Sapphire Radeon X1800XL review


Better late than never they say, they being ATI of course. After a six month delay the Radeon X1000 series is finally upon us. This is ATI’s answer to the GeForce 7 series and it is what we have been eagerly awaiting all this time. The previous generation Radeon X800/X850 products were fighting a losing battle against NVIDIA’s more up-to-date, more powerful GeForce 7 graphics cards. It would seem as though ATI has done their best to make the wait worth it by including a whole line-up of new features. This new graphics architecture features “Shader Model 3.0 support” along with several other new and important technologies.

Rather than increase the rendering pipelines for the Radeon X1000 series, ATI has shrunk the die and gone for higher core clock frequencies. Using a 90nm TSMC process, core frequencies of over 600MHz are achievable. The Radeon X1000 series currently consists of seven graphics cards featuring price tags that range from as little as $80 through to $550. The Radeon X1300 HyperMem is the cheapest of the bunch featuring just 4 pixel pipelines, 2 vertex pipelines, 450MHz core clock and a 1GHz memory clock. The Radeon X1600XT is a mid-range option featuring 12 pixel pipelines, 5 vertex pipelines, 590MHz core clock and a 1.38GHz memory clock speed.




The more serious products in this new ATI line-up come from the Radeon X1800 series. Here we have the Radeon X1800XL and X1800XT, both of which utilize 16 pixel pipelines and 8 vertex pipelines. The Radeon X1800XL core clock speed is 500MHz and the memory clock is 1GHz, the MSRP is $450. The Radeon X1800XT is $100 more expensive as it packs higher core and memory clock frequencies. The Radeon X1800XT core comes clocked another 125MHz higher and the memory operates at another 500MHz! Both these Radeon X1800’s can be either configured to use 256MB or 512MB of memory.

Today’s review will be focusing on one of the more high-end Radeon X1000 graphics cards, the X1800XL. As I have discovered when using GDDR3, it is highly overclockable. Though given the already very high frequency of the X1800XL memory, overclocking headroom at this stage is questionable. Like many of today’s graphics cards this Sapphire Radeon X1800XL is physically no different in appearance from the ATI reference design. This is a little disappointing as I was really hoping to see Sapphire do something impressive with their Radeon X1800XL.

The new Radeon X1000 series is also CrossFire ready, though the master cards are not yet available. Although this technology is not available for review right now, there are a number of interesting features that will aid the performance of CrossFire. The master cards will include a dual-link TMDS receiver that will enable resolutions above 1600x1200 to be used when in CrossFire mode. ATI’s Avivo technology includes hardware and software technologies that refine video capture and playback, indented to improve playback display quality.

This review will compare the Radeon X1800XL to the GeForce 7800 GT and Radeon X850XT PE. Currently the GeForce 7800 GT is not only cheaper than both the Radeon X1800XT and X1800XL, it is also widely available. This means that it will be imperative that the Radeon X1800XL is superior to that of the GeForce 7800 GT in the majority of the benchmarks. Before we move on to the benchmarking phase, let’s take a moment to go over the Sapphire card design and features.

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