A closer look at the hardware and software
As we mentioned with the Gigabyte GV-NX78T256V about a month back, Gigabyte seems to stay the course when it comes to designing their cards, opting not to get too creative other than some flashy graphics on the cooler. That is unless they go completely overboard, and design a card like the GV-3D1-68GT. As seen below, the card is a single slot solution, with a relatively slim profile. An oversized heatsink covers nearly the entire face of the card, which is used to cool off all of the card's major components. Underneath the aluminum and copper heatsink are the R520 GPU and eight Samsung DDR3 memory chips, all 256MB placed in a neat array. We also located the ATi Rage Theater chip hidden under here, which controls the VIVO functions of the card.
Placed towards one end of the card, a small fan creates the airflow necessary to keep temperatures under control. However, while under load, the fan must spin very rapidly and the sound levels seemed louder than what we experienced with their 7800GT model. On the other end of the card, a single strip of aluminum is placed to passively cool the FETs in the VRM. The 6-pin power connector was placed in the upper corner, which is the mainstay of today's power-hungry graphics adapters. New builders or upgraders should always remember to check that their power supply unit not only has enough wattage to power their system, but has open connectors to plug in one or two video cards (when used in a CrossFire setup).
The heatsink is attached using eight screws; four on the outer edges and four more used in conjunction with a small backplate. On the bracket end, we found the standard layout for most modern cards; two DVI outputs with an S-VIDEO port nested in between. Finally, we took the two Gigabyte cards and laid them out next to each other. Although similar in overall appearance, the Radeon X1800XL version was just a hair longer than the 7800GT model.
Not much has changed in the way of included materials either. Cyberlink's Power Director 3 and PowerDVD 6 make up the entire list of included utilities, save for a set of display drivers and Direct X 9 runtime libraries. Gigabyte also throws in a couple of games, namely Xpand Rally, and the popular CounterStrike - Condition Zero from Valve Software. While the software selection was relatively weak overall, the included paraphernalia was not. There appears to a full assortment of cables including Composite and S-Video cables, an HDTV out cable, a DVI to VGA adapter, as well as a power-splitter.
One new addition that comes from ATi rather than Gigabyte was the latest release of Catalyst Drivers. While we prefer the simplicity that is NVIDIA's ForceWare drivers for their GeForce cards, there's simply no denying the coolness factor of actually getting to see immediate results when applying various settings in the CCC (Catalyst Control Center). In the past, users simply chose the graphics levels from the control panels, and basically took it on faith that their graphics were indeed being tweaked. With the preview mode in the Catalyst drivers though, the screen updates with the choices made, giving an exact representation of what type of pixel processing is being performed. This feature has been around for quite some time, but we feel it's worth mentioning again for those that may not be familiar with ATI's more recent drivers. The real-time preview could certainly help less savvy users learn about how each specific setting affects image quality.