ATI Radeon X850 XT Platinum Edition Preview
From first glance, the ATI Radeon X850 XT Platinum Edition brings back the apparition of the GeForce 5800 Ultra, but luckily for consumers, the fan on the X850 XT Platinum Edition is barely louder than that of the R420 cards introduced earlier this year. The R480 is ATI’s first product family that needs a two slot cooling solution, a move that eventually had to be made in order to keep up with the ever changing graphics card market.
Here we can see the side-view of the ATI Radeon X850 XT Platinum Edition’s cooling solution. The two slot size of the card isn’t a big deal for most users, but it will alienate many SFF PC enthusiasts that for the most part can’t put two slotted cards in their systems.
When talking about the R480, it’s important to mention the ATI Radeon X850 Pro, a $ 399 part that will most likely be a hard sell among gamers due to its 12 pixel-pipeline architecture. The reason this card is coming to market deals with the yields associated with silicon production, which can be best explained when you think of the R480 GPU as one with four identical sectors, each with four pixel pipelines. When the R480 parts are fabricated, the GPU’s on the outer edges of the wafer are usually the ones with defects, those defects often being broken pixel pipelines. A few years ago the GPU’s errors like broken pixel pipelines would simply be discarded, but with the ATI’s GPU architecture the sector with the broken pipelines can be disabled, allowing ATI to yield more GPU’s per wafer.
Sometimes in fabrication every pixel pipelines remains intact, but the GPU can’t scale as high as expected. Instead of throwing these GPU’s away, ATI has found a way to market these less efficient GPU’s by introducing the Radeon X800 XL and the Radeon X800, R430 parts built the same 110 nanometer process we ATI has used with their X300 and X700 chips. Once again ATI is playing conservative with their flagship model fabrication process, a conservative strategy that has played in their favor since the R300. But in the end, we just hope that ATI’s choices in manufacturing will allow more R430 and R480 parts to be available in the channel.
When we look at the ATI Radeon X850 XT Platinum Edition from the back end, we can the see the card’s yellow front panel video connector and the black 6 pin PCI Express power connector used on every high end PCI Express graphics card. Unfortunately, the need for external power sources on video cards is likely to only increase as we move forward in the coming months, making the market for high end power supplies by companies like OCZ and Antec even greater.
Also important to mention is that unlike the GeForce 6800GT, which can run games without having an external power source, the ATI Radeon X850 XT Platinum Edition will not run without external power, stopping your computer’s boot process if the 6 pin PCI Express power connector is not plugged in.
When we turn the card onto its front, the ATI Radeon X850 XT Platinum Edition’s Rage Theater chip, which provides the VIVO functionality of the card.
And here we can get a closer look at the front of the ATI Radeon X850 XT Platinum Edition, the first flagship ATI card that comes standard with a Dual-DVI output.
Finally we have a picture of the Radeon X800 XT and the Radeon X850 XT Platinum Edition side by side, so you can get a good idea as to how big the card actually is.