Now that PCI Express is becoming more main stream, we are seeing the big players starting to address the available bandwidth at their disposal. ABIT, who has always been a leader in getting the most out of your equipment, has introduced the vGuru line for their PCIe graphics cards, mainly in the ATI Radeon chipset arena.
The latest to carry the vGuru flag is the X600 Pro VPU from ATI, ABIT denotes this as the . The Pro version of the X600 allows for some TIVO abilities as well as an integrated 165MHz TMDS transmitter (DVI 1.0/HDMI compliant and HDCP ready) DVI interface. What is that you ask? Just walk into any high end audio/video store and check out the multitude of HDTV inputs on the latest and greatest HDTV sets, they require either HDMI / HDCP compliant DVI input to operate, and this card is ready. Lets look over the rest of the specifications:
" ABIT vGuru" Technology
- OC Guru" Overclocking Utility for core and memory clock
- Hardware monitoring
- VPU core & memory voltage adjustable
- FAN EQ" for automatic FAN speed adjustment
- BlackBox" e-service module
" Native PCI Express support
- Provides Dual-simplex connection capable of 4GB/s/direction in x16 configuration
- Double the bandwidth of AGP8X
- Capable of supporting bandwidth hungry application
For the complete specifications and updates on the RX600 Pro-Guru, please check out the website.
||4 Full Precision
|Refresh @ 1024x768
|Refresh @ 1920x1080
There are some nice improvements in the PCIe line however, the most apparent is that of the refresh rates at a given screen resolution.
Interesting enough, even though the AGP version of this GPU clocks in at 500MHz, ABIT has chosen to run it at 400MHz for the PCIe variant. ATI has rated the X600 at a default 400MHz as well. This is simple enough to change however, as ABIT has included a jumper on the card to put it in "turbo" mode.
There we go, now we are at 500MHz GPU Core. As I was swapping the jumper on the card to 500MHz Turbo mode, I was wondering "what's the point?", I mean, it's either a 400MHz GPU or its a 500MHz GPU, who are we kidding here. The jumper is just silly to me, if it can run at this speed without issue or possible degradation of card components / performance, then just run it default at that speed and be done with it.
The other thing that makes me look twice at my case every time I walk in the room, is ABIT has decided in it's infinite wisdom to turn the LED on this card RED when you put it in Turbo mode. Ummm, can we have a meeting of the minds and let ABIT know that RED = BAD???
ABIT used Samsung K4D551638D-IC40 as its memory, rated at 250MHz, we see that ABIT is using this slightly over its rated potential at 257MHz. This memory should prove to be interesting when overclocking, as we appear to have started at the maximum level.
Unpacking the box from the packing material you find some flamboyance with the vGuru emblem here and there and some statements of "Unmatched Overclocking" as well as a design on the back of how it operates. The box isn't 10x the size of the card, loaded with all sorts of advertisements and the like, its the card, a CD, the manuals and enough packaging to protect said card.
Once you have freed the card from it's antistatic wrapper your first impression is that ABIT wasn't kidding around. The HS/Fan combination on the VPU appears to be well thought out and the memory already has aluminum heat sinks applied. Once you flip the card over, you begin to wonder about that, as none of the memory on the back of the card has heat sinks applied, making me feel, the front is more for show. The overall layout of the RX600 Pro-Guru is that of purposeful design, the PCB appears neither busy nor haphazard.
ABIT has included several cables, sexy ones at that, so you can hook up the needed gear, there is of course, the DVI to VGA converter for those of you that must have 2 monitors, and have no DVI capable ones.
Moving on to the included "goodies" we find, well, we find there really isn't much. ABIT chose to include the Driver / Utility CD (along with PDF manual's) but little else: Cyberlink PowerDVD 5 DVD Playing Software, ATI Flash Utility, VGuru Utility, and DirectX 9C For Windows.
Now that we have gone over the "what's included" information, lets install this thing into my mainboard.
Installation went without a hitch, as with most PCIe video cards, this one snapped in nicely and felt snug with little to no play, a definite improvement over the AGP connection. Once installed, its time to boot up and install the drivers.
The driver CD contains the current (when boxed) ATI Catalyst driver, I opted to try the latest Catalyst drivers from the web, 4.12. These installed without issue as this is a brand new build of Windows XP-SP2.
All demo's were run at HQ unless otherwise stated to allow us to stress the card out as much as possible. Each test was run 3 times with the average of those 3 being the result. If a test has 2 runs similar and one completely out of line, I rerun all 3 tests disposing of the previous results (however I do make a note of it). I tried to hit the sweet spot when it comes to resolution, 800x600 on newer games only, 1024x768 and 1280x1024 on all the games. I know there are some of you out there that must have 1600x1200, the newer games can simply not be played at that resolution on this tier of video card and it is the majority of the readers that play within the resolutions I will be testing.
The systems I will be performing the demo's on is as follows:
Intel 540 LGA775 (2.8 GHz)
ASUS P5GDC Deluxe
1GB Kingston HyperX PC2-5400
WD WD800JD / 80GB SATA 7200RPM
Hitachi CML175-B LCD Monitor
Windows XP SP2
ASUS N5900 Extreme 128MB DDR / Detonator 61.77
ABIT RX600 Pro-Guru 256MB / Catalyst 4.12
Intel P4 2.8E (socket 478)
1GB Kingston HyperX PC-4300
Hitachi 80GB SATA 7200RPM
ATI 9600XT - 128MB
Hitachi CML175-B LCD Monitor
Windows XP SP2
I tested these cards as they are all within the same range (the 9600XT being the least expensive, but comparative performance in yesterday technology) and performance. It is also nice (at least IMHO) to see how the PCIe architecture compares to the AGP of old. The 9600XT was run with OverDrive on the entire time. All tests performed on the RX600 were done so in Turbo mode unless otherwise stated.
- Doom 3 Of course, probably the hardest engine on cards today
- Half Life 2 2nd only to Doom3 in performance requirements
- Unreal Tournament 2004 Visually intense and very popular
- Far Cry Still a struggle with high end cards, graphically intensive
- Call of Duty an older Q3 engine game, albeit modified to the hilt, but none the less popular
- Quake III Arena Yes, she is old, and with Doom 3, getting older, but a lot of people still play it
- Pain Killer I wont be benchmarking Pain Killer, but going over playability (no built in demo to allow for benchmarking accurately)