Around September last year, we had an influx of high performing mid range graphics cards based on ATI R4xx series cores, boxed and labled as X800GT and X800GTO. This was a good thing for all concernced as ATI and the card manufacturers were able to sell on less than perfect GPU's as well as sell on excess stock of X800 series GPU's. These cards were sold at a relatively inexpensive price point but came with a high performance level for that price point. There was also the possibility that lucky card owners could flash the BIOS on their cards to 'unlock' the pixel pipelines on their card and get a full fledged XT or XL. It was good for consumers and it was good for ATI and the card manufacturers.
Makes sense to do it again then doesn't it. The X1800 series has been superceded by the X1900 series but there are still plenty of X1800 GPU's around that either didn't make the grade or are simply excess stock. Enter the X1800GTO, a card based on the X1800 series R520 core clocked at 500MHz and with a 256bit memory bus for the 495MHz (990MHz) clocked memory.
have a long standing list of cards that they have sold/sell that can overclock out of the box under warrenty with their supplied software. Usually these cards feature an uprated cooling system as well. HIS have updated to the new IceQ 3 cooling system to couple with their X1800GTO solution dubbed the so lets get a good look at it.
|HIS X1800GTO IceQ3 Turbo
- Powered by ATI Radeon X1800GTO - 520MHz (BIOS)
- 256MB-256bit 8 channel GDDR3 memory - 1GHz(BIOS)
- 12 Pixel shader processor
- 8 Vertex shader processor
- 8 Geometry Pipelines
- Ultra-threaded SM 3.0 Engine
- 512-bit Ring-bus
- ATI Avivo™
- High Precision Architecture
- CrossFire™ Support
- PCI Express® x16 lane native support
12 pixel pipelines are enabled on the card as well as 8 vertex units. The Core on the X1800GTO cards are clocked at 500MHz, but from HIS you have the core clocked at 520MHz. The memory is clocked at 500MHz. Just to make it clear; this card is not supplied with the iTurbo software but comes overclocked out of the box.
The box artwork for the HIS X1800GTO IceQ3 Turbo makes a large change from previous designs, although the same amount of information we have come to expect from HIS is still adorned around the box; from specifications and features to what's included, you can easily see what you are getting. You can even see the card itself, or at least the large IceQ3 cooler.
Inside you can see at a glance that this is a very complete package; the same platinum pack from previous cards can be found. Five disks are at the bottom of the box; 2 CD's for the full driving game Flatout, One CD for the stereo version of PowerDVD 6, One CD for the drivers (including a link to download the latest ATI driver) and utilities, One DVD with full versions of Dungeon Siege, Power Director 3 SE Plus, Power2Go 4, 3dAlbum PicturePro and Trial versions of various games such as Half Life 2, Rollercoaster Tycoon 3, Tribes Vengeance and other games and applications.
There is a lot of cabling and other connections in the box; an S-Video lead, a Composite lead, a VIVO adapter, an HDTV Component adapter and a 4pin Molex (with pass thru) to a 6pin PCIe Graphics power connecter. The card is a dual DVI card so HIS also include two DVI to VGA adapters for those folks with dual monitors that use 15pin D-sub connections and a PCI grill bracket to let the IceQ3 exhaust hot air out of the case.
HIS have a multi-language manual included and also a little sheet to explain how to change the card's Video in/out capabilites from it's default NTSC to PAL. Also included, and new to the usual package is a foil HIS 'Power Up!' case badge.
So that's the entree, if you still have room it's time to tuck into the main meal; the card itself. Like most HIS IceQ cards, it's the cooler that dominates and draws your eye first. You can also see that this is a large card lengthwise and a dual slot card as well.
The IceQ3 cooler sports a (UV reactive) label in the usual blue and silver HIS design. The fan is a little different from previous HIS coolers in that it is bi-directional and sports a jeweled ring edge to the top intake. The GPU is the main item that is cooled using a combination of old fashioned air movement over a copper block and a new style sintered powder wicks heatpipe which moves the initial heat away from the core.
The Ram is cooled with matching copper heat sinks, the upside being that heat from the Ram cannot add to the heat of the GPU and increase the work for the main cooling. The downside is that the ram is no longer actively cooled, although GDDR3 runs pretty cool anyway, for general use it won't be an issue; it might restrict overclocking a little but we shall find out later.
On the opposite side to the exposed heatpipe you can see the wiring for the fan, sleeved in the usual HIS manner although this card has a white sleeving as opposed to the black sleeving used in previous cards.
The specifications for the X1800GTO state a 5 phase power setup but HIS have opted for a 6 phase design which could be good for core overclocking. Also of note is that copper sink across the rear power setup. The mosfets however are still exposed. You can also see the usual 6pin PCIe power socket at the rear of the card.
Turning the card around to the IO panel we find 2 Dual Link DVI ports with a central VIVO socket. The rear of the card is pretty uneventful although we can see the HIS branded X brace to help distribute the weight of the cards cooler.
The start of the meal was good and the main course has certainly whetted our appetite, lets move on to desert; Testing.
MSI K8N Diamond Plus, AMD X2 3800 (2.0GHz), 2 x 512MB Corsair 3200XL Pro (2-2-2-5), 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. A 7600GT and an X1800XL will be used to compare. The monitor used is a Dell Ultrasharp 2005FPW 20" Widescreen LCD and widescreen reolutions will be added to the list of possible screen size choices.
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
Quake 4 – New to our test suite is the latest FPS shooter from iD. A demo of multiplayer deathmatch action was used in combination with FRAPS to ascertain game performance. We held our own (Ed – you got owned again didn't you) against our enemies on the q4dm1 multiplayer level.
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.
Tomb Raider: Legend – The latest Tomb Raider game with its support of next generation content such as HDR and parallax mapping can be a real frame rate killer. Let's go climb a mountain and see how our card performs against Lara.
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 , you get a card which comes already overclocked out of the box. Speeds are increased from 490/990 to 520/1000.