ATI have had it quite rough lately in the eyes of the enthusiast press. Crossfire has only recently begun to make a real showing and it’s still not a big showing. Trailing the mature SLI and experiencing similar teething troubles as well it hasn’t looked good. It’s not all bad though, as the X1900XT is a good card and is arguably top of the game, even against the 7800 series from NVIDIA.
One area that ATI has done well in is the midrange area, although this has been in the latter generation with the X800GT and X800GTO cards; cards that are quite cheap and yet can mostly give near to 6800GT levels of performance when overclocked. Some have even seen X800XL levels of performance out of the box. Of course that was then and this is now, and now ATI’s midrange series has been updated with the X1600 series, to which manufacturers have been making cards based on these GPU’s.
We’ve often looked at products and I can’t honestly think of one that has been bad. Infact the majority have been very good packages, and I can’t see this changing with the current generation. Which of course brings us to the point of this article; a review of the new HIS X1600XT IceQ Turbo Edition PCI Express graphics card. The jump from the previous generation to this one has brought with it support for ShaderModel 3.0 and ATI’s new AVIVO technology as well as more support for Crossfire, to which this HIS X1600XT supports all the above. Let’s get a closer look.
• Powered by ATI Radeon X1600XT - 587MHz
• 256MB-128bit 4 channel GDDR3 memory - 1.38GHz
• 12 Pixel shader processor
• 5 Vertex shader processor
• 8 Geometry Pipelines
• Ultra-threaded SM 3.0 Engine
• 256-bit Ring-bus
• ATI Avivo™
• High Precision Architecture
• CrossFire™ Support
• PCI Express® x16 lane native support
The box for the X1600XT IceQ Turbo Edition is the usual HIS fair, although usual and HIS packaging probably shouldn’t be used in the same sentence. HIS always include plenty of information, and not just marketing gab either, but actual real info such as clock speeds, features and technical specifications such as how many pixel pipelines the card uses. You always get a good first impression from HIS and things are no different here.
Opening the box you can see instantly the large IceQ cooler that sports the top of the card. Inside the interior box, everything you get is neatly packaged inside a clear plastic tray. The extras include a component video out cable, S-Video cable (1m) S-Video to composite adapter cable, two DVI to VGA adapters and a grill for a PC slot on your case for the IceQ cooler exhaust.
Also included is a very nice manual which explains everything about how to set up the card, it’s features, TV out etc, and of course software CD’s; four of them. The CD’s included have 3D Album Picture Pro, Power2Go, PowerDirectorSE+ and the games Flatout and Dungeon Siege. Trials of other programs are also included and of course there is a driver disk and the iTurbo software disk. The games are starting to get on a bit, but since this is a mid range card, there is little sense putting in the latest heavy duty action hit.
Moving on to the card itself, you can see that the top is dominated by the UV reactive IceQ cooler which takes up a second slot, draws air in from the case, and then exhausts the hot air out of the rear of the case. The card’s ram is cooled by the these rather nice aluminium ramsinks, the same material as used by the coolers heatsink.
It’s something that HIS have been doing for a while now, but it is worth pointing out that HIS also sleeve the cabling that powers the fan, and tucks it away neatly against the cooler.
The back of the card is completely uneventful, although you can see that the IceQ cooler does overhang the card itself slightly (although this isn’t an issue of any kind, just pointing it out for the sake of a complete review).
The IO panel sports two DVI ports; no D-SUB’s here, but of course you do get two DVI to VGA adapters so dual monitors in any configuration is possible. In between the two DVI ports is a TV out DIN style port.
Once again, HIS have a card that looks and feels to be solidly built and with a heavy dose of quality.
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
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 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. An X800GTO will be used to compare the previous generation with this one and a Dell Ultrasharp 2005FPW 20" Widescreen LCD will be used for display (hence the widescreen resolutions chosen for some games).
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 Caverns Area 1 level, specifically the part right after reaching the bottom in the cargo lift.
Half Life 2: Lost Coast – A short 10 minute game demo utilizing HDR in the Source engine, Lost Coast requires you to have a recent card to see all the visual goodness. Starting at the bottom of the stairs, we worked our way up to the chapel above, shooting the combine on the way and admiring the view.
F.E.A.R. – Certainly not the prettiest game in the bunch used here, but if you want a good scare then this game can provide it. The lighting and shadows (if you have a machine capable of it) all add to the atmosphere. We ran around part of interval 03, after escaping the fire in the warehouse.
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 the fighting tight and the views expansive, all of which gives your graphics card a challenge.
Need for Speed: Most Wanted – NFS: MW features a lot of particle effects and reflective surfaces, along with an HDR filtering effect that provides some very nice visuals. We tricked a Lamborghini Murciélago and went for a blast around town avoiding the traffic and police.
The driver settings were manually configured for Anti-aliasing and Anisotropic Filtering (on or off), and set to "Quality". All games were set to their highest playable game settings for best possible image quality unless otherwise stated.
Since this is a HIS Turbo Edition card, you can install the included iTurbo software for an under warrantee overclock which will take your card speed from 587/1386 to 600/1404. Since this is a relatively small overclock, is under warrantee by HIS and has little affect on temperatures/noise, we will be running our tests using the overclocked settings only.