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18 октября 2005, 15:02

New high-end lineup from ATI Radeon X1800

The review of the first samples of ATI Radeon X1800 series

Introduction

In spite of the fact, that the main amount of high-efficiency solutions in the market belongs to videocards, is about 1-2 percent, the main profit manufacturers of graphic processors and boards get just in this segment. Due to a big margin even rather low sales bring them quite a good dividends. Moreover, you should not neglect of the marketing top-solutions: they play image role and are some kind of "locomotive power" of all rest boards, forming that prism through which the potential buyer will look at the rest of products of the company.

The 2004 year has shown us that with high-end graphics cards also not everything could go on fluently: even if they go far ahead from the predecessors and there is a splendid rush, alas, you may not find them in a free sale. Both, ATI and NVIDIA - world leaders in the design and manufacture of innovative 3D graphics and digital media silicon solutions, had the one and the same problem - availability of their top-solutions, up to the end of a year, although, in 2005 NVIDIA has entirely changed its strategy. Videocard GeForce 7800 GTX launched on 22 of June was in a free sale just after the announcement and on 30th of June the first samples of serial retail boards from NVIDIA have been send to Russia already.

Can ATI Technologies take a good revenge? The ATI's reply to NVIDIA was scheduled: the dates of the introduction were not determined and the specification of products was also varied. In September there was a rumour about the newest solutions from ATI planned on the 5th for October, but no details were explained. The new RADEON X1800-series visual processing units (VPUs) feature a lot of promising technologies and manage to demonstrate enough potential in synthetic tests. The time has come to reveal a performance of ATI RADEON X1800 XT and ATI RADEON X1800 XL graphics products in real-world games and benchmark applications in an attempt to find out whether the GeForce 7800-series is endangered by the new family of cards from ATI.

ATI Radeon X1800XT

  • In sale after 5 of November 2005 
  • 99nm process technology at TSMC
  • Core clock 625MHz
  • Sixteen pixel shader processors 
  • 16 Pixel Pipelines
  • 256-bit GDDR3 memory interface 1.26 нс, 512 MB
  • Memory 750 MHz (effective – 1.5 HHz)
  • Native PCI Express x16 bus interface
  • 8 channel
  • Pixel Shaders & Vertex Shaders 3.0 and API Microsoft DirectX 9.0c
  • Capable of applying FSAA on images rendered in FP16 high dynamic range (HDR) mode
  • 2x/4x/6x Anti-Aliasing modes, NSSAA, max.- 6х (14х in CrossFire)
  • CrossFire Technology is not available yet 

ATI Radeon X1800XL

  • In sale after 5 of October 2005 
  • Using of 99nm process technology at TSMC
  • Core clock 500MHz
  • Sixteen pixel shader processors 
  • 16 Pixel Pipelines 
  • 256-bit GDDR3 memory interface 1.4 ns, 256 MB
  • Memory 500 MHz (effective – 1.0 HHz)
  • Native PCI Express x16 bus interface 
  • 8 channel
  • Pixel Shaders & Vertex Shaders 3.0 and API Microsoft DirectX 9.0c
  • 2x/4x/8x/16x Anisotropic Filtering modes 
  • 2x/4x/6x Anti-Aliasing modes, NSSAA, max. - 6x (14x in CrossFire)
  • CrossFire Technology is not available yet 

ATI Radeon X1600XT

  • In sale after 30 of November 2005
  • Using of 99nm process technology at TSMC
  • The chip is complex - clocked at up to 590MHz 
  • 12 - pixel shader processors
  • 4(!!!) Pixel Pipelines
  • 128--bit GDDR3 memory interface 1.26 ns, 128 MB
  • Memory 690 MHz (effective – 1.38 HHz)
  • PCI Express x4 bus interface
  • 6 channel
  • Pixel Shaders & Vertex Shaders 3.0 и API Microsoft DirectX 9.0 c
  • 2x/4x/8x/16x Anisotropic Filtering modes 
  • 2x/4x/6x Anti-Aliasing modes, NSSAA, max.- 6х (14х in CrossFire)
  • CrossFire Technology is not available yet 

