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Abit Fatal1ty Radeon X800 XL
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Date: Nov 03, 2005
Section:Graphics/Sound
Author: Marco Chiappetta
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Introduction, Specifications & Bundle

The Radeon X800 XL has been a very successful GPU for ATI. The X800 XL has been widely available for quite some time, it's built using a .11 micron process that make it a cost effective part for ATI to produce, and retail cards based on the X800 XL GPU offer very good performance for the price. 256MB variants of the X800 XL have also been available for under $250, which made them quite popular with both gamers and the overclocking crowd. The Radeon X800 XL's excellent price / performance ratio was undeniable. But then, back in June, ATI launched a 512MB version of the Radeon X800 XL. 512MB cards offered better performance in some applications and when running at high resolutions with anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering enabled, but the cards were also priced significantly higher than their 256MB counterparts. In fact, upon their initial introduction 512MB Radeon X800 XL prices hovered around $500. Unfortunately, $500 was enough dough for a much more powerful GeForce 7800 GTX and the larger frame buffer didn't offer dramatic performance improvements in today's games, so in the end the 512MB Radeon X800 XL wasn't widely accepted by the gaming community.

However, since then, prices for the 512MB Radeon X800 XL have dropped considerably. And companies like Sapphire and Abit now offer 512MB X800 XL's for well under $400. Today on HotHardware we're going to look at Abit's take on the Radeon X800 XL that bares the "Fatal1ty" brand. Unlike virtually every other video card to pass through the labs the past couple of years, Abit has actually veered from ATI's reference design and is offering a unique solution, with features that set it apart from its competition. Abit's Fatal1ty X800 XL 512MB may not be the king of the 3D performance hill, but there is a lot to like about this video card.  Check it out...

Abit Fatal1ty Radeon X800 XL 512MB
Features & Specifications

ATi Radeon X800 XL
_400MHz / 420MHz engine
_.11 micron
_1.0GHz / 1.1GHz memory data rate
_256-bit memory interface
_512MB GDDR3 memory
_16 pixel pipes
_6 vertex pipes
_6.4 Gigapixel/second fill rate
_32.8 GB/s Peak Memory Bandwidth
_HYPER Z support for HD resolutions including Hierarchical Z, color and Z compression
_Hierarchical Z and Early Z
_Z Compression
_Fast Z Clear
_Z/Stencil Cache

Six Vertex Engines
_Workstation class vertex processing power
_600 million polygon transforms per second
_5.7 billion vertex shader operations per second
_Workstation-class performance

High-detail Geometry
_Designed for next-gen games with massive polygon counts
_Allows huge numbers of characters on screen at once
_High definition foliage and particle effects

3Dc Compression Technology
_Lossless Normal Map Compression
_4:1 Normal Map Compression technology

Smart Shader HD
_Long pixel shaders
_1536 instructions per pass
_High-detail geometry shaders
_Infinite length shaders (multipass via F-buffer)
_Single pass trig functions (Sine & Cosine)

SmoothVision HD
_Sparse sample pattern AA with gamma correction
_Temporal AA (up to 12X effective)
_Centroid AA
_16X Anisotropic filtering with adaptive heuristics

HyperZ HD
_Optimized for performance at high display resolutions, including HDTV resolutions
_Lossless z-buffer compression (up to 48:1)
_Rejects up to 256 occluded pixels per clock
_Up to 32 Z/stencil operations/clock

VideoShader HD
_High-quality video processing & acceleration
_Real-time user programmable video effects
_Video post processing and filtering
_MPEG 1, 2, 4 encode and decode acceleration
_FULLSTREAM Video Deblocking
_WMV9 decode acceleration
_High-quality resolution scaling
_Adaptive Per Pixel Deinterlacing
_Motion Compensation
_Noise removal filtering
_Display Rotation

 


   

Like Abit's other "Fatal1ty" branded products, the Fatal1ty X800 XL 512MB bares the mark, and endorsement, of professional gamer Johnathan "Fatal1ty" Wendel right on the box. Inside the box though, there isn't anything special to see, other than the card itself that is. Included with Abit's Fatal1ty X800 XL 512MB were a couple of manuals, one a typical User's Guide and the other a guide detailing the use of Abit's proprietary vGuru software, and the requisite driver / utility CD. Alongside the manuals and driver CD were an assortment of cables and connectors, that included an S-Video to composite adapter, an S-Video cable, a composite video cable, and a dual-Molex to 6-Pin PCI Express power adapter. As you can see, the Fatal1ty X800 XL 512MB's bundle wasn't exactly barren, but it would have been nice to see a game or two included to showcase the capabilities of the card, especially considering its relatively high price.

