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PowerColor Radeon X1800 XT 512MB (PCIe)
By Vincent Chang
Category : Graphics
Published by Vijay Anand on Saturday, 3rd December, 2005
Rating : 4 out of 5 stars  

The Radeon X1800 XT Goes Retail

The game of one-upmanship continues unabated between the two giants in the discrete graphics card business, ATI and NVIDIA. Despite their iron grip on the market, both companies have not faltered in their desire to achieve victory, however short-lived, in the race towards ever larger and more powerful graphics cards. This has created an intense competition - not unlike the one between Intel and AMD - and things can quickly get quite dirty with mudslinging from both parties. With its latest Radeon X1000 series, ATI has shifted tack and moved to a 90-nanometre manufacturing process ahead of NVIDIA. It is hoping that the revamped architecture and the higher clock speeds made possible by the die shrink will help to restore parity if not pole position compared to NVIDIA's GeForce 7 series.

The performance of the new Radeons seems to promise more than it delivers and the reception is muted so far due to its limited availability, with ATI staggering the introduction of the various cards. Also, NVIDIA is not content to wait quietly for its rivals; it has reacted to the emerging threats by modifying its existing product lines to make them more competitive. Hence, we have seen the new-old SKUs like the GeForce 6800 GS and the GeForce 6600 DDR2; both are enhanced incarnations of older cards and are very attractively positioned. This means that some of the new Radeons will likely face pressure from NVIDIA's offerings, even before they becomes available in retail. The only bright spot that remains is that ATI has retaken the bragging rights of top dog with its flagship Radeon X1800 XT 512MB graphics card.

Unfortunately, by the time we managed to get our hands on a review unit of an actual retail Radeon X1800 XT card, the latter is no longer true. NVIDIA has enhanced its GeForce 7800 GTX card with another 256MB of memory, bringing it on par with ATI's champion. From the benchmark numbers we have seen from this 512MB version of the GeForce 7800 GTX, the extra memory together with increased clock speeds means that NVIDIA has recaptured the performance crown. However, it is also prohibitively more expensive than ATI's Radeon X1800 XT 512MB, which probably blunts the blow somewhat. Meanwhile, the retail Radeon X1800 XT cards are only starting to appear in stores now and PowerColor has sent us its version for assessment:

The compact but thick box packaging used by PowerColor manages to contain one of the larger graphics cards now, along with a decent bundle of software and accessories. It is a welcome change from the usual oversized boxes.

PowerColor Radeon X1800 XT 512MB Technical Specifications
Graphics Engine
  • ATI Radeon X1800 GPU
  • 321 million transistors on 90nm fabrication process
  • Core Clock: 625MHz
  • 16 pixel shader processors
  • 8 vertex shader processors
  • Ring Bus Memory Controller
    • 512-bit internal ring bus for memory reads
    • Programmable intelligent arbitration logic
    • Fully associative texture, color, and Z/stencil cache designs
    • Hierarchical Z-buffer with Early Z test
    • Lossless Z Compression (up to 48:1)
    • Fast Z-Buffer Clear
    • Z/stencil cache optimized for real-time shadow rendering
    • Optimized for performance at high display resolutions, including widescreen HDTV resolutions
  • Ultra-Threaded Shader Engine
    • Support for Microsoft® DirectX® 9.0 Shader Model 3.0 programmable vertex and pixel shaders in hardware
    • Full speed 128-bit floating point processing for all shader operations
    • Up to 512 simultaneous pixel threads
    • Dedicated branch execution units for high performance dynamic branching and flow control
    • Dedicated texture address units for improved efficiency
    • 3Dc+ texture compression
      • High quality 4:1 compression for normal maps and two-channel data formats
      • High quality 2:1 compression for luminance maps and single-channel data formats
    • Multiple Render Target (MRT) support
    • Render to vertex buffer support
    • Complete feature set also supported in OpenGL® 2.0
  • Advanced Image Quality Features
    • 64-bit floating point HDR rendering supported throughout the pipeline
      • Includes support for blending and multi-sample anti-aliasing
    • 32-bit integer HDR (10:10:10:2) format supported throughout the pipeline
      • Includes support for blending and multi-sample anti-aliasing
    • 2x/4x/6x Anti-Aliasing modes
      • Multi-sample algorithm with gamma correction, programmable sparse sample patterns, and centroid sampling
      • New Adaptive Anti-Aliasing feature with Performance and Quality modes
      • Temporal Anti-Aliasing mode
      • Lossless Color Compression (up to 6:1) at all resolutions, including widescreen HDTV resolutions
    • 2x/4x/8x/16x Anisotropic Filtering modes
      • Up to 128-tap texture filtering
      • Adaptive algorithm with Performance and Quality options
    • High resolution texture support (up to 4k x 4k)
  • Flexible display support
    • Programmable piecewise linear gamma correction, color correction, and color space conversion (10 bits per color)
    • Complete, independent color controls and video overlays for each display
    • High quality pre- and post-scaling engines, with underscan support for all outputs
    • Content-adaptive de-flicker filtering for interlaced displays
    • Xilleon™ TV encoder for high quality analog output
    • YPrPb component output for direct drive of HDTV displays
    • Spatial/temporal dithering enables 10-bit color quality on 8-bit and 6-bit displays
    • Fast, glitch-free mode switching
    • VGA mode support on all outputs
    • Drive two displays simultaneously with independent resolutions and refresh rates
Graphics Memory
  • 256-bit 8-channel GDDR3/GDDR4 memory interface
  • 512MB DDR3 SDRAM
  • Memory Clock = 1500MHz (1.25ns)
  • Dual integrated dual-link DVI transmitters
    • DVI 1.0 compliant / HDMI interoperable and HDCP ready
  • Dual integrated 10 bit per channel 400 MHz DACs
I/O Faceplate Connectors
  • 2 x DVI-I connectors
  • 1 x mini-DIN connector
Drivers & Software
  • Driver support for Windows  98 / Me / 2000 / XP
  • Pacific Fighters
  • CyberLink DVD Solution
Other Information
  • CrossFire Editions Available
    • Four modes of operation:
      • Alternate Frame Rendering (maximum performance)
      • Supertiling (optimal load-balancing)
      • Scissor (compatibility)
      • Super AA 8x/10x/12x/14x (maximum image quality)
  • Dynamic Voltage Control
  • Native PCI Express x16 bus interface
  • 350 watts or greater PSU recommended

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