Powercolor Radeon X800 GT Review

Author: Geordan Hankinson
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Saturday, October 22nd, 2005
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Hardware/s/atiradeonx800gt/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.

Introduction

ATI has had a very rough time with its midrange offerings. While Nvidia has been selling copious amounts of 6600 GT's at a very reasonable price, ATI has been pushing its extremely underpowered X700 Pro cards as a poor alternative. ATI would have been significantly more effective had they been able to release the X700 at the planned XT clock speeds a year ago, but poor yields made it impossible for ATI to deliver the card in quantity which resulted in a cancellation of the high spec card.

ATI has come back a year later and has had large quantities of the X800 GT available for nearly two months already. The new card comes in 128 MB and 256 MB variations unlike the 6600 GT which comes with only 128 MB of memory. What has caused most of the buzz surrounding this card is the fact that manufacturers producing the GT can opt for either a surplus R480 core or go for the 'new' R423 for slightly less money. What this means in simple terms is that (as in Powercolor's case) some GT cards come ready to be clocked to the moon. Definitely a nice value add in that.

These cores are the ones that get tossed in the throw away bin initially because they are unable of reaching XT or PE speeds. Not every core from a wafer is a capable of running at full spec, which results in extras that in this case, end up on high potential, inexpensive, mainstream boards.

With the X800 GT, value seems to be the goal. The MSRP for the cards is set at $200, but as with Nvidia's 6600 GT, the actual street price for these cards hovers significantly lower. The Powercolor card can be had for roughly $165 which seems to be the average street price for other cards as well. Considering it comes clocked 75 MHz over spec already, this card definitely presents a strong dollar/performance ratio.

Package Contents

Powercolor packages this board quite nicely. The box is very small and compact and uses a relatively minimal amount of carboard. The box is just big enough to hold the card, TV cables (S-Video and Composite), CD's, and the manual. Powercolor also packs in Pacific Fighters from Ubisoft which is definitely a nice addition for such a low priced performance card.

Physical Views

The board has a very similar PCB design to other ATI cards and the only noticeable omission externally is the lack of a Rage Theater chip. The card's cooler is actually the most suprising aspect of this board - the cooler is very large width wise. On our board, Powercolor slapped on (quite sloppily) a large green decal that bears the cards name as well as the same character featured on the box - some form of 'robo-angel-cyborg'. We're not so sure on that one.

Regardless of any weird decals though, the size of the cooler might deceive one into thinking that this board is of higher spec than it actually is. We'll see how the numbers come out.

Test Setup

A note on the the drivers:

As of today, Nvidia has released 81.85 drivers which we will be testing, but we didn't have time to run through the entire benchmark set again.

ATI are also preparing to release a new driver tweak which will supposedly bring a very healthy performance boost to OpenGL games. This has been a long time in coming, and we will surely be testing this when it arrives.

Our test system consisted of the following:

AMD 3700 (Sandiego core) @ 2.7GHz (9 x 300 HT Frequency)
OCZ PC 5000 and PC 4800 memory running at 2.5-4-4-8
DFI LanParty nF4 SLI-DR motherboard
Western Digital 120 GB Harddrives.

3D Mark 05

Overclocking

Seeing as this card was designed to be overclocked, it comes as no suprise that we were able to top out at 170 (!) MHz over the base spec. This is 100 MHz over the overclock that Powercolor ships the card with. This is extremely impressive and anyone who either owns or ends up owning this card should at least consider using its high performance potential.

We got the core on our card up from 400 MHz all the way to 570 MHz. The performance gains from such an overclock are definitely noticeable, and as you can see from our results, boost the X800 GT to very nice levels.

In 3DMark 05, the card when overclocked scored 94 frames in the Pixel Shader test. This still falls below the 6600 GT at stock speeds, but it's up almost 20 frames from the score the Radeon received at the speeds Powercolor shipped the card at.

In Doom 3, at 1024 x 768 with full filtering, the card received a boost of about 5 frames which seems paltry, but then again Doom 3 does not give good performance for Radeon cards.

Call of Duty 2 with filtering on at 1024 was bordering much closer to playable with the higher speeds, but there will have been a full months of optimisation between the demo and the retail game.

Conclusion

While originally thought to just be a stop gap measure before ATI rolled out its new midrange in the X1600 XT, as the benchmarks show, the X800 GT is able to hold its own quite well against its newer cousin. This is more in part to the disappointing performance of the X1600 XT, but this also means that in this price range, there isn't going to be a much faster replacement coming for at least 6 months or so.

Good news for prospective owners of this card.

The X800 GT in most cases beats Nvidias 6600 GT and with the extra performance that's available through its fantastic overclocking, the X800 GT is able to step out of range of the Nvidia card quite easily. The card presents highly playable framerates in most games and should satisfy the needs of most mainstream users.

Anyone in the market right now for a fast card that is able to handle the latest round of games quite well should definitely look towards the X800 GT.

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