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Sapphire Hybrid RADEON X700 PRO 256MB based on ATI RADEON X700 PRO

November 3, 2004








Contents

  1. Video card's features
  2. Testbed configurations, benchmarks, 2D quality
  3. Test results: Serious Sam: The Second Encounter
  4. Test results: Code Creatures
  5. Test results: Unreal Tournament 2003
  6. Test results: Unreal II: The Awakening
  7. Test results: RightMark 3D
  8. Test results: TRAOD
  9. Test results: FarCry
  10. Test results: Call Of Duty
  11. Test results: HALO: Combat Evolved
  12. Test results: Half-Life2(beta)
  13. Test results: Splinter Cell
  14. Test results: Quake3 Arena
  15. Test results: Return to Castle Wolfenstein
  16. Test results: DOOM III
  17. Conclusions



We have recently reviewed a new Middle End video card from NVIDIA – GeForce 6600. If you want you may familiarize yourself with the detailed review in the end of the list below:

Theoretical materials and reviews of video cards, which concern functional properties of the GPU ATI RADEON X800 (R420)/X700 (RV410) and NVIDIA GeForce 6800 (NV40)/6600 (NV43)

But GeForce 6600 is a junior member of NVIDIA NV43 products, and today we'll review a mid-range product in the same segment from ATI. Note that the competing video card lines from NVIDIA (GeForce 6600/6600GT) and ATI (RADEON X700/X700PRO/X700XT) were released approximately at the same time.

Each line has its own shortcomings: NVIDIA video cards have a wide gap between product frequencies, though their prices do not differ much. While all the three ATI video cards in the series are not capitally different in frequencies, but their prices are in a mess where video cards with different frequencies and different memory capacities have the same prices. That's why it's very difficult to compare these two lines in general.

That's why in our review of X700 PRO we'll have to be guided by the approximate price of 180-190 USD, which is closer to GeForce 6600GT than to GeForce 6600. Thus, the special emphasis will be laid just to this comparison. All the more so that X700 PRO is equipped with 256 MB, which increases its price.

Note that we have never reviewed video cards based on X700 PRO before, so it will be our first material on this product.

Much has been already said about Sapphire, so there is no point to repeat all that. You can just read the corresponding reviews. The company is popular, very popular, and that's that.

Video card



Sapphire Hybrid RADEON X700 PRO 256MB




Sapphire Hybrid RADEON X700 PRO 256MB
The card has the PCI-Express 16x interface, 256 MB GDDR3 SDRAM allocated in 8 chips on the front and the back sides of the PCB.

Samsung memory chips. 2.0ns memory access time, which corresponds to 500 (1000) MHz. Memory operates at 430 (860) MHz. GPU frequency — 425 MHz. 128-bit memory bus. 8 pixel pipelines 6 vertex ones.






Comparison with the reference design, front view
Sapphire Hybrid RADEON X700 PRO 256MB
Reference card ATI RADEON X700 XT











Comparison with the reference design, back view
Sapphire Hybrid RADEON X700 PRO 256MB
Reference card ATI RADEON X700 XT











We are obviously facing essentially the same X700 XT but with reduced clocking. PCB is no different. Only the azure colored PCB gives away the fact that this video card is manufactured on the Sapphire plant, which governing body has recently decided to paint their video cards blue.

The PCB contains a seat for RAGE Theater, thus these video cards can potentially support VIVO. Let's have a look at the cooler.

Sapphire Hybrid RADEON X700 PRO 256MB

The cooling system is fragrantly primitive :). Quite a simple heatsink with a fan in the center. However the fan speed is very high and so the cooler is extremely noisy. The most annoying thing is that the mainboard possesses monitoring functions and so the fan speed is constantly changing depending on the temperature of the core, which adds more acoustic discomfort. The new version of RivaTuner will be able to control the fan speed and so you will be able to set its rotational speed to a compromise level (between the noise and cooling efficiency).









And here is the graphics processor.






Note that the chip is not "Pro" but "XT"! But nevertheless, it operates at reduced frequencies. However, you shouldn't delude yourself: the processor hardly endured 475 MHz (regular for X700 XT). That's why this is an obvious reject from X700 XT. Why this marking? I think that the senior model in this series was initially planned to operate at lower frequencies than 475 MHz. And when they decided to raise them, the first revision of chips did not allow it – there were too few effective chips. By the way, that's the reason for all ATI partners to announce the sales of X700 PRO, hushing up X700 XT. ATI is obviously working hard at the second revision of RV410 for the senior model. And all former X700 XT will be used for X700 PRO. But that's only my version of the picture.

Let's have a look at the package contents.

Sapphire Hybrid RADEON X700 PRO 256MB

The box contains a user's manual, CD with drivers, proprietary software from Sapphire, Prince of Persia and SC:PT (DVD) games; S-Video-to-RCA and DVI-to-d-Sub adapters.






And now, let's have a look at the box itself:

Sapphire Hybrid RADEON X700 PRO 256MB

It's a traditional box with glossy jacket and a millboard box inside, where all bundle elements are organized into plastic sections. The box has a window to demonstrate the video card itself.









Installation and Drivers

Testbed configurations:

  • Pentium4 Overclocked 3200 MHz (Prescott) based computer
    • Intel Pentium4 3600 MHz CPU (225MHz x 16; L2=1024K, LGA775); Hyper-Threading enabled
    • ABIT AA8 DuraMAX mainboard based on i925X
    • 1 GB DDR2 SDRAM 300MHz
    • WD Caviar SE WD1600JD 160GB SATA HDD

  • Operating system – Windows XP SP2; DirectX 9.0c
  • Monitors: ViewSonic P810 (21") and Mitsubishi Diamond Pro 2070sb (21").
  • ATI drivers v6.490 (CATALYST 4.10); NVIDIA drivers v66.51.

VSync is disabled.

It should be noted that both companies have enabled trilinear filtering optimizations in their drivers by default.

The following cards were used as contenders in this review:

  • NVIDIA GeForce 6600GT (Reference card, 500/500 (1000) MHz, 128MB)
  • NVIDIA GeForce 6600 (Leadtek WinFast PX6600TD, 300/275 (550) MHz, 128MB)
  • ATI RADEON X600XT Extreme (GeCube RADEON X600XT Extreme, 540/400 (800) MHz, 128MB)

Test results

Before giving a brief evaluation of 2D, I will repeat that at present there is NO valid method for objective evaluation of this parameter due to the following reasons:

  1. 2D quality in most modern 3D accelerators dramatically depends on a specific sample, and it's impossible to evaluate all the cards.
  2. 2D quality depends not only on the video card, but also on the monitor and a cable.
  3. A great impact on this parameter has been recently demonstrated by monitor-card combos, that is there are monitors, which just won't "work" with specific video cards.

What concerns the combo of our sample under