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The Card & Its Proprietary Utilities

As we mentioned earlier, Abit didn't simply stamp out a "cookie-cutter" Radeon X800 XL. The card pictured below may be powered by the same GPU and memory as other 512MB Radeon X800 XL cards, but the similarities stop there. The Abit Fatal1ty X800 XL 512MB is unique in a couple of different ways...

The Abit Fatal1ty X800 XL 512MB
Not A Reference Board!  Woo Hoo!

    

    

    

First, let's get some of the particulars out of the way. In one configuration, the 16-pipeline Radeon X800 XL GPU at the core of the Fatal1ty X800 XL is clocked at 400MHz (our sample's actual clock was 398MHz), with its 512MB of GDDR3 memory clocked at 980MHz (986MHz on our sample). That gives the card a peak fillrate of 6.3GPixels/s with a maximum of 31.5GB/s of memory bandwidth.

The GPU is cooled by a copper-finned heatsink, with a lighted fan that's equipped with a handful of blinking red LEDs, that flash when the system is powered up.  If you find the blinking annoying though, it can be disabled using Abit's vGuru software. The RAM on the front and back of the card are passively cooled as well by individual copper heatsinks mounted to each individual chip. The backplate houses a single DVI output, along with a single analog DB-15 output, an S-Video output, and a unique, little, red button.

Note, that in the last paragraph we said, "in one configuration".  The main feature that sets the Abit Fatal1ty X800 XL 512MB apart from the other video cards is that little, red button on the backplate.  With a simple re-boot and a push of that button, a second BIOS mounted on the card takes over, and overclocks the GPU and memory to 419MHz and 1094MHz, respectively. For those into the numbers, that's a 5% boost to the GPU's clock speed, and an 11% boost to the memory. Abit calls this technology "xTurbo". We call it an innovative feature and hope Abit continues to think outside the box.

Abit's Proprietary Utilities
Boosting Performance

    

  

The "tweak-ability" of the Abit Fatal1ty X800 XL 512MB doesn't stop with that red button, however. Abit also bundles their vGuru utility with this card, which gives uses control over a host of the Fatal1ty's attributes. With the vGuru software, users can overclock (or underclock) the card, alter the cooling fan's speed for quiet operation or performance, and even alter the GPU core and memory voltages for more aggressive overclocking. And as we mentioned earlier, the vGuru software can also be used to toggle the card's blinking LEDs on and off. The vGuru software, in conjunction with Abit's xTurbo Technology, make the Fatal1ty X800 XL 512MB arguably the most "tweakable" video card to ever pass through the HotHardware labs. Those that like to tinker with their hardware would certainly have some fun with the Fatal1ty X800 XL 512MB.

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Our Test System & 3DMark05

HOW WE CONFIGURED THE TEST SYSTEM: We put together two different test systems for this article.  We tested our NVIDIA based cards on a Gigabyte K8NXP-SLI nForce 4 SLI chipset based motherboard, powered by an AMD Athlon 64 FX-55 processor and 1GB of low-latency Corsair XMS RAM. However, the ATI based cards were tested on an ATI reference Radeon Xpress 200 motherboard, but with the same processor and RAM. The first thing we did when configuring these test systems was enter each BIOS and load the "High Performance Defaults."  The hard drive was then formatted, and Windows XP Professional with SP2 was installed. When the installation was complete, we installed the latest chipset drivers available, installed all of the other necessary drivers for the rest of our components, and removed Windows Messenger from the system. Auto-Updating and System Restore were also disabled, the hard drive was defragmented, and a 768MB permanent page file was created on the same partition as the Windows installation. Lastly, we set Windows XP's Visual Effects to "best performance," installed all of the benchmarking software, and ran the tests.

The HotHardware Test System
AMD Athlon 64 FX Powered

Processor -

Motherboard -





Video Cards -





Memory -


Audio -

Hard Driv
e -

 

Hardware Used:
AMD Athlon 64 FX-55 (2.6GHz)

Gigabyte GA-K8NXP-SLI
nForce4 SLI chipset

ATI Reference CrossFire MB
ATI Radeon Xpress 200 CF Edition

Abit Fatal1ty X800 XL (512MB)

ATI Radeon X1800 XL
ATI Radeon X850XT
GeForce 7800 GT



1024MB Corsair XMS PC3200 RAM
CAS 2

Integrated on board

Western Digital "Raptor"

36GB - 10,000RPM - SATA

Operating System -
Chipset Drivers -
DirectX -

Video Drivers
-




Synthetic (DX) -
DirectX -

DirectX -
DirectX -
OpenGL -
OpenGL -
Relevant Software:
Windows XP Professional SP2 (Patched)
nForce Drivers v6.82
DirectX 9.0c

NVIDIA Forceware v81.82

ATI Catalyst v5.10 beta


Benchmarks Used:
3DMark05 v1.2.0
Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory v1.04
FarCry v1.33*
Half Life 2*
Doom 3 v1.3 (Single & Multi-Player)*
Chronicles of Riddick v1.1*

* - Custom Test (HH Exclusive demo)

Performance Comparisons with 3DMark05 v1.2.0
Details: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark05/

3DMark05
3DMark05 is the latest installment in a long line of synthetic 3D graphics benchmarks, dating back to late 1998. 3DMark05 is a synthetic benchmark that requires a DirectX 9.0 compliant video card, with support for Pixel Shaders 2.0 or higher, to render all of the various modules that comprise the suite. To generate its final "score", 3DMark05 runs three different simulated game tests and uses each test's framerate in the final tabulation. Fillrate, Memory bandwidth, and compute performance especially all have a measurable impact on performance in this benchmark. We ran 3DMark05's default test (1,024 x 768) on all of the cards and configurations we tested, and have the overall results posted for you below.

We'll be including two sets of numbers for the Abit Fatal1ty X800 XL 512MB throughout the performance segment of this article; one set in normal mode (398MHz/986MHz) and another set in xTurbo mode (419MHz/1094MHz).  As you can see, switching into the higher-clocked xTurbo mode has a measurable impact on performance in 3DMark05. At its "default" clocks, the Fatal1ty X800 XL 512MB just missed the 5K mark, but when in xTurbo mode the card jumped 349 points, or roughly 7%. Unfortunately though, even with the higher clock speeds, the Fatal1ty X800 XL 512MB wasn't able to catch any of its similarly priced competition.

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Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory

Performance Comparisons with Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory v1.04
Details: http://www.splintercell3.com/us/

SC: Chaos Theory
We've recently added Ubisoft's great new game, Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, to our suite of game benchmarks. Based on a heavily modified version of the Unreal Engine, enhanced with a slew of DX9 shaders, lighting and mapping effects, Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory is gorgeous with its very immersive, albeit dark environment. The game engine has a shader model 3.0 code path that allows the GeForce 6 & 7 Series of cards, and the new X1000 family of cards, to really shine, and a recent patch has implemented a shader model 2.0 path for ATI's X8x0 generation of graphics hardware. For these tests we enabled the SM 3.0 path on the GeForce cards, but the SM 2.0 path was enabled for the older Radeons. High Dynamic Range rendering and parallax mapping were disabled, and we benchmarked the game at resolutions of 1,280 x 1024 and 1,600 x 1,200, both with and without anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering.

 

Abit's Fatal1ty X800 XL 512MB handled Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory fairly well. Even though the card is clocked higher than other X800 XLs when in xTurbo mode, and it's got 512MB of frame buffer memory, it wasn't quite able to catch the Radeon X850 XT or GeForce 7800 GT. When anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering was enabled though, the Fatal1ty X800 XL 512MB was able to nudge ahead of the GeForce 6800 Ultra and narrow the lead held by the other cards we tested.

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FarCry v1.33

Performance Comparisons with FarCry v1.33
Details: http://www.farcry.ubi.com/

FarCry
If you've been on top of the gaming scene for some time, you probably know that FarCry is one of the most visually impressive games to be released for the PC. Courtesy of its proprietary engine, dubbed "CryEngine" by its developers, FarCry's game-play is enhanced by Polybump mapping, advanced environment physics, destructible terrain, dynamic lighting, motion-captured animation, and surround sound. Before titles such as Half-Life 2 and Doom 3 hit the scene, FarCry gave us a taste of what was to come in next-generation 3D Gaming on the PC. We benchmarked the graphics cards in this review with a custom-recorded demo run taken in the "Catacombs" area checkpoint, at various resolutions without anti-aliasing or anisotropic filtering enabled, and then with 4X AA and 16X aniso enabled concurrently.

 

FarCry proved to be somewhat of a strong point for the Abit Fatal1ty X800 XL 512MB. Without any anti-aliasing or anisotropic filtering enabled, the performance results are all over the map, and the Fatal1ty falls short of the competition in both modes. With AA and aniso enabled, however, the Fatal1ty X800 XL 512MB's extra frame buffer memory and higher clocks put it well ahead of the GeForce 6800 Ultra, and it hangs tough just behind the X850 and 7800 GT.

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Half Life 2

Performance Comparisons with Half-Life 2
Details: http://www.half-life2.com/

Half Life 2
Thanks to the dedication of hardcore PC gamers and a huge mod-community, the original Half-Life became one of the most successful first person shooters of all time.  So, when Valve announced Half-Life 2 was close to completion in mid-2003, gamers the world over sat in eager anticipation. Unfortunately, thanks to a compromised internal network, the theft of a portion of the game's source code, and a tumultuous relationship with the game's distributor, Vivendi Universal, we all had to wait until November 2004 to get our hands on this classic. We benchmarked Half-Life 2 with a long, custom-recorded timedemo in the "Canals" map, that takes us through both outdoor and indoor environments. These tests were run at resolutions of 1,280 x 1,024 and 1,600 x 1,200 without any anti-aliasing or anisotropic filtering and with 4X anti-aliasing and 16X anisotropic filtering enabled concurrently.

 

Well, well, well -- look at what we have here. The Abit Fatal1ty X800 XL 512MB's large frame buffer and inflated clock speeds help the card surge ahead of most of the competition in our custom Half Life 2 benchmark. At the lower resolution, all of the cards except the 6800 Ultra are basically CPU bound, and only the X850 XT is able to overtake the Fatal1ty X800 XL when AA and aniso are enabled.  At the higher resolution though, the Fatal1ty X800 XL plays second fiddle to only the newer GeForce 7800 GT. We doubt anyone would complain about 97FPS at 1600x1200 with 4XAA and 16X ansio though...

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Doom 3

Performance Comparisons with Doom 3
Details: http://www.doom3.com/

Doom 3
id Software's games have long been pushing the limits of 3D graphics. Quake, Quake 2, and Quake 3 were all instrumental in the success of 3D accelerators on the PC. Now, many years later, with virtually every new desktop computer shipping with some sort of 3D accelerator, id is at it again with the visually stunning Doom 3. Like most of id's previous titles, Doom 3 is an OpenGL game that uses extremely high-detailed textures and a ton of dynamic lighting and shadows. We ran this batch of Doom 3 single player benchmarks using a custom demo with the game set to its "High-Quality" mode, at resolutions of 1,280 x 1,024 and 1,600 x 1,200 without anti-aliasing enabled and then again with 4X AA and 8X aniso enabled simultaneously.

 

Luckily for ATI, the ring-bus memory controller in new the X1000 series of cards has afforded them some much needed performance in OpenGL titles, because Doom 3 performance on the Fatal1ty X800 XL 512MB and Radeon X850 XT looks terrible when compared to either the GeForce 6 or GeForce 7 series of cards, as you can clearly see in the graphs above. Regardless of the card's clock speeds, it get's handily beat by all of the competing cards in our custom Doom 3 benchmark. The GeForce 7800 GT even manages to double the X800 XL's performance in a few test configurations.

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Chronicles of Riddick

Performance Comparisons with Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay
Details: http://www.riddickgame.com/

Chronicles of Riddick
Starbreeze Studios is responsible for creating the surprisingly good game, The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay. Those familiar with the movie will recall Butcher Bay was one of the prison options on tap for the main character. While the movie never actually made it to Butcher Bay, we find the main character right at home in this first person shooter that's powered by the proprietary Starbreeze Engine. Not only does The Chronicles of Riddick - Escape From Butcher Bay boast excellent game play with impressive visuals and a mature story line, but the Chronicles of Riddick also proves to be a tough challenge and a game actually worth buying, which makes it an excellent addition to our suite of custom benchmarks.

