Today we bring you a review of Sapphire’s latest high-end PCI Express graphics card, the Sapphire Radeon X800XT PCIe. Does Sapphire’s latest card have what it takes to compete with the NVIDIA GeForce 6800GT? Come and take a closer look…
As you probably know, PCI Express is the computer industry’s latest I/O platform standard, replacing the aging AGP and PCI buses. It was first introduced with Intel’s 925X and 915G chipsets earlier this year, and has recently come to life through the NVIDIA nForce 4 and VIA K8T890 AMD Athlon 64 chipsets introduced just a few weeks ago. However, even though PCI Express boards have been widely available for around 4 months now, only recently (within the last month or so) have we seen high end PCI Express cards from ATI and NVIDIA partners hit store shelves.
One of ATI’s largest add-in board partners is of course Sapphire, a company we first saw come to market with retail graphics cards back when the R300 launched in 2002. Since then, the company has commanded a loyal enthusiast following with a line of graphics cards marketed toward the extreme enthusiast, as well as a line of more generic cards that have throughout the last few product cycles have been among the first to market among ATI partners. We’ve seen Sapphire come from having one of the worst bundles in the computer industry to one of the best, and from being a no-name brand to one of the industry’s most reputable and appreciated.
So today we bring you the first PCI Express R420 based retail graphics card we have seen come to market, Sapphire’s own Radeon X800 XT PCIe. One of the first things I have to mention is that we have not seen ATI come out with a PCI Express version of the Radeon X800 Pro GPU, a 12 pixel-pipeline part that was heralded at launch, but eventually fizzled when the NVIDIA GeForce 6800GT came to market with enhanced drivers and more performance at the same price point. Essentially ATI realized that a 12 pixel pipeline GPU (X800 Pro) can’t compete with a 16 pixel-pipeline GPU (6800GT), and therefore have made the X800 XT their card of choice for the PCI Express market.
When we talk about PCI Express, we have to once again touch on the chipsets currently available using the architecture, and the advantages of using NVIDIA and ATI parts with them. By that I’m referring to NVIDIA’s nForce 4 SLI setup (which we’ll be taking a closer look at in the next few weeks), a way to put two PCIe graphics cards in one computer, with each graphics card rendering a portion of the screen and yielding more performance by doing so. Since NVIDIA’s graphics cards are the only ones that will work in SLI, NVIDIA has scored many points with enthusiasts eager to dabble with SLI, allowing them to buy one graphics card now and then another one in the future to gain more performance out of their system. ATI cards can work in a similar fashion through Alienware’s Video Array technology, but Video Array will most likely never be sold in the retail market.
However, only time will tell if SLI will represent a major step in the graphics card industry, but it is important to note once again that ATI cards will not work with NVIDIA’s SLI setup. With that said, today we’ll be comparing the Sapphire Radeon X800 XT PCIe to the most widely available high end PCI Express graphics cards from NVIDIA, the GeForce 6800GT PCIe. So how does Sapphire’s latest card do? Come and take a closer look…
ATI Radeon X800 XT
PCI Express x16
Direct X 3D Hardware
Full Direct X 9 support
DVI / S-Video/ VGA
2048×1536 @ 85Hz
•Molex Power Splitter
•DVI to VGA Adapter
•HDTV Component Cable
•Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow
•Price of Persia
•Redline Tweak Utility (Overclocking Software)
As we’ve come to expect from Sapphire, their graphics card bundle is among the best in the industry, only recently being rivaled by the two biggest companies in the industry, ASUS and MSI. Included are all the cables and adapters needed to get the most out of your system and two award winning games that people will actually play when they buy this card. It’s hard to find anything wrong or missing with the Sapphire Radeon X800XT PCIe’s bundle, although it would be nice having a Half-Life 2 voucher from ATI included since the game might actually come out in the next few weeks.