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While I was out at CeBIT with Gordon, Sapphire was showing off a new liquid cooled Radeon X1900 XTX card and we've been itching to get hold of it ever since. Although some sites have reviewed engineering samples of this product, we were waiting for the finished version and it has finally arrived.
I'm not one for commenting on packaging – as far as I'm concerned it could turn up in a brown box as long it's intact. However, Riyad was rather impressed by this packaging and was rather adamant it was mentioned. I have to admit, as packaging goes – it is pretty nice and I'm going to reluctantly suggest that it adds to the overall product experience (I'm all for style AND substance - ed.).
Included with the card is the normal Sapphire collection – component output, composite and S-Video ViVo, good quality S-Video and composite cables as well as a molex to 6-pin PCI-Express power adapter.
The card itself is ATI's flagship X1900 XTX, which was covered here. It has 48 pixel shader processors, 16 texture units, eight vertex shaders and 16 pixel output engines. A normal XTX has a 650MHz core clock and 775MHz (1550MHz effective) memory speed, while this particular card has a slightly higher core speed of 675MHz and 800MHz (1600MHz effective) memory. That's a minor improvement and I don't expect it to make much difference, but we'll see.
Clock speeds aside, what makes this card unique is its cooling solution. Instead of the reference air cooler that is so noisy noisy that I keep a set of ear plugs in my desk drawer, Sapphire has chosen to use a self-contained liquid cooling kit. As you can see, the actual cooler and the card are separate units, so it will require a spare expansion slot to accommodate this. The main graphics card has nothing but a waterblock on it, while the cooling unit contains the reservoir, pump, copper radiator and cooling fan. It is pre-filled, so you're ready to go straight out of the box. But if you need to top up the coolant or even replace it – this is easily done.
All of the air is drawn and then removed from the case, much like the reference air cooler. This helps stop the system internals from heating up too much. On top of the cooler is a switch to run the fan at either 2,000 or 2,500rpm. From a noise perspective, I found it very difficult to tell the difference between the two so I kept it on its highest setting.
The actual cooler is manufactured by Thermaltake and is exceedingly similar to the Tide Water cooling kit, except the fan seems to be slightly larger and spins a little faster. That kit alone is around £45, so I'm surprised that the asking price of £405.38 is only around £50 more than an air-cooled version, and comes with higher clock speeds. Buying it all in one kit certainly saves a lot of fiddling around and also maintains your card's warranty.
Some of you might be wondering how this affects CrossFire, and we've been told Sapphire will be releasing a limited number of CrossFire edition cards with this cooler fitted - so hopefully we'll have an answer for you soon.