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It’s been over two months since I was in Toronto at the launch of the Radeon X800 platform, and during that time I’ve done a lot of testing and writing about the latest generation of graphics cards. However, it has taken this long for that announcement in Canada, to turn into a tangible retail product.
Before me right now is the first retail card based on the Radeon X800 chipset to make its way into the TrustedReviews offices. Of course I’ve looked at a few reference boards, but until I see a proper, boxed retail card it’s all a bit ethereal – after all, you can’t buy a reference board, so the existence of engineering samples means little to the general public.
It comes as no surprise that the first retail X800 board came from Sapphire. Back in the days when ATI branded and sold graphics cards itself, Sapphire was the company that actually manufactured the boards. So when ATI moved to a board partner model, Sapphire obviously had a bit of a head start on the competition. It also comes as no surprise that this board is based on the X800 Pro variant of the chipset, rather than the top of the range X800 XT Platinum Edition. The official launch of the latter was a couple of weeks after the Pro, so I’m fully expecting to have to wait a while longer before I see a retail X800 XT Platinum Edition board.
Sapphire has gone the extra mile with the packaging, providing a large box complete with a hinged flap and a see-through window so you can see the card without having to open it up. The overall effect is pretty good and it does help to spell out the message that this is a special piece of hardware.
Once you’re bored with looking at the card through the window, it’s time to open the box and see what goodies are inside. It’s fair to say that Sapphire hasn’t skimped on the extras with the Radeon X800 Pro. As far as games go you’re getting a full version of Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness. This was one of the first games to use proper DirectX 9 effects, and it does look very good in places. However, it was never a particularly great game, and it’s showing its age visually now as well. But, to be fair, bundled games are a pleasant bonus to find inside a graphics card box.
Besides Lara’s latest adventure, the box also contains a copy of PowerDVD, Redline Overclocking software, a composite video cable, an S-Video cable, an S-Video to composite video converter, a DVI to D-SUB converter and a power splitter. What’s particularly interesting is that Sapphire also provides a cable that splits into three discrete RCA ports allowing for a component video signal to be output, giving the highest possible video quality. So, Sapphire has pretty much covered all the bases, and you should have everything you could possibly need at the point of purchase.
Given that Sapphire traditionally sticks to the ATI reference design, I was slightly surprised to see that this card is using a blue PCB rather than the traditional ATI red. Other than the colour though, this board is pretty much identical to the reference boards that I’ve tested. There’s a copper heatsink and fan assembly covering the VPU, but it’s small enough to keep the card a single slot solution. A single Molex connector provides the X800 Pro with enough power to operate, while the backing plate sports a DVI connecter, a D-SUB port and an video output.