ATI Radeon X800XL 512MB & Catalyst 5.6 Driver Update

Introductions, Specifications & The Card

Over the past few months, the ATI Radeon X800XL has built up a reputation for being one of the best buys in high-end PC graphics. A single-slot card, that's got relatively low power requirements, street prices hovering around $275 (give or take a few bucks) and performance that rivals flagship cards from both ATI and NVIDIA, is sure to please a large audience of potential buyers. Yet ATI still had another trick up their collective sleeves. Their line-up of Radeon X800XL cards got a new addition last month, in the form of a 512MB version of the card. The Radeon X800XL 512MB card has essentially the exact same specifications as the standard 256MB X800XL, but with double the amount of on-board memory.  So we recently got our hands on a sample and took it for a spin with the Catalyst v5.5 drivers, when ATI filled us in on yet another new development.

The software engineers at ATI have been hard at work streamlining their Catalyst drivers and Catalyst Control Center software to add a few new features, and to increase performance on a couple of different levels. Some of the tweaks and new features will be available in the Catalyst v5.6 driver release, which should be available on ATI's website shortly.  Reportedly, Catalyst v5.7 and v5.8 drivers that are also in the works will bring with them yet more features and increased performance in certain situations. To see what kind of benefits the Catalyst v5.6 drivers bring to the table, we've also included benchmark scores from the 512MB Radeon X800XL using these new drivers in this review.  Read on, to see what we discovered with both new hardware and software at our disposal from ATI.

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
_512MB 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




A quick visual inspection reveals that the 512MB version of the Radeon X800XL differs from the 256MB card in a number of different ways.  Yes, they both share the same base feature set and have their cores and memory clocked at the same speeds, but the 512MB card has a couple of other features that set it apart from is 256MB cousin. The first thing to note is that the 512MB Radeon X800XL is equipped with dual-DVI connectors.  Most 256MB cards have only a single DVI output and a single DB15 output. Another major difference is obviously the amount of on-board RAM. To pack this card with 512MB of RAM, ATI stuck 16 Samsung 32MB GDDR3 RAM chips on the PCB - 8 chips on each side. Instead of using the same PCB as the 256MB version, which has positions for 8 RAM chips, and using higher-density memory, ATI chose to double the number of chips on the board. Having to power all of the additional RAM also required ATI to make another change to the card. If you look at the pictures above, you'll notice the 512MB Radeon X800XL requires supplemental power, whereas the 256MB card does not.

Related content