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Digital-Daily : Video : ati-x1800xl

Latest ATI video accelerators - what are they like?

Latest ATI video accelerators - what are they like?
Author: Dmitry Sofronov
Date: 23.11.2005


To sat that the new generation of ATI's graphic processors have been long-awaited is to say nothing. The release of the 1xxx family of ATI's video accelerators de facto has started a new coil of "video arms race". The previous stage of confrontation between the recent flagships - NVIDIA's GeForce 6800 Ultra and ATI's Radeon X850XT PE - has come to an end. But when precisely did it finish? I believe each of the rivals has own views on that.

As you remember, in summer NVIDIA released video cards based on a new-generation chip dubbed G70. The release was somehow humdrum. There was no preliminary "warming up" of the public, no customary languishing and hype when most of the people simply relaxed and preferred to take a rest away from battles in the summer sun. And these cards hit the retail all at once (!). Do you remember how it used to be? Right you are! Very unusual, isn't it? That is how the round from NVIDIA'a part ended up - quietly, without too much fuss.

What am I driving at? I mean that ATI, despite the promise to announce a new line of video accelerators this summer, was compelled to postpone the ceremonial announcement to the autumn. The mood of those expecting it, as it should be, varied in diametrically opposed manner. On the one hand, hope and optimism of ATI's followers. The finer process technology which gives rise to the confidence for unheard-of speeds of new GPUs and lots of rumors on the actual number of pipelines in new video processors allowed to hope for not only the parity versus NVIDIA's latest creations but also for a substantial superiority at performance. On the other hand, the skeptical part of the public cast doubts upon the feasibility of these plans by virtue of the same reasons, however strange it may seem. The new process technology might give rise to new problems, and the number of pipelines still remained uncertain. Procrastinating the dates of announcement and traditional delay with the release of ready video cards built on new VPUs simply aggravated the situation. However, there might be other reasons for such a delay. For example, preparation for the start of sales of new video cards simultaneously with the announcement, as NVIDIA did.

Of course, ATI's new video cards did not appear on sale to the day but a month past the announcement, and still start to appear on the retail, including Russia's retail.

X1800XL in person

The hero of today's review is the most recent video accelerator called Radeon X1800XL. This video card was presented to us by MSI, one of ATI's major partners. Despite MSI' vast experience at production of various video cards, the card that arrived at our test lab fully replicates the original design developed by ATI and differs in only the sticker on the cooling system. Needless to say, as the market becomes more explored, the number of variations to reference video cards differing in frequencies and applied cooling system will be going up. Moreover, ATI is urging manufacturers to do so towards the release of overclocked solutions. Today, we'll find out where the "base reference point" of X1800XL is and which will be the starting point for further nominal and extreme overclocks, and we'll also compare these readings versus those of the direct competitor - NVIDIA GeForce 7800GT.

You have already got the chance to get acquainted with the architecture of ATI's new-generation video processors. There are many novelties. We'll find out a bit later how topical they are today and how effectively they cope with the recommended load.

Now let's take an in-depth look into the video card. This video card arrived to us in quite a moderate form, very similar to the OEM version of delivery. White box, lack of any software, except the CD with reference drivers, a kit of cables - that's about all. In fact, that is not important for tests, because the end buyer will of course receive the video card in a full package bundle.

As you understand, it makes no sense bringing in photos of the white box: : The kit of cables includes:

  • DVI/D-SUB adapter
  • Additional power cable
  • Adapter for connection to the HDTV
  • S-Video cable
  • "Tulip" connection cable



As you see, the video card is big enough. Despite the high consumed power (about 80W because of high clock speeds of the GPU and memory), the reference version used a single-slot cooling system which covers most part of the PCB.


This is how the cooling system looks when removed. The central part designed for cooling the video processor is made as a copper insert of decent enough processing quality of the foot.


However, the copper insert is not all.


The thing is that directly on the insert there is a great number of copper fins which fill the whole space inside the aluminum housing of the cooling system. All that results in a substantial weight of the video card in general and quite a high noise level since the turbine itself is of quite small size, and powerful pressure is required to pump through the dense pile of fins. I'd like to draw your attention to that the contact between the copper radiator and the aluminum housing is not tight. That is, it's just the aluminum housing that acts as a heat-sing for the memory chips. It's hard to say why such a solution was chosen. As it seems to me, that was done to prevent overheating the already hot video processor. As we know on the example of 7800GTX, a small plate is enough to cool 4 video memory chips running at 1200 MHz DDR. So an aluminum housing of such area of the base in the case of X1800XL and eight memory chips running at 1000 MHz DDR should be quite enough.

Let's see what is hidden under the cooling system.


Actually, nothing of a surprise.


Right under the fan there is a Rage Theater chip which is in charge of video capture and display.


The video processor was released on the 36th week of this year, that is, not very long ago, and is called simply R520.


The 256 MB of video memory are made up of 8 GDDR3 chips of 1.4 ns access time which is equivalent to 1400 MHz operating frequency. All the memory chips fitted on the front side of the PCB.


So on the reverse side of the video card we can see only the ordered scattering of components.

At that, we'd better stop with the exterior of X1800XL and move on to the tests.


  • Preface. Introducing ATI X1800XL.
  • Benchmarking. Conclusions. Final words.

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