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Sapphire Radeon X800GTO2 Limited Edition
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Date: Jan 30, 2006
Section:Graphics/Sound
Author: Jeff Bouton
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Introduction and Product Specifications

Every once in a while a product comes along that really garners the attention of the enthusiast crowd.  There can be a number of factors for this, including overclocking performance, easy modding potential or just an overall great value for the money.  One such piece of hardware that encompasses a lot of these qualities is the Sapphire Radeon X800GTO2 Limited Edition graphics card.  The X800GTO2 LE has begun to make waves thanks to many of the aforementioned qualities above. 

Sporting such features as Dual-DVI, VIVO and 256MB of GDDR3 RAM, the X800GTO2 is a capable card that has a few other surprises to whet your tweaking appetite.  First, unlike the X800's that are normally based on ATI's R430 core, the X800GTO2 has an R480 at its heart; the same GPU found on Radeon X850 cards.  Additionally, when you look at the various X800GTO2 cards listed on the Sapphire website, the line that reads "specifications may vary" can be a positive.  While typically X800GTO cards ship with 12-Pixel Pipelines, the X800GTO2 Limited Edition comes with 16-Pixel Pipelines enabled right out of the box.  Top this off with some overclocking, and the X800GTO2 can end up exceeding the performance of an X850 XT Platinum Edition.

With a little effort, the Sapphire Radeon X800XGTO2 LE can offer high-end performance, better than any X8xx series card currently available, including the X850 XT Platinum Edition, but for considerably less money.  Furthermore, Sapphire includes a Game DVD with the "Limited Edition" model that includes vouchers for free versions of several top gaming titles, adding even more value to this already impressive product.

Specifications of the Sapphire Radeon X800GTO2 LE
The Two Means "Squared"
Technology Features
* Radeon X800GTO2 (R480) VPU @ 400MHz
* 256MB of GDDR3 memory @ 980MHz
* 256-bit memory interface
* 16 parallel pixel pipelines
* PCI Express x16 lane native support
* Dual-DVI display support
* Dual integrated 400MHz DAC's
* 2048x1536 @ 85Hz Maximum Resolution
* S-Video TV-out port
* Full support for DirectX 9.0 and the latest OpenGL 2.0 functionality
* SMARTSHADER HD technology
* SMOOTHVISION HD technology
* 3Dc High quality 4:1 Normal Map Compression delivers beautiful scenes without the performance hit.
* Unique VIDEOSHADER HD engine uses programmable pixel shaders to accelerate video processing and provide better-looking visuals
* HYPER Z HD is optimized for performance at high display resolutions, including widescreen HDTV resolutions


SMARTSHADER HD
Support for Microsoft DirectX 9.0 programmable vertex and pixel shaders in hardware
DirectX 9.0 Vertex Shaders
Vertex programs up to 65,280 instructions with flow control
Single cycle trigonometric operations (SIN & COS)
DirectX 9.0 Extended Pixel Shaders
Up to 1,536 instructions and 16 textures per rendering pass
2nd generation F-buffer technology accelerates multi-pass pixel shader programs with unlimited instructions
32 temporary and constant registers
Facing register for two-sided lighting
128-bit, 64-bit & 32-bit per pixel floating point color formats
Multiple Render Target (MRT) support
Complete feature set also supported in OpenGL via extensions

3Dc
High quality 4:1 Normal Map Compression

Works with any two-channel data format
SMOOTHVISION HD
2x/4x/6x Anti-Aliasing modes
Sparse multi-sample algorithm with gamma correction, programmable sample patterns, and centroid sampling
Lossless Color Compression (up to6:1)at all resolutions, including widescreen HDTV resolutions
Temporal Anti-Aliasing
2x/4x/8x/16x Anisotropic Filtering modes
Up to 128-tap texture filtering
Adaptive algorithm with bilinear (performance) and trilinear (quality) options


HYPER Z HD
3-level Hierarchical Z-Buffer with Early Z Test
Lossless Z-Buffer Compression (up to 48:1)
Fast Z-Buffer Clear
Z Cache optimized for real-time shadow rendering
Optimized for performance at high display resolutions, including widescreen HDTV resolution

