Never before has there been such a level playing field when it comes to higher-end graphics cards. This year, both ATI and NVIDIA have pulled out all the stops, offering the most powerful gaming solutions ever. While we could split hairs with frame rate measurements, in the end, both companies have cards to play anything available today and probably for some time as well, with the ability to render in excellent image quality that is virtually indistinguishable from the other.
When it comes to marketing these newer cards, however, it takes some more creativity to make one stand out over the other. Since performance and image quality have reached a relative degree of parity, the decision for buying the fastest model is not as easy as it has been in past years. Today, the OEM needs to entice you with creative bundles, powerful cooling options along with good looks and performance. This is exactly the formula HIS has followed with their latest offering, the Excalibur X800 Pro - VIVO Edition with IceQ II. Knowing that performance alone is not enough to sway a potential buyer into spending hundreds of dollars on a new gaming card, HIS has worked hard to put together a retail package that grabs your attention and won't let go. With bundled games, extra cabling and a potent "IceQ II' cooling package, HIS is making a statement that the Excalibur X800 Pro Platinum VIVO is the real deal and deserves to be riding shotgun in your dream machine. Let's take a closer look and see what this card is all about.
-Powered by ATI RADEON™X800 PRO Visual Processing Unit
-475MHz Graphics Engine Clock
-256MB GDDR3 memory - 900MHz
-256-bit memory interface
-Dual integrated 10-bit per channel palette DACs operating at up to 400MHz
-AGP 8X / 4X
-On board 15-pin VGA connector for CRT monitor
-On board S-Video connector for TV-Out
-On board DVI-I connector for Digital Flat Panel
-External DVI-I to VGA adapter for Secondary CRT monitor
-Independent resolutions and refresh rates for any two connected
-Windows XP (Home or Pro)
-Excalibur™X800 series requires connection to your PC's internal power supply for operation.
-A 300 watt power supply or greater is recommended to ensure normal system operation where a number of other internal devices are installed
-Intel Pentium4™ AMD Athlon or compatible with AGP 8X (0.8V), 4X (1.5V) or -Universal AGP 3.0 bus configuration (8X/4X).
-128MB of system memory; 256MB or more for best performance
-Installation software requires CD-ROM Drive
-Operating Systems: Windows XP (Home or Pro)
-80PP-1T-2AM - Radeon x800PRO 256MB DDR TV & DVI (PAL)
-80PN-2T-2AM - Radeon x800PRO 256MB DDR TV & DVI (NTSC)
-Features ATI's SMARTSHADER™HD, SMOOTHVISION™HD, HYPER™Z HD and 3Dc™ technologies:
-SMARTSHADER™HD is the shader technology from ATI, allowing users to experience complex HD GAMING effects in next-generation 3D games and applications.
-SMOOTHVISION™HD technology provides new levels of image quality using fast Anti-Aliasing (AA) at HD resolution, Temporal AA and Anisotropic Filtering (AF) techniques.
-HYPER™Z HD is the ATI's innovative bandwidth saving technology to maximize performance at HD resolutions
3Dc™technology provides High-detail compressed normal maps make low poly 3D objects appear more detailed
-Dual display support with HYDRAVISION™
-Integrated TV-Out support up to 1024 x 768 resolution
-Integrated DVI-compliant 165MHz TMDS transmitter
The bundle HIS has pulled together covers all aspects of installing the card and utilizing its VIVO capabilities. The package comes with a Setup CD which has fairly current ATI catalyst drivers and nothing more. The User's Guide was adequate for installing the card and explaining how to connect the video-in and video out cabling that also accompanies the card. Additionaly, the card comes with a broad selection of games including Arx Fatalis, Counter Strike, Railroad Pioneer and others. A copy of Micro Researches 3D Album is included which HIS seems pretty excited about as well. The program is pretty nifty, allowing users to create 3D animated photo albums, if that tickles you. Sadly, the gaming bundle is dated, including yesterday's games rather than a single current title that would truly show off their card's capabilities. While we didn't load each game and play it, it's pretty clear that these are less than popular titles, some of which many may never have heard of at all, aside from Counter Strike. On the plus side, a full copy of PowerDVD is included which always a good thing.
One of the other major detractors for the card is the lack of any included overclocking utility. This was very surprising, considering the card has a mammoth cooler that practically begs you to try to overclock the card. Today's high-end graphics cards offer some excellent overclocking potential and many OEMs are providing custom utilities for user's to get the most out of their card. This was not the case with HIS and since ATI doesn't have an equivalent to NVIDIA's Coolbits registry tweak, users will need to rely on a third party product.
In the end, we can't say the bundle included with the Excalibur X800 Pro is bad, it's simply nothing special on the software side of things. HIS did do an adequate job on the hardware side, providing adequate cabling, Molex Y-adapter and DVI-VGA adapter. We'll take a close look at the card itself now, along with the IceQ II cooler.