ATI Radeon X1300 PRO

  • In sale after 5 of October 2005
  • Using of 99nm process technology at TSMC
  • Core clock 590 MHz
  • 4 - pixel shader processors 
  • 4 Pixel Pipelines
  • 128-bit GDDR2 memory interface 2.5 ns, 256 MB
  • Memory 400 MHz (effective – 800 MHz)
  • PCI Express x4 bus interface
  • 4 channel
  • Pixel Shaders & Vertex Shaders 3.0 и API Microsoft DirectX 9.0c
  • 2x/4x/8x/16x Anisotropic Filtering modes 
  • 2x/4x/6x Anti-Aliasing modes, NSSAA, max.- 6х (14х in CrossFire) 
  • Technology CrossFire - possible work of two motherboards, simultaneously
ProductATI Radeon X1800XTATI Radeon X1800XLNVIDIA GeForce 7800GTXNVIDIA GeForce 7800GT
GPU R520 (90nm)R520 (90nm)G70 (110nm)G70 (110nm)
GPU Clock Speed625 MHz500 MHz430(470) MHz400 (440) MHz
Memory750 (1500 DDR)500 (1000) DDR600 (1200) DDR500 (1000 DDR)
Memory Type512 MB GDDR3256 MB GDDR3256 MB GDDR3256 MB GDDR3
Memory Interface256-bit256-bit256-bit256-bit
InterfacePCI-E LongPCI-E LongPCI-E LongPCI-E Long
RAMDAC2x4002x4002x4002x400
Pixel Pipelines16(!)16(!)2420
Vertex Units8887
DirectX9.09.09.09.0
OpenGL 1.51.51.51.5
Power supplyRecommendedRecommendedRecommendedRecommended
Ports2 xDVI2xDVI2xDVI2xDVI
TV-Out++++
TV-In++++
Recommended price$549449$in Russiain Russia
In sale 05.11.0505.10.05++

Except of characteristics listed above the new family of cards supports the whole complex of video images, the developer added some interesting video functionality called Avivo - brings hardware-accelerated H.264 decoding, a codec used on next-gen DVD discs, as well as improved video quality, as a response to PureVideo from NVIDIA. Added realism in images and environments further pulls users into the game, enabling much more immersive game play 

Admirers of ATI products have received the advanced architecture with complete support of pixel and vertex shaders 3.0. Among of all improvements there is a ring controller of the memory (Ring-Type). To further boost performance in applications that use full-scene antialiasing and/or require extreme memory bandwidth, ATI has incorporated the so-called Ring Bus memory controller into the RADEON X1800-series chips. Advanced support of DFC - ATI in 320 million transistors for X1800 series - in 2 times more, than at the same 16 pixel conveyors on X800/X850. On the one hand such approach presumes to do in the future more technological graphics on the basis of this architecture, with another - use of these innovations in practice will be possible even not in nearest future, especially, due to the fact, that in the market alternative 3.0 architecture exists more than a year. But, any new solutions from ATI designed with a radically new ultra-threaded 3D architecture and Shader Model 3.0, unleashing the most mind-blowing gaming effects. 

We want to note a new method of anisotropic filtration in ATI-cards which allows to receive the image with the minimal influence of a corner on quality of an anisotropic filtration. We can say that such function is a good plus! Such technics can really show itself only on big inclined planes: the quantity of ranges has grown up so, you can hard observe it, but as for old games such function will be super. In any case, expansion of demanded functionality anyhow is always welcomed.

Anti-Aliasing in new ATI products has an alternative - NVIDIA Transparency AA, aimed to make smoothing inside of transparent structures. Advantage of ATI in this case is a support of correction, however, the picture on transparent structures ATI AA4 x + Adaptive subjectively looks less clear in comparison with NVIDIA AA4 x + TAA SuperSampling.

As a whole, innovations in the functions which an advanced users take as a heavy modes, lifted up on a new level a quality of solutions of the previous generation (X700/X800). As to direct comparison to NVIDIA technologies applied in GeForce7 series, so it would be correct to give the end user a right to define what exactly necessary. To denote what, for the concrete person, does he wish to receive, neither I, nor somebody, shouldn't - our task is to give only an overview of different technologies.

