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Sapphire Atlantis RADEON X800 XT,
Sapphire Atlantis RADEON 9550 128bit
Sapphire Atlantis RADEON 9250 128bit
Sapphire Atlantis RADEON 9250 64bit

September 3, 2004










Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Video cards' features
  3. Testbed configurations, benchmarks
  4. Test results: assembled performance diagrams
  5. Conclusions



Today you will get acquainted with the contrast. To be more exact, you will feel it: from the positive High-End to the deep Low-End. Why does this article review X800 XT for 600 USD (the prices are real for those rare occasions when the cards appear on the shelves) and RADEON 9250 for 60 USD?

It's very simple: the former reached Russia very late and that's why Sapphire offers it for sale only now. The latter is a separate story.

Our material features X800 XT and for those who haven't already read our articles devoted to this chipset and video cards based on it we traditionally offer a list of corresponding reviews:

Theoretical materials and reviews of video cards, which concern functional properties of the GPU ATI RADEON X800 (R420) and NVIDIA GeForce 6800 (NV40)

So, everything is clear with X800 XT, we all know that they are manufactured on a single plant and they color the PCBs only at ATI partners' requests. That's why there is actually no difference between X800 XT cards from various manufacturers.

Now about the thorny subject. You will soon learn why it is thorny. In 2001-2002 we have already faced that fact that ATI can masterfully manipulate the names of chips and consequently video cards. They have manufactured a lot of RADEON 8500, then they cut down the number of texture processors to produce slower RADEON 9000. But you can see that the chip number is higher than 8500. Marasmus? - Out of doubt! A lot of people were indignant at this issue, but the canadian marketing guys kept silence. When it turned out that they are stuffed with unsold RADEON 8500, which they cannot sell because of the growing demand for RADEON 9000, they decided to rename RADEON 8500 into RADEON 9100.

And what do we see? An attempt to sell the same product for the second time. Just under a different name. Dirty? - I agree with that. But the canadians seem to be doomed to constantly pose problems to themselves. But that was not enough, and having only added AGP8x to RADEON 9000, they called the new product RADEON 9200. Upgrade from AGP4x to 8x gave it nothing in terms of speed, and so RADEON 9200 turned out weaker again than RADEON 9100.

To crown it all, Sapphire is constantly launching products based on the mentioned chips without disclosing information on their buses and frequencies and often discredits video cards by their frequencies. This company was the first to launch RADEON 8500 with memory frequencies of 250/200 (400) instead of 250 (500) MHz. Etc.

Years are passing by but the memory frequencies are "stuck" at 200 (400) MHz. The same RADEON 9000 with different modifications is still being "munched" by sales and marketing people connected with ATI. It's time to end this pandemonium – DX9 was launched already two years ago. But they thought of nothing wittier than to sell the same RADEON 9000 for the third time, but already with AGP8x and slightly modified frequencies.

Fancy that, RADEON 9200 at 250/200 (400) MHz. They just reduce the core frequency by 10 MHz (to get 240 MHz) and call this video card RADEON 9250. I have never met stronger dotage and idiocy! To reduce the frequency and to give the product a higher index. I think it's an acme of cynicism.

Yes, ATI employees would harp on the chip redesign resulting in the price drop to make the new prices on R9250 lower than those on R9200. But I beg your pardon, at the time when NVIDIA is striving to introduce DX9 even to Low-End (and there already exists a solution from Intel – integrated video with DX9 support) and when ATI was on the point of cutting down prices on their DX9 products (e.g. RADEON 9550), they again trip up the advance of this API. ATI employees from the department of relations with game developers urge them to switch to DX9, the other departments of the canadian company "slap them in the face".

How long? We already have RADEON 9200SE! It's cheap and cut down to minimum! Why produce the same cards under a new name?! Moreover, I tell you I will not present RADEON 9250 with a 64bit bus in our tests! Just think about it: will the performance of video cards at 200/166 (333) and 240/200 (400) MHz differ much, if the bus in both cards is cut down to 64bit? My test results demonstrated 5% maximum. That is within the precision of measurements! Chip frequencies at 200 or 240 MHz are of no importance with this bus! All ATI tales about a new video card at higher frequencies offered for the price of RADEON 9200SE are not worth a brass farthing. Besides such video cards are for office or cheap home computers, which are not used for 3D games.

Why need they sell the same product several times? Why not gradually lower DX9 video cards? I have not got a comprehensive answer, just a lengthy essay about the market.

Thus, I have to establish the fact that RADEON 9250 is an insult to users, because it's just a common RADEON 9200 with reduced frequencies. Nothing more! Yes, there is one difference: RADEON 9200SE and 9200 differ not only by the memory bus crippleness but also by frequencies (the former has reduced frequencies). 64bit and 128bit RADEON 9250 have the same bus frequencies. By the way, note that there is no such card as R9250SE. That is it's again up to the users to make out 9250 buses, and thus users can be cheated with OEM cards (such cards will constitute 95%).

