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Sapphire Radeon X850 XT Platinum Edition
An attractively priced powerhouse?
Review It's been just over a month since we took a good look at ATI's Radeon X850 XT Platinum Edition reference board. To follow it up, we took a look at a retail version of the card. It's made by Sapphire, the company that actually manufactures ATI's reference boards and indeed boards for several other manufacturers too. It's no surprise, then, that the card looks identical to the reference design. As a dual-slot card, an external power connector is required but according to the spec sheet only a 300W power supply is needed. If you want to try overclocking, you'll need more than that but it's likely that any PC this monster card was placed into would have a meatier PSU anyway, writes Benny Har-Even.
The X850 XT PE, codenamed R480, is a 16-pixel pipeline and six-vertex pipeline VPU, backed up by 256MB of GDDR 3 memory. Unlike the recently released X800 XL, which has been shrunk to 110nm process, this part is still based on TSMC's 130nm technology. However, experience has enabled ATI and TSMC to optimise the process resulting in higher clock speeds. The core is running at a new high for ATI, 540MHz, while the memory is up to 590MHz or 1.18GHz effective. Making a welcome appearance on an ATI X8xx series board is dual DVI, no doubt to match Nvidia's 6800 Ultra cards. VIVO is also present and if you do pick up a full retail version of one of these Sapphire boards, you'll get a copy of the game Price of Persia: Sands of Time.
One point worth mentioning though is that at this stage the part is PCI Express only. It seems ATI doesn't have the bridge chip ready to move from native PCI Express to AGP, so those with AGP boards looking to upgrade their graphics card may find going the Nvidia route.
As the reference and retails cards are so similar you may wonder why we retested the card. Reference cards are the equivalent of the previews of taped up test cars you see caught by a long zoom lens in car magazines. They are often close to the final product but not necessarily exactly the same thing, and that applies to graphics cards too. There could be variations in the hardware spec and the driver software, and we will see this in action shortly.
Our test platform currently consists of an Intel Pentium 4 Extreme Edition running at 3.46GHz, with two 512MB sticks of Crucial Ballistix RAM running in an Intel 925XE chipset with a 1066MHz frontside bus.
Once we got going with the testing we soon noticed that while we were getting some seriously high numbers they were nevertheless falling short of what we achieved with the X850 XT PE reference card. For example, in 3DMark03 the reference board broke 13,000 but the Sapphire only reached 12,882. The pattern was repeated in 3DMark05.