In the next reviews devoted to new ATI cards we shall sum up screenshots in order to show presence or absence of visible advantages using different methods.

Today we will compare the new high-end lineup from ATI Radeon X1800 with already existing one from NVIDIA, and in next reviews we shall look, how new ATI architecture will show itself in current solutions and also in preparing potential hits of the game industry - F.E.A.R. And Serious Sam 2.

Description. Part I: Radeon X1800XT

ATI commissioned to show off the new graphics hardware. Let's have a look at ATI Radeon X1800XT. Such design will have these cards in a sale. Due to the experience with previous top solutions, manufacturers of cards now can bring only some innovations in cooling system or package. However, unification of high level cards - is an objective reality to date.

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Radeon X1800XT

At first glance on this top card from ATI were noticed the dual-slot cooling system and a length of a board, so having these we cannot apply a word "modest" to this board. On the other hand, with an extra length of a board ATI engineers have not gone out of the limits of competing solution, that means, that its dimensions will not prevent to installation and normal functioning in spacious cases.

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X1800XT Front

You will not place such card, costing 6 bank notes with Franklin's face, in acheap and compact case, isn't it?

With the board's height also situation is not so simple:

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Slots

Of course, the using of dual-slot heatsink and fan style of a board allows to improve emission of warm air outside a case. But, is it so necessary and important? I think, yes - a stable work, which can also be on one slot boards for top motherboards, is very important for the user and it is the main aspect, I can say, however, R520 chip demands a powerful cooling system.This fact this was not a surprise for us, cause we have a GPU Clock Speed 625 MHz consisting of 320 million of transistors and memory 512 MB.

R1800XT радиатор2

Heatsink

The aluminium heatsink of cooling system, which allows the sink to remove most of the heat in the right way for the fan to push out.

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The fins on the sink are thin and accurate, which makes the copper mass more efficient, the fins physically part of the copper base, not joined artificially in any way, thats all increases an efficiency and jack up the final price of a cooler too. It's worth pointing out that it is not a user's problem - a product has a quite concrete price.

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Memory is actively cooled by the heatsink via thermal pads and as for a graphic processor it has a very close contact with a cooper heatsink and here for the best dispersion of heat on all surface of a heatsink is used a technology of thermal pipelines.

The fan, used in cooling system, is roughly the same as on a reference Radeon X850 series - the same rather unpleasant noise at start, at the full fan speed the cooler is loud and bothersome, during work when the turns decrease the noise becomes tolerant.

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An external power feed via the now-standard 6-pin port - quite enough of stable submission of energy.

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Front

The videocard's design is rather uncharacteristic for ATI boards, clear to see that elements of memory and ATI Rage Theater chip are the same as top boards NVIDIA NV4x and G7x have. 

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Rear

The rear view to videocard: design is analogue to which NVIDIA offer us, but with some important differences - on the RSV side there are no landing places for memory. Perhaps, ATI has decided to use raised capacity for the XT-version of high-end series.

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The size of a graphic processor's crystal, in comparison with R423/480, impressed us, using 90 nm process technology - that it is not a surprise, and due doubled quantity of transistors also. However, if the reader open any review about any board on the basis of GPU NVIDIA G70 it will be clear that the crystal offered by NVIDIA is a little bit bigger in size.

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We looked close, given chip was made on 37 week 2005 - the middle of September, so chip was ready not long before the launch. The chip is complex enough, thinner manufacturing technology allowed it to be clocked at up to 625MHz, an unbelievable clock-speed before. By using it ATI have decided to make a most powerful and successful competitor to 7800GTX, two times more number of pixel blocks.

Those new chips for XT-version, have started to produce recently, so enough of these cards will be available only at the beginning of November.