VIDEOSHADER HD
Seamless integration of pixel shaders with video in real time
FULLSTREAM video de-blocking technology for Real, DivX, and WMV9 formats
VIDEOSOAP noise removal filtering for captured video
MPEG1/2/4 decode and encode acceleration
DXVA Support
Hardware Motion Compensation, iDCT, DCT and color space conversion
All-format DTV/HDTV decoding
YPrPb component output for direct drive of HDTV displays
Adaptive Per-Pixel De-Interlacing and Frame Rate Conversion (temporal filtering)
Dual integrated display controllers
Dual integrated 10 bit per channel 400 MHz DACs Integrated 165 MHz TMDS transmitter (DVI 1.0 / HDMI compliant and HDCP ready)
Integrated TV Output support up to 1024x768 resolution
Windows Logo Program compliant
CATALYST Software Suite

The retail bundle of the Sapphire Radeon X800GTO2 Limited Edition is compact, yet offers everything needed to take full advantage of the hardware's feature set.  The Setup CD includes a relatively current version of ATI's Catalyst drivers, although we always recommend downloading the latest versions from ATI.  Additionally, Sapphire includes a free overclocking tool called Trixx, that has an easy to understand interface while offering temperature readings, custom overclocking profiles and one-click updates.  The package also comes with a PCI Express power adapter, 15-pin DVI to VGA adapter, S-Video and Composite cabling as well as VIVO and HDTV display cabling.

            

  

The real icing on the cake with this product is the Sapphire Select DVD which includes trial versions of Brother's In Arms - Road to Hill 30, Prince of Persia - Warrior Within, Tony Hawk's Underground 2 and Richard Burns Rally.  Topping things off, the CD case is stamped with a voucher that instantly unlocks the games to full version copies at no additional charge.  Considering these are popular titles that reach a broad audience of gamers, we think this is a great accent to an already promising product.

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The Sapphire Radeon X800GTO2 LE Up Close
The Sapphire Radeon X800GTO2 LE Up Close
Closer Inspection

With the X800GTO2, Sapphire opted to stick with the stock ATI reference design, using a custom sticker on the cooler to mark it as their own.  As we stated earlier, this X800GTO2 comes with the R480 at its core rather than the R430 commonly found in the X800 series.  The core is clocked at 400MHz, while the 256MB of GDDR3 memory is set at 490MHz (980MHz DDR).  The card comes with 16-Pixel Pipelines enabled right out of the box, putting the X800GTO2 in the same class as an X800XL at stock speeds.  One difference is Sapphire uses the same PCB as an X850 class card, which come with supplemental power, whereas the X800XL 256MB versions do not require an additional power source. 

  

Video output offers dual-DVI ports, ideal for flat panel displays, with the VIVO port located in the center backed by a Rage Theater chip. The cooler on the X800GTO2 is a standard reference design with a plate on the rear that contacts the memory modules. Thermal compound is applied to all contact areas for maximum heat transfer while a tension bar is used to ensure solid contact to the VPU.  Overall, the reference cooler was relatively quiet, even when overclocked.  For the most part, the Sapphire Radeon X800GTO2 LE is rather unassuming in appearance, but as you'll see, looks can be deceiving.


Image Quality with the Sapphire Radeon X800GTO2 LE
For the Fun of It

Before delving into the benchmarking segment, we pulled together some gaming screenshots to demonstrate image quality with the Sapphire Radeon X800GTO2 Limited Edition.  Here we compared the images to those take with a GeForce 6800 GT which is the closest competitor to the ATI based GTO2.

Sapphire Radeon X800GTO2 LE


No AA/Antialiasing

4X AA/8X Antialiasing

6X AA/16X Antialiasing

NVIDIA GeForce 6800 GT


No AA/Antialiasing

4X AA/8X Antialiasing

8XS AA/16X Antialiasing

When comparing the No AA tests and the 4X AA / 8X tests, the different in images quality between the two cards was virtually imperceptible.  Only after intense study could we see some minor nuances, but still it was a toss up between the two.  When we set each card to their maximum quality settings, the 6800's image was softer, whereas the X800GTO2 had slightly more texture to it.  On the flip-side, some of the lines were slightly jagged with the X800GTO2 while the 6800 GT did a better job of smoothing the edges.  In the end, however, if we weren't studying any given set of images with intense scrutiny, you'd be hard pressed to tell the two apart.

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HH Test System and Benchmarking with 3DMark05
HotHardware's Test System
Not all are created equal...

AMD Athlon 64 3700+
(2.2GHz) San Diego

ECS KN1SLI EXTREME
(NVIDIA nForce 4 SLI)

2x512MB PQI3200-1024DBU
CL 2-2-2-5

Sapphire Radeon X800GTO2 LE 256MB
NVIDIA GeForce 6800GT

On-board Ethernet
On-board Audio

Western Digital 80GB Hard Drive
7200 RPM IDE

Windows XP Pro SP2
nForce 4 Drivers v81.98
ATI Catalyst 5.13
DirectX 9.0c


Performance Comparisons With 3DMark05
Futuremark's Latest - The Jury is Still Out...