Yes, NVIDIA is no better having launched GeForce MX4000, which does not differ much from MX440. Thus we can see the inhibition of DX9 introduction to the Low-End sector. At least this sector has FX 5200 and 5600XT, which are going down in price and at the very least support DX9.

So, ATI strategy remains unpredictable and contradictory. It's their own business, though. The market always lets down those who try to make money on cheating. Our task is to enlighten users so that they don't make a wrong choice.

You might have paid attention that it was ATI (not Sapphire), which we have given hell to. Yes, ATI partners are in most cases just slaves who must obey commands from the above. And thus, having decided to cancel the 9200 deliveries and to switch to 9250, ATI actually forces its partners to follow its lead. And of course manufacturers can also profit from the change of product names.

We shall later review a RADEON 9800 Platinum Edition, which bus is cut down to 128bit (from PowerColor), where you will learn that ATI does not allow to use any other names but RADEON 9800. All my attempts to point out to ATI that their RADEON 9800 specifications on the official site clearly state 256bit, and thus they cannot sell 128bit card under the same name are left unanswered. But all these facts will be covered in the coming reviews.

Let's return to our cards.

Video Cards



Sapphire Atlantis RADEON X800 XT



Sapphire Atlantis RADEON 9550 128bit



Sapphire Atlantis RADEON 9250 128bit



Sapphire Atlantis RADEON 9250 64bit





Sapphire Atlantis RADEON X800 XT
The card has the same AGP x8/X4 interface, 256 MB GDDR3 SDRAM allocated in 8 chips on the front and the back sides of the PCB.

Samsung (GDDR3) memory chips. 1.6ns memory access time, which corresponds to 625 (1250) MHz. Memory operates at 560 (1120) MHz. GPU frequency — 520 MHz. 256bit memory bus. Pixel pipelines x shader pipelines - 16x1.




Sapphire Atlantis RADEON 9550 128bit
The card has the AGP x8/x4 interface, 128 MB DDR SDRAM allocated in 8 chips on the front and the back sides of the PCB.

Samsung memory chips. 5ns memory access time, which corresponds to 200 (400) MHz, at which the memory operates. GPU frequency — 250 MHz. 128bit memory bus. Pixel pipelines x shader pipelines - 4x1.




Sapphire Atlantis RADEON 9250 128bit
The card has the AGP x8/x4 interface, 128 MB DDR SDRAM allocated in 8 chips on the front and the back sides of the PCB.

Samsung memory chips. 5ns memory access time, which corresponds to 200 (400) MHz, at which the memory operates. GPU frequency — 240 MHz. 128bit memory bus. Pixel pipelines x shader pipelines - 4x1.




Sapphire Atlantis RADEON 9250 64bit
The card has the AGP x8/x4 interface, 128 MB DDR SDRAM allocated in 4 chips on the front and the back sides of the PCB.

Mezza memory chips. 5ns memory access time, which corresponds to 200 (400) MHz, at which the memory operates. GPU frequency — 240 MHz. 64bit memory bus. Pixel pipelines x shader pipelines - 4x1.






Comparison with the reference design, front view
Sapphire Atlantis RADEON X800 XT
Reference card ATI RADEON X800






Sapphire Atlantis RADEON 9550 128bit
Reference card ATI RADEON 9600






Sapphire Atlantis RADEON 9250 128bit
Reference card ATI RADEON 9200






Sapphire Atlantis RADEON 9250 64bit
Reference card ATI RADEON 9200SE








Comparison with the reference design, back view
Sapphire Atlantis RADEON X800 XT
Reference card ATI RADEON X800






Sapphire Atlantis RADEON 9550 128bit
Reference card ATI RADEON 9600






Sapphire Atlantis RADEON 9250 128bit
Reference card ATI RADEON 9200






Sapphire Atlantis RADEON 9250 64bit
Reference card ATI RADEON 9200SE








I suppose there is no need in comments. You know well all the reference designs, they have nothing new.

There is also no need in examining cooling systems, because X800 XT contains a reference cooling system from ATI (we have already examined such coolers several times) and 9250 features simple heatsinks.

The only curious element is the R9550 cooler illumination.






And finally I can note that Sapphire Atlantis RADEON X800 XT is equipped with the video capture function (VideoIn):




Let's see what's inside the packages.

Sapphire Atlantis RADEON X800 XT
The bundle contains: user's guide, CD with drivers, CD with RenLine (proprietary video card configuration utility), 3 CDs with games (Prince of Persia, SCPT (the latter is on DVD!), PowerDVD5, PowerDirector VE (for VIVO), TV extension cords, DVI-to-d-Sub and HDTV adapters, VIVO cable, external power cable, company sticker.


Sapphire Atlantis RADEON 9550 128bit
Almost OEM bundle: CD, S-Video-to-DVI adapter, and an extension cord.


Sapphire Atlantis RADEON 9250 128bit; Sapphire Atlantis RADEON 9250 64bit
Similar bundle, even without an extension cord.




And now let's have a look at the boxes.

