It was way back in April that I attended the ATI Radeon X800 launch in Toronto, so it’s quite amazing that this is the first retail X800 XT board to make it into the TrustedReviews labs. There have been X800 Pro retail cards around for a while, but the XT has been rather conspicuous by its absence. The lack of X800 XT samples has allowed nVidia to steal a the limelight in the high-end graphics market, since the GeForce 6800 Ultra has been on sale for quite some time, but now ATI can redress the balance.
This card from Connect3D looks pretty much identical to the reference board that I saw all those months ago. So the PCB is finished in the traditional ATI red colour, while a large copper heatsink and fan assembly covers the VPU but not the memory chips. As with all the X800 cards, this one is a single slot solution, unlike the nVidia GeForce 6800 Ultra. This makes the X800 XT a high-end card that’s small form factor friendly. But it’s not just the size of this card that makes it a great solution for small form factor systems, it’s also far from power hungry – in fact this X800 XT draws marginally less power than the older Radeon 9800 XT. This is borne out by the fact that the X800 XT only sports a single Molex connector instead of the two seen on the 6800 Ultra.
On the backing plate you’ll find a DVI port and a D-SUB port, unlike the dual DVI ports seen on the GeForce 6800 Ultra. This means that if you want to drive two TFT screens, you’ll have to put up with an analogue signal on one of them. But making up for this is the fact that this card sports full ViVo functionality. In the box you’ll find a dongle cable that gives you both S-Video and composite video in and out. So, once again this makes this card ideal for a small form factor box, especially if you’re building an AV/PC for your living room. With the video output you can watch your movies or recorded video content on your TV. The video input also means that you can record programmes from other sources like set top boxes. You can also output component video for the best possible quality – there’s another cable in the box that splits out the component signals. Finally, you’ll find a DVI to D-SUB converter in case you don’t have a DVI port on your monitor.
The Radeon X800 XT Platinum Edition, to give it its full name, is ATI’s high-end part and is suitably equipped to wear that mantle. What you get is 16 pixel pipelines and six vertex pipelines. There’s 256MB of GDDR3 memory and a 256bit memory interface to go with it. This card also implements the low-k technology that was pioneered with the Radeon 9600 XT card, which is one of the reason that power draw is kept so low.
The clock speeds are pretty standard with the core running at 520MHz and the memory ticking along at 560MHz (1.12GHz effective). Although there’s 256MB of memory on board, ATI has foreseen that even this amount of memory may not be enough for future games. As such 3Dc was developed which can compress normal map textures to a ratio of 4:1. This means that larger and more complex normal maps can be used, without running out of texture memory. Of course games will need to be developed with 3Dc in mind for this to work, but since ATI has made 3Dc an open standard, hopefully it will see widespread utilisation.