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.

With 3DMark05 synthetic testing, the Sapphire Radeon X800GTO2 LE managed the better overall score, topping the GeForce 6800 GT by 226 3DMarks.  This is a slightly wider margin that those reported with our X800XL All-In-Wonder review, which runs at the same clock speed as the X800GTO2.

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Benchmarks & Comparisons With FarCry
Benchmarks & Comparisons With Far Cry
DX9 Effects Galore.

Far Cry
If you've been on top of the gaming scene for some time, you probably know that FarCry was one of the most visually impressive games to be released on the PC this past year. 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.

The benchmark results with FarCry leaned in favor of the Sapphire Radeon X800GTO2 at both resolutions.  At 1024x768 and 1600x1200, the no AA test favored the X800GTO2 by an average of 4 FPS.  With the 4XAA/16 Aniso test, the X800GTO2 easily outpaced the 6800 GT by 26.5 FPS at 1024x768 while the margins dropped a but to 18.5 FPS at 1600x1200.

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Benchmarks & Comparisons With Doom 3
Benchmarks & Comparisons With Doom 3
In Like a Lion, Out Like a Lamb

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 1,024 x 768 and 1,600 x 1,200 without anti-aliasing enabled and then again with 4X AA and 16X aniso enabled simultaneously.

With our Doom 3 testing, the lead shifted in favor of the GeForce 6800 GT.  With the no AA test, the GeForce 6800 GT held a solid lead at both resolutions, outpacing the X800GTO2 by no less that 23 FPS.  Once we enabled the 4X AA / 16X Aniso test, the scores balanced out somewhat, with the margins averaging close to 4-7 FPS between both resolutions.

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Performance Comparisons with F.E.A.R.
Performance Comparisons with F.E.A.R.
More Info: http://www.whatisfear.com/us/

F.E.A.R.
One of the most highly anticipated titles of 2005, Monolith's new paranormal thriller F.E.A.R. promises to be as thrilling to the mind as it is to the eyes. Taking a look at the minimum system requirements, we see that you will need at least a 1.7GHz Pentium 4 with 512MB of system memory and a 64MB graphics card that is a Radeon 9000 or GeForce4 Ti-class or better to adequately run the game. Using the full retail release of the game patched to v1.02, we put the graphics cards in this review through their paces to see how they fared with a promising new title. Here, all graphics settings within the game were set to the maximum values, but with soft shadows disabled (Soft shadows and anti-aliasing do not work together currently). Benchmark runs were then completed at resolutions of 1280x960 and 1600x1200, with and without anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering enabled.

When running the F.E.A.R. benchmark at both 1280x960 and 1600x1200 resolutions, both cards were essentially tied when AA and Aniso were disabled.  Once the AA and Anisotropic filtering were enabled though, the Sapphire X800GTO2 had the upper hand, topping the 6800 GT by 14 FPS at 1280x960 and 6 FPS at 1600x1200.

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Performance Comparisons with Quake 4

 

Performance Comparisons with Quake 4
Details: http://www.quake4game.com/

Quake 4
id Software, in conjunction with developer Raven, recently released the latest addition to the wildly popular Quake franchise, Quake 4. Quake 4 is based upon an updated and slightly modified version of the Doom 3 engine, and as such performance characteristics between the two titles are very similar.  Like Doom 3, Quake 4 is also an OpenGL game that uses extremely high-detailed textures and a ton of dynamic lighting and shadows, but unlike Doom3, Quake 4 features some outdoor environments as well. We ran this these Quake 4 benchmarks using a custom demo with the game set to its "High-Quality" mode, at resolutions of 1,024x768 and 1,600 x 1,200 without anti-aliasing enabled and again with 4X AA and 16X aniso enabled simultaneously.

Like we saw in F.E.A.R., the two cards were neck in neck when benchmarked using no filtering methods.  Once we turned on 4X AA and 16X Anisotropic filtering, the X800GTO2 once again took the lead.  At 1024x768, the X800GTO2 topped the 6800 GT by 21 FPS while the 1600X1200 margins were narrower at 7 FPS.

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Benchmarks with Chronicles of Riddick
Benchmarks with Chronicles of Riddick - Escape From Butcher Bay
Riddick & The D3 Engine

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.