Sapphire Atlantis RADEON X800 XT

Nicely decorated box! Very attractive and stylish. All the components are in separate sections in plastic containers. The box has a window, through which you can see the card. The only problem is not to mix up the top and bottom of the box, otherwise it will be difficult to put all the components back in their places.







Sapphire Atlantis RADEON 9550 128bit

Small plain box. So called Lite-Retail package. Full Retail is also available.




Sapphire Atlantis RADEON 9250 128bit

The same picture.




Sapphire Atlantis RADEON 9250 64bit

The same picture. The only thing to note is that the box (Thanks God!) contains a sticker with the bus specification. In case of the OEM package, you will be able to identify the truncated version only by the appearance of the video card.






Installation and Drivers

Testbed configurations:

  • Pentium4 3200 MHz (Prescott) based computer
    • Intel Pentium4 3200 MHz (L2=1024K, LGA775) CPU
    • ABIT AA8 DuraMAX mainboard based on i925X
    • 1 GB DDR2 SDRAM 266MHz
    • WD Caviar SE WD1600JD 160GB SATA HDD

  • Pentium 4 3200 MHz (Northwood) based computer:
    • Intel Pentium 4 3200 MHz (L2=512K, Socket478) CPU
    • ASUS P4C800 Delux mainboard based on i875P
    • 1024 MB DDR SDRAM
    • WD Caviar SE WD1600JD 160GB SATA HDD

  • Athlon 64 3200+ based computer
    • AMD Athlon 64 3200+ (L2=1024K) CPU
    • ASUS K8V SE Deluxe mainboard based on VIA K8T800
    • 1 GB DDR SDRAM PC3200
    • Seagate Barracuda 7200.7 80GB SATA HDD

  • Operating system – Windows XP SP1; DirectX 9.0b
  • Monitors: ViewSonic P810 (21") and Mitsubishi Diamond Pro 2070sb (21").
  • ATI drivers v6.458 (CATALYST 4.7); NVIDIA drivers v61.76.

VSync is disabled.

Test results: performance comparison

We used the following test applications:

  • Unreal 2: The Awakening (Infogrames), DirectX 8.1, multitexturing, tests are performed using the Bench'emAll! 2.5beta utility.

  • RightMark 3D (one of the game scenes) – DirectX 8.1, Dot3, cube texturing, shadow buffers, vertex and pixel shaders (1.1, 1.4). Test settings: pixel shaders 1.1, shadow buffers OFF.

  • Half-Life2 (Valve/Sierra) – DirectX 9.0, demo (ixbt07. Tests are carried out with enabled anisotropic filtering (16x - ATI, 8x/16x - NVIDIA).

  • Call of Duty (MultiPlayer) (Infinity Ward/Activision) – OpenGL, multitexturing, ixbt0104demo, test settings – maximum, S3TC ON

  • Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness v.49 (Core Design/Eldos Software) - DirectX 9.0, Paris5_4 demo, test settings are provided here.

  • Far Cry v.1.2 (Crytek/UbiSoft), DirectX 9.0, multitexturing, demo01 (the game is started with the option -DEVMODE), test settings – Very High.

If you want to get the demo-benchmarks, which we use, contact me at my e-mail.

Performance of X800 XT, RADEON 9550

Performance of RADEON 9250

As I have already mentioned above, the differences between 9250 64bit and 9200SE are small, the same with 9250 128bit and 9200, so you can see it all in out 3DiGest for June 2004 or earlier. Trust me, the speeds are not changing there for several months and the situation will hardly change with the release of new driver versions. But the fact that ATI abandoned optimizing its software for such cards is true. Our reviews of video quality in games have been ringing the bells for many months.

Besides, we have plenty of DX9 tests and using them with DX8 cards is a nightmare.

Conclusions

Sapphire Atlantis RADEON X800 XT.

Standard reference design. Differs by its blue color. :)

Very attractive package and a rich bundle are a plus. However, everything will be up to the price. Even bare OEM will be a hot item, because such cards are not on sale yet.

What concerns Sapphire Atlantis RADEON 9550 128bit, it's an ordinary video card supporting DX9, which occupies a popular place in the price range of 60-70 USD (what are DX8-level video cards still doing there?).

What concerns Sapphire Atlantis RADEON 9250 64bit and Sapphire Atlantis RADEON 9250 128bit, I have already said about them above. Actually, they are just RADEON 9200SE and 9200 but with modified frequencies. I can only express my hope that 9250 64bit will be sold with openly specified memory bus width.

It must be noted that all video cards under review are of an excellent quality of manufacture and there are no reprimands to their operation stability.

What concerns 2D quality (ONLY in our samples under review): all the four cards operate excellently at 1600x1200 at 75Hz and only 9250 64bit makes a little mess at the same resolution at 85Hz (the other video cards got an excellent mark). In our 3DiGest you can find more detailed comparisons of various video cards.








We express our thanks to the representative office of
Sapphire Technologies in Russia
for the provided video cards.


Andrey Vorobiev (anvakams@ixbt.com)



01.09.2004


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