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Digital-Daily : Video : radeon-x800xl-512mb-roundup

Radeon X800XL 512Mb Roundup

Author: Anna Timofeeva
Date: 21.07.2005

Lately, ATI seems to have "gone underground" - the announcement of the new-generation chip codenamed R520 is still being delayed, nor things with CrossFire are going smoothly- CrossFire Edition video cards have not arrived at test labs - they promise to supply them on earlier than next week, let alone the retail sales.

With that going on, NVIDIA's success is seen better with the recent announcement of its G70. The company has also been able to provide sufficient quantities of chips to start sales of cards on the very day of the announcement. Moreover, NVIDIA hasn't thrown all the efforts to conquering the top-end sector of the market but also hasn't ignored the huge percentage of mainstream card owners who have long been looking forward to building a mainstream SLI system made up of two GeForce 6600 cards, which you will read in one of our forthcoming materials.

In a word, ATI for now is in a difficult situation. On the one hand - they should speed up with the announcement. On the other hand, the "on-paper" announcement made as an answer to NVIDIA's promptness would be a serious minus if not a failure, which the company now can't afford. On the whole, all has been allegedly put off till September to be seen what comes out of it.

Until we receive CrossFire Edition video cards, nothing fundamentally new or interesting from ATI's camp can be expected. There is one exception though, we are reviewing today.

Early in 2005, ATI presented a substantial complement to the PCI-Express sector. In the top-end sector, that was a board on the base of R480 - a bit optimized R423 chip (RX800XT (PE) PCI-E). In the less expensive segments, there were presented solutions based on the 0.11 mk R430 chip - RX800XL and RX800. Therefore, with the release of latest video cards based on RV410 the RX700 (PRO) should automatically move to cheaper sectors.

As regards the R430, by its architecture it is a direct heir to R423 (RX800XT PCI-E), with a minor but an important reservation related to the finer 0.11 mk process technology. Thus, the card does not prove insatiable in terms of power consumption, especially that the chip's standard operating frequency is not at all over the top. Therefore, the card does not require either additional power supply (the available 75W fed to the card via the PCI-Express is quite enough) or a monstrous cooling system for trouble-free operation.

Coupled with the then "coolest" specifications - 16 pixel pipelines, 6 vertex units, 256MB of video memory with a 256-bit bus, the card looked very promising indeed. Let me remind you that at that time RX800XL was the most powerful card equipped with a GPU made following the 0.11-mk process technology. NVIDIA's finer process technology was originally introduced to the mainstream sector (GeForce 6600GT). Later, there also appeared 12-pipelined NV42 which came as a replacement of NV41 and produced following the 0.13-mk process technology (in fact, that is about the only difference between the chips, and that is the reason why NVIDIA did not change the card names - GeForce 6800 PCI-E - when migrating from NV41 to NV42, which proved a really honest move by the company).

But, let's come back to R430. On the date of its release, the situation on the market was difficult enough for ATI because it had nothing to oppose to GeForce 6800GT. That especially applied to the AGP sector where RX800 PRO was quite a disputable alternative to GeForce 6800GT, which sometimes proved even more expensive. In a word, there was noting to fill the gap. It is advisable to fill it with something less expensive but with no less powerful. That is why RX800XL was found to be the way out. Reminding it that the recommended price for RX800XL was $299, whereas GeForce 6800GT (that time!) sold starting at $400. At the same time, the cards were on par in terms of performance. To be more precise, each card showed better results at those applications which made intense use of the strong sides of the architecture of their graphic cores.

But as usual pitfalls turned out. In this regard, it is a weak overclocking capability of the R430. That issue was especially acute in view of the fact that practically any GeForce 6800GT can be easily overclocked to 400/1100MHz (frequencies of the GeForce 6800Ultra) and many even managed to overcome that value. As to the R430, its best overclock was no more than 30-50MHz.

However, progress does not stand still - the products' specifications are being improved, and the performance goes up. Still before the announcement of G70, NVIDIA demonstrated its GeForce 6800Ultra equipped with 512Mb of video memory at CeBIT'2005. That board still remained a mere "image-making" specimen, which is no wonder because it is hard to imagine somebody who would buy that now when the card's price is over all the thinkable limits with the advantages of use disputable. Nevertheless, that idea did appeal to the manufacturers. Things even came to a point of absurdity - what about 512Mb of video memory on a low-end board? If the idea is accepted, boards like that can be met in the product lines of some NVIDIA's partners. Well, it's surprising what sometimes sophisticated minds of manufacturers may invent.

Fortunately, ATI's partners (for now?) haven't stood out with such resourcefulness. However, the Canadian company couldn't help avoiding the trend of fitting 512 MB on its solutions. But this time it is made in a more adequate version and by the official consent from ATI (we saw the reference ATI RX800XL 512Mb still a couple of months before, so the readers are unlikely to be amazed by the pure reference, although it is even more curious to look at batch-produced solutions offered by the partners). So we are reviewing a few of such products built on the above described R430 offered by ATI's leading partners - Sapphire, GeCube, and Tul (PowerColor).


  • Introduction
  • Sapphire RX800XL 512Mb
  • GeCube RX800XL 512Mb
  • PowerColor RX800XL 512Mb
  • Benchmarking and overclocking
  • Final Words

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