A Look at MSI's RX1800XT-VT2D512E
The MSI RX1800XT-VT2D512E strictly adheres to ATI's reference design, so MSI's and ATI's cards look virtually identical. Other than a few cosmetic touches, when laid side-by-side it'd be nearly impossible to tell the MSI RX1800XT-VT2D512E apart from a 'Built-by-ATI' Radeon X1800 XT card. The decals affixed to the shroud on the card's heatsink are the only indicators that differentiate the two products.
As we've just mentioned, the card pictured here is based on ATI's 512MB Radeon X1800 XT reference design. At its heart is a GPU comprised of approximately 321 million transistors that is built using TSMC's .09 micron manufacturing process. The Radeon X1800 XT is equipped with 16-pixel shader processors, 8-vertex shader processors, and a 256-bit 8-channel GDDR3/GDDR4 memory interface. It has a pair of dual-link DVI outputs that can power two independent displays simultaneously, with VIVO connector in between. The card's core is clocked at 625MHz and its 512MB of GDDR3 memory is running at 1.5GHz. To sustain these high clock speeds, the card sports a dual-slot cooler that is very similar to the one found on the older Radeon X850 XT.
The cooler on the MSI RX1800XT-VT2D512E is designed to draw air in, over the copper-finned heatsink that's mounted atop the GPU and memory, and expel it from the case. We should note that the fan used in the cooler is throttled according to the GPU's temperature and can get somewhat loud. When it's initially powered up, the card's fan spins at its maximum speed, at which point it is quite noisy. It was easily the loudest part in our test system by far when the fan was spinning at its maximum speed. However, after a few seconds the fan spins down and is barely audible. With our test system at idle, we could barely hear the fan on the MSI RX1800XT-VT2D512E. We'd also like to note that through hours of gaming and benchmarking, and through an extended overclocking session, the fan never had to spin up to its maximum speed again, and it remained relatively silent. The potential is there for some noise if GPU and system temperatures get too high, but in a well-ventilated case, we doubt the fan on the MSI RX1800XT-VT2D512E will need to spin up considerably. The advantage of a design such as this is that much of the heat generated by the GPU is expelled from the system, which should help to keep case temperatures in check. However, the main disadvantage is that a dual-slot cooling solution blocks the use of a slot, and it may not fit in most small form factor systems.
For the most part, the MSI card's PCB is identical to ATI's, except for an additional component in the VRM. If you take a look at this picture of an ATI built Radeon X1800XT, you'll see there are five Pulse branded inductors in the VRM. On the MSI RX1800XT-VT2D512E, though, there are six. This means that there is a smaller load placed on each of these inductors during normal operation, which in turn results in less heat output, and potentially a longer life. This change to the X1800XT's VRM seems to have taken place sometime between the initial X1K family launch and the introduction of the X1900, as ATI's X1800 CrossFire Master Card and newer X1800s also have six inductors.