of this card shortly.
• R480 0.13um process (Stock speed of 520MHz)
• Over 160 million transistors
• Up to sixteen parallel pixel pipelines
• Six parallel vertex processing engines
• PCI Express® x16 lane native support
• 256MB 256bit Quad-Channel GDDR3 Memory (Stock speed of 540MHz (1.08GHz))
• Dual integrated display controllers
• Dual integrated 10 bit per channel 400 MHz DACs
• Integrated 165MHz TMDS transmitter (DVI 1.0 / HDMI compliant and HDCP ready)
• Integrated TV Output support up to 1024x768 resolution
• YPrPb component output for HDTV display connection
• Single and dual link external TMDS transmitter support for high resolution and/or multi-monitor DVI configurations
• Compatible with ATI's THEATER™ video decode and capture devices for VIVO (Video Input / Video Output) configurations
• Dual DVI + VIVO
• DirectX® 9 and OpenGL® supported
HIS Specific Modifications
• Fast: HIS intelligent Cooling technology automatically adjusts IceQ II fan speed base on X850's loading and temperature to achieve best performance
• Quiet: Less than 20dB
• Cool: -11°C cooler than original cooling fan
• All Cool: Outstanding IceQ II cooling performance extends the card life with UV Sensitive effect
• HIS iTURBO: Overclock the graphic card safety, with the balance of the best performance and cooling effect
For the complete specifications and updates on the (HIS X850XT for future reference), please check out the . A few things that caught my eye here was that included simple things, such as the HDTV YPrPb cable, instead of it being an afterthought / after market purchase. The DVI output is HDMI compliant for those newer DLP/LCD projection televisions that require it.
Finally a cooling system even the cooling enthusiast would be impressed with (outside of water cooling that is). Like its brethren, the X850XT-PE, the X850XT brings 16 pixel pipelines with hardware support for DirectX 9B and Shader Model 2.0 to the table. Unlike the XT850XT-PE, the VPU is clocked at 520MHz (vise 540MHz) and the memory at 540MHz (vise 590MHz).
Unpacking the box you find a plethora of connectors and adapters for what ever might float your boat. Cables included in the packaging are:
• 2 – DVI to VGA converters
• HDTV connector (YPrPb)
• S-Video connector
• Composite Video connector
• Molex Power Adapter Cable
There are, of course, no DVI cables included, but most manufacturers of DVI capable monitors supply them. If this is not the case, its going to set you back another ~$70 to supply a DVI connection to your Television or Monitor. The Molex power connector has a dongle where you can power another device but we highly recommend having the HIS X850XT on a dedicated Molex, clean power could be very important here.
Moving on to the included 'goodies' we find a case full of CD's, first of which is your HIS driver CD followed by the iTurbo Overclocking tool CD. The titles included are:
• Microsoft Dungeon Siege (Full)
• PowerDVD 6
• PowerDirector 3 SE Plus
• Power2Go 4
• 3D Album PicturePro
Not an overly impressive package for an enthusiast card, but were not buying it for the included media are we?
Let's pull out the card itself. You can see that this is going to be taking up 2 slots within your system. Although typically not an issue, you could conceivably run into a problem when installing into a micro environment. It would be a good idea to ensure that you have enough space if you have a micro setup prior to purchasing this particular line of graphics card. HIS has opted not to include lights with the HIS X850XT, however the card is covered in UV Sensitive graphics to allow it to participate in a case with UV lights.
The design of the cooling is a logical adaptation to ATI's over sized heat sink requirement on the X850 VPU. HIS has adapted a board length funneling solution that brings air in from surrounding case, and expels it out of the rear, rather simple yet ingenious design. On the back of the card we can see the ATI Rage Theater Chip, which delivers the video to your Home Theater System in either NTSC or PAL. Even though GDDR3 memory runs cooler than previous GDDR versions, HIS has opted to put a HS on it to maintain those lower temperatures we are all seeking. We will see in the OC section if this is a benefit of the HIS design.
Installation went without a hitch and as with most PCIe video cards this one snapped in nicely and felt snug with little to no play. Unfortunately this is not the case for removal. Some of my pictures did not come out as I wanted so I removed the HIS X850XT from the work bench. This did not go easy at all, the double wide card got in the way and made unlocking the clasp all but impossible. I can only imagine how difficult this would be if installed into a case. The power adapter is wedged behind the fan making that very difficult to remove as well (so difficult, I disconnected at the Molex connector and left the adapter connected to the Graphics card).
As mentioned, the HIS X850XT is a double slot card, therefore you need to ensure the slot next to the x16 PCIe slot is vacant prior to install. In my case, as with most PCIe motherboards, this is not an issue as unless it's a micro, there should be 2 PCI slots left over. Once installed, its time to boot up and install the drivers.
The driver CD contains the current (when boxed) ATI Catalyst driver, the version with the Catalyst Control Center or CCC. I opted to install the drivers sent with video card, as they were only one revision behind the current available from the ATI website, which is where I typically like to be. Also included with the software bundle is the HIS overclocking / VPU monitoring program, called iTurbo. Call me crazy, but isn't 'i' an Apple marketing thing? Anyway, I also installed iTurbo, we will be going over the HIS X850XT IceQ II Turbo Dual DVI VIVO 256MB PCIe ability to Overclock later on in this review.
***The ATI CCC is somewhat different than previous Catalyst Driver programs. It takes you a few clicks to get where you are going (mostly because everything is moved), and I noticed no ATI Overclock feature, but since HIS has included their iTurbo program it is a non-issue with this card.
All games were run at HQ unless otherwise stated to allow us to stress the card out as much as possible. I tested the cards in a 'real life' scenario by playing the selected games and monitoring that play using FRAPS on a second by second basis. Although this will make it harder for you, the reader to duplicate the tests performed, it should give us a better overall picture of what the cards are capable of.
With the simple fact that this is about as high end as it gets in the graphics card arena currently, we will be performing all tests at 1600x1200 and 1280x1024 only.
Benchmark System: Intel 540 LGA775 (2.8 GHz), ASUS P5GDC Deluxe, 1GB Kingston HyperX PC2-5400, WD WD800JD / 80GB SATA 7200RPM, HIS X850XT IceQ II Turbo Dual DVI VIVO 256MB PCIe, Hitachi CML175-B LCD Monitor (1280x1024), Samsung Syncmaster 955 CRT (1600x1200), Windows XP SP2.
The Comparative System: Intel 540 LGA775 (2.8GHz), ASUS P5AD2 Premium, 1GB Corsair TwinX PC2-5400 Pro, Seagate 120GB SATA 7200RPM, HIS X850XT PE IceQ II Dual DVI VIVO 256MB PCIe , Windows XP SP2.
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 - When the action gets going and there is a lot on screen, it does help to have a bit of horsepower pushing the graphics when it comes to Half Life 2. 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, it all adds 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.