GeXcube Radeon 9800XT Review
GeXcube Radeon 9800XT
Until recent times, the demand for high-end video cards have not been essentially high. The thing is most 3D games presented on the market offer primitive graphics which can be easily "digested" by mid-end cards. Various promises of game developers to release a super cool game (HalfLife2, Doom3 etc. in practice turned out to be just another deferral of release dates :).
But things radically changed with the release of FarCry game which immediately amazed all with the outstanding graphics quality (albeit some contradictory gameplay :). Many owners of mid-end cards (as well as high-end cards of the previous generation) were surprised to realize that their system is simply "weak" for the game played at the maximum possible image quality. And this is experienced even with the antialiasing disabled, the sky displayed in static textures (which is a serious loss to the ancient Unreal :), and exploded cars smash into 4-5 dark debris (whereas this number should be a hundred times more :).
Anyway, it is understandable for the FarCry game developers (as well as other developers): the number of owners of high-end cards (as well as powerful platforms with speedy processors and abundant RAM capacities) are negligible and amount to no more than 5% as per some estimates. As a result, the "graphic niceties" are cut down at the root to make the game playable at mid-end systems. In any case, games like FarCry is a big step forward: purchasing a high-end card gives an immediate return, and in many ways becomes a must for decent gameplay. Therefore, we are reviewing a typical high-end card built on the ATI Radeon9800XT chip: it is GeXCube Radeon9800XT (for details of this company, read the review GeXcube Radeon 9600XT Extreme).
The video card is packaged in a mid-sized cardboard box.
Apart from the card, there are the following components in the card:
- Power supply adapter (splitter);
- DVI-to-D-Sub adapter;
- S-Video cable
- RCA extension cord
- S-Video=>RCA adapter
- User's manual in six languages;
- A Catalyst drivers CD + technological demos.
- Black Hawk Down - (full version);
- Power DVD XP 4.0, licensed version;
- A coupon to acquire Half-Life 2
Of special interest is the coupon to acquire Half-Life 2 for free.
It has a serial number closed with an opaque erasable layer. Once the game is officially released, you can order a free shipment (if that option is available for your country) with this coupon or get a link to download the game.
Surely, it's better not to open the number before the time. Otherwise you might be in for trouble in upgrading the video card (judging by the ever deferred release dates for HL2, the probability of upgrade for Radeon9800XT is rather high :).
Now let's look in to the card itself. Like all the high-end video cards, GeXCube Radeon9800XT require external power and have an additional Molex-connector. Once I unpacked the card, I found a rather long splitter cable already plugged in to the connector (therefore, the number of free power connectors from the PSU is not reduced). Albeit a trifle, but how nice :)
The card is a precise replica of the ATI Radeon9800XT reference design. This means that the interface of the card is AGP 4x/8x, the core runs at 412 MHz, and the DDR SDRAM capacity is equal to 256 MB.
More details about the memory. On the video card, there are eight BGA chips HY5DU573222 made by Hynix located on the from and rear sides the PCB.
The memory access time is 2.5 ns, which is equivalent to 400(800) MHz. But according to the reference design, the memory runs at 365(730) MHz, with the memory bandwidth = 256 bit. That is, the memory has some margin for frequency increase (or overclocking potential :).
The operating frequency of the chip = 412 MHz.
It makes sense to mention about the "Overdrive" mode that switches the card to the "dynamic overclocking" mode. Upon the start-up of a 3D application, the driver increases the video chip frequency. The maximum possible frequency is 432 MHz; there is also an interim stage where the chip frequency equals 418 MHz.
The decision as to the stage is made by the driver on the base of the information about the chip temperature. Below 52 C, operation is possible at the maximum frequency (432 MHz), and within 52 to 65 C the chip runs at 418 MHz, and at temperatures over 65 C the frequency is re-set to the "default" (412 MHz). As a result, the "Overdrive" is a very simple and useful feature which allows to gain performance boost provided the housing is properly fanned. Of course, we ran all the performance tests with the "Overdrive" mode disabled.
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