ATI Radeon X800 XL Review

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 Edition (PCI Express)
Features & Specifications

ATi Radeon X800 XL
_400MHz engine
_.11 micron
_1.0GHz memory data rate
_256-bit memory interface
_256MB 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





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...

Tags:  ATI, Radeon, ATI Radeon, review, view, IE, X8

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