As for memory here we have unprecedented characteristics: 512 MB GDDR3 with access at 1.26 ns (K4 J52324 QC BJ12) and 750 MHz! We shall check up an efficiency in practice a llittle bit later. Let's have a look to ATI Rage Theater chip. A unit ATI are calling the "Ultra Threaded Dispatch Processor" which is one of the important architectural changes introduced in R520. The developer also added some interesting video functionality called Avivo. Particularly, Avivo brings hardware-accelerated H.264 decoding, a codec used on next-gen DVD discs, as well as improved video quality.

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So, let's start a description of X1800 with modest characteristics and with a reasonable price.

Description. Part II: Radeon X1800XL

Younger model Radeon X1800XL from ATI X1800-series. We suppose that in the future even less productive solutions can appear from this lineup - rejection from X1800XL/XT come with high-grade chips R520 only.

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Radeon X1800XL

As a matter of fact, given sample of X1800XL differs from top card: the РСВ design is absolutely same, except for a fixing framework form and cooling system (one slot here):

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Slots

With a temperature mode of the younger version everything is ok, but with a noise situation is not the same, sadly. The board is hot and it is noisy. At the full fan speed you experience at first boot, the cooler is loud and bothersome. Shortly after it reverts to temperature controlled mode. The steppings from slowest speed upwards towards full speed aren't analogue, the stepped pitch changes of what appears to be a digital control making the transition to higher or lower speeds noticeable.

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Front

Although, Hightech Information Systems also can use a cooler of VGA Silencer series, which will allow to choosy user (there are a lot of them among of those who prefer to buy such cards) and make a silent variant X1800XL.

X1800XL доп питание

Design of X1800XL is analogue to X1800XT - an external power feed via the now-standard 6-pin port.

X1800XL чип видео

On a board, the same as on Radeon X1800XT, there is an ATI Rage Theater responsible for Avivo.

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Front

Similarity in design of Radeon X1800XT and X1800XL allows to make process of manufactureing boards easier and to jack up the price of younger model. Just for this purpose NVIDIA made РСВ for 7800GT with a reasonable price. Price question is interesting, but we shall return to it a little bit later, when we shall review graphic processor and memory. Let's continue...

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Rear

As we managed to notice it is absolutely identical to the top ATI lineup. That's remarkable! So, let's take a closer look to GPU and memory:

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It is hard to distinguish crystal R520 from the analogue (in X1800XT), but a date of issue tells us that the chip for X1800 XL was ready by the beginning of August while a heart of X1800XT has appearednot not so recently. Perhaps, something didn't go due to plan and up to the August they could not produce a product capable to become a high-grade competitor to NVIDIA GeForce 7800GTX.

ATI has focused on delivering the strongest, most feature rich product on the market, which will ultimately give end users unmatched gaming performance.

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We reviewed graphic processor quiet enough, except for 500 MHz (at XT, we shall remind, 625, that on 25 % is more), so it's time to take a closer look to memory.

At this time characteristics are rather modest, than at X1800XT - memory 256 MB GDDR3, 500 (1000) MHz against 750 (1500) at XT. However, marks of memory (K4 J55323 QG-BC14) tell us - 1.4 ns that corresponds to 700 (1400) MHz.

ATI decided to use such expensive and fast memory, what for? Why not to use a cheap one? 

Some rumours gave an information about characteristics of chipset R520 which have appeared long before the launch. At that time it was about installation of memory 1.4 ns, 700 MHz on top version ... And now we received a card with a chip of early version and exactly the same design as top one has, the same 1.4 ns, but only with the lowered clockspeeds.

You do not need to be a Nostradamus to assume that the first XL is a rejection of top chipset R520, which for some reasons has not been mass-produced. It is clear, that amount of such cards can be reduced very quickly, and then, in this situation, ATI can simply adjust some new features in design of X1800XL for installation of cheaper memory in old forms-factors (for example, 2.0 nanoseconds GDDR3 BGA) and thereby cut a price for board and avoid any changes of characteristics Radeon X1800XL.

Lastly, we have got acquainted with the main characteristics of high-end graphics cards from ATI Technologies. Any way, how this new family of cards from ATI will show up itself in real life - in real-world games and benchmark applications and will those graphics products demonstrate us enough potential in synthetic tests, all these we promise to overview a little bit later.

Remain with us.

Автор: Mikhail P.