Introduction, Specifications & The Card
Back on December 1, 2004 ATI officially announced their latest flagship GPU, the Radeon X850 XT Platinum Edition. The GPU powering the Radeon X850, previously code named R480, is an evolutionary product designed to improve yields and hit higher clock speeds than the older R423 GPU used on PCI Express variants of the Radeon X800. With some tweaks to their original design and a little maturity in their manufacturing process, ATI was able to release a "new" GPU that's faster than the previous generation, that should be easier to produce in quantity. Bringing out faster GPUs isn't the only by-product of maturity though. With time, most companies are also able to bring high-performing, more feature rich products to market at more affordable price points than the previous generation. And that's exactly the type of product we'll be looking at in this showcase of the ATI Radeon X800 XL.
When ATI unveiled the X850 a few weeks ago, they also announced a few additions to the X800 product line, namely the Radeon X800 XL and Radeon X800. These two new products are also based on a revised version of the R423 core, dubbed R430. However, unlike the R480, the R430 is was designed with "affordable performance" in mind. The R430 is built using TSMC's .11 micron manufacturing process, which makes the R430 die roughly 15% smaller than R423. Another benefit of smaller die geometries with an existing GPU design is usually lower power consumption. And ATI's target clock speed for the 16-pipe X800 XL is "only" 400MHz, about 120-140MHz lower than R480. All of these things point to a high-performing video card, that should be practical for ATi to produce, and affordable for gamers to purchase.
ATi Radeon X800 XL
Six Vertex Engines
3Dc 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)
•_Sparse sample pattern AA with gamma correction
•_Temporal AA (up to 12X effective)
•_16X Anisotropic filtering with adaptive heuristics
•_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
•_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
•_Noise removal filtering
The ATI Radeon X800 XL is actually built upon the same PCB used with ATI's flagship X850 XT, minus a few components that are not necessary with this card. The feature set is also basically the same as the X850's, so for a more comprehensive look into the actual architecture, the drivers, and image quality, we suggest checking out our article here.
Due to the fact that the X800 XL GPU is manufactured on TSMC's .11 micron line and it doesn't run at incredibly high clock speeds, it doesn't need an excessive amount of power. ATI was able to remove the supplemental 6-Pin PCI Express power connector on the Radeon X800 XL, as the 75 Watts delivered by a standard PCI Express X16 slot is sufficient. Another advantage of using a more smaller manufacturing process to produce the X800 XL is that the GPU doesn't generate excessive amounts of heat at its target clock speed. As such, ATI is able to once again use a single slot cooler on the Radeon X800 XL. The slim-line, copper heatsink / fan combo won't encroach on adjacent slots, and it is very quiet during normal operation.
On the back side of our X800 XL, there is a spot available for ATi's Rage Theater chip, although one wasn't installed on this particular board. Also on the back of the card four of the 8 on-board memory chips can be found. The Radeon X800 XL is equipped with 256MB of Samsung GDDR3 memory, clocked at 500MHz (1.0GHz DDR). The chips are branded with the model number "K4J55323QF-GC20". Locating the reference to these particular chips on Samsung's website revealed that they are actually rated for 500MHz (1.0GHz DDR) operation, which means there may not be much headroom left when overclocking. More on that a little later...