 

The Fatal1ty X800 XL 512MB's performance in our custom Chronicles of Riddick benchmark essentially mirror what we saw with Doom 3. The card's higher-than-stock clock speeds and 512MB frame buffer help push it about 10% ahead of a "normal" X800 XL, but the X850 and both GeForce cards have no trouble outpacing the Fatal1ty X800 XL 512MB in every test configuration, regardless of resolution or whether anti-aliasing or anisotropic filtering are used.

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Overclocking the Fatal1ty X800 XL

Overclocking the Fatal1ty X800 XL 512MB
(Fast 3D Video Card) + Overclocking = Even Faster Card

As we neared the end of our testing, we spent a little time overclocking the Abit Fatal1ty X800 XL 512MB using the clock frequency slider available within its proprietary vGuru application. To find the card's peak core and memory frequencies, we slowly raised their respective sliders until we begun to see visual artifacts on-screen while running a game or benchmark.  But because this card also gives users the ability to tweak core and memory voltages, and fan speeds, we also upped those values to their respective maximums of 1.5v and 2.2v and set the fan to run at its highest speed...

 

When we were done with our overclocking experiments, we were able to boost the Fatal1ty X800 XL 512MB's core frequency to 430MHz and its memory frequency to 1120MHz.  These are relatively small increases over the card's "xTurbo" clocks of 419MHz / 1094MHz, but please remember that Abit's xTurbo feature is already overclocking the card well over ATI's reference specifications.

While we had the card was overclocked, we re-ran the default 3DMark05 benchmark and also re-ran our custom Doom 3 benchmark at a resolution of 1600x1200, with 4X anti-aliasing and 8X anisotropic filtering enabled. As you can see, the overclocked scores are only nominally higher than the Turbo mode scores, but they are about 10% - 15% higher than the Normal mode scores.

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Our Summary & Conclusion

Performance Summary: The Abit Fatal1ty X800 XL 512MB performed well throughout our entire battery of benchmarks. More often than not, it fell short of the performance offered by a Radeon X850 XT or GeForce 7800 GT, but it hung alongside or outpaced a GeForce 6800 Ultra in many tests, like FarCry and Half Life 2. When running the Fatal1ty X800 XL 512MB in its xTurbo mode, it was about 10% faster than stock, which would also make it about 10% faster than any other stock Radeon X800 XL.

Abit should be commended for producing the Fatal1ty X800 XL 512MB. This may not be the most powerful video card on the market, but it does offer many things not available anywhere else. Instead of producing a cookie-cutter, reference Radeon X800 XL, the folks at Abit went to work and designed a custom video card with features targeted squarely at enthusiasts. The xTurbo "one-button" overclocking feature is something we really like, and we hope Abit has plans to incorporate it into future products. We also liked the fact that Abit gives users the ability to tweak the Fatal1ty X800 XL's fan speed, and GPU core / memory voltages and clock speeds through the included vGuru application. Our only gripe with this product is the fast that it doesn't ship with any games that'll showcase its performance and capabilities. Yes, there are faster cards available; the Radeon X800 XL was never a world beater. But few cards, if any, can match the Fatal1ty X800 XL 512MB in terms of tweakability. We wouldn't recommend this card to everyone because it lacks SM 3.0 support and is pricier than similarly performing cards, but those with smaller monitors or 17" - 19" LCDs, that don't run at resolutions above 1280x1024 would be well served by the Fatal1ty X800 XL. And its 512MB frame buffer helps make it a bit more "future proof" than some other video cards with 256MB or smaller frame buffers. The Fatal1ty X800 XL 512MB is available on-line for about $390, but that price will obviously drop over time. At $390 it's a tough-sell in a world where the GeForce 7800 GT is available for roughly $340, but we like what Abit has done with this card and give them extra points for innovation and originality. We're giving the Fatal1ty X800 XL a strong 7.5 on the Heat Meter, and hope that Abit plans to offer similar features on their future high-end products.

_Not A Reference Card!
_"One Touch" Overclocking
_High-Quality Copper Cooler
_Innovative Features
_Unsurpassed Tweakability
_Relatively Expensive
_No SM 3.0 support
_Price / Performance Ratio

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