Using a modified Doom 3 engine, it's no surprise that our benchmark results resembled the same pattern we saw in Doom 3.  This time around the 6800 GT was the top performer in all areas of this test.  In both resolutions with and without AA and Aniso enabled, the 6800 GT was the top performer all around.  Even so, the Chronicles of Riddick proved to be a challenge for both cards.

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Overclocking the Sapphire Radeon X800GTO2 LE
Overclocking the Sapphire Radeon X800GTO2 LE
Letting This One Fly

When it came to overclocking the Sapphire Radeon X800GTO2 LE, our experience was impressive to say the least.  To overclock this card, we utilized the latest version of ATITOOL, which offers a number advantages over Sapphire's Trixx software and other utilities.  One great feature with ATITOOL is its ability to automatically scan the core and memory for the highest possible overclock while scanning for artifacts during the process.  The utility also ramps up each component for maximum temperature load to ensure the highest speed hit is stable and artifact free. 

Once complete, we were very impressed with the results.  In the end, we managed a peak core speed of 603MHz, 203MHz over the stock speed, an increase of over 50%!  With the memory scores, the increase was also impressive and sizeable.  Here we managed to increase the memory clockspeed to 605MHz, a boost of 115MHz or 24%. 

To measure the performance gains while overclocking, we used F.E.A.R. since it is a solid benchmark and excellent stress test.  At 1600x1200 we saw gains of 11 FPS with the No AA test and 6 FPS with 4XAA/8X Aniso testing.  This resulted in an increase of 35% and 30%, respectively.  What's not to like here?

Lastly, with the X800GTO2 card set at these peak clockspeeds, we were impressed to see the stock cooling was up to the task.  At stock 400/490 the core temperature was 53oC under constant load.  When we set the clockspeeds to 603/605, the core temperature peaked to 62oC, which wasn't bad for stock cooling.  We suspect that this card may have additional headroom if an aftermarket cooler was used.

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Performance Analysis and Conclusion

Performance Summary: In every test, the Sapphire X800GTO2 competed on the same level, or better, than the 6800 GT, except for Riddick and Doom 3, which were strong points for the 6800 GT.  The GTO2's performance advantages were most evident with 4X Anti-aliasing and 16X Anisotropic filtering enabled, where the performance hit was consistently more severe with the 6800 GT in most cases.

 

As we wrapped up this review, we were left with a strong feeling that Sapphire has offered somewhat of a gift to their enthusiast customers with the Sapphire X800GTO2 Limited Edition.  What they've essentially done is taken an X850 class card, clocked it down to X800XL levels and labelled it an X800GTO2. With excellent gaming performance, great overclocking potential, full 16-Pixel Pipelines, Sapphire Select Game DVD, Dual-DVI and supporting hardware, Sapphire delivers a lot of punch for the price.  Using the Trixx overclocking software included in the package, or something a bit more robust like ATITOOL, clock speeds in excess of X850XT Platinum Edition Radeons are well within reach, as our tests showed.  Unlike the 12-Pixel Pipeline GTO series, which comes with one DVI and one VGA output and has a reputation for being easily soft modded to 16-Pixel Pipelines with the simple BIOS flash, with the X800GTO2 there is no soft modding required.  Some may want to experiment with an X850 XT Platinum Edition BIOS though, to lock the clock speeds higher.  This sort of worked for us in our tests, but the cooler's fan throttling stopped working properly. With the wrong BIOS flashed to the card, the fan on the cooler wouldn't spin until the card hit 90oC. This can be remedied easily enough as both Trixx and ATITOOL can load with Windows and both offer manual fan control.  And of course, the standard overclocking disclaimer applies -- individual results can vary.

What's even better news for those looking to cash in on Sapphire's X800GTO2 is Sapphire's recent announcement that they intend to improve availability on these cards so even more users can take advantage of this offer.  With that said, unless it is of the utmost importance for you to have the biggest and baddest video card available, the X800GTO2 should prove to be an excellent upgrade.  And if you enter our giveaway, you may be the proud new owner of a new Sapphire Radeon X800GTO2 Limited Edition for free!  The deadline is February 28, 2006 so get going. We give the Sapphire Radeon X800GTO2 Limited Edition a Hot Hardware Heat Meter rating of 9.

•16-Pixel Pipes Out of the Box
•Extremely Competitive Pricing - $190 Current Street Price
•Sapphire Select Gaming DVD with free Voucher
•Outstanding Overclocking

•Trixx Overclocking Software

•Basic "Stock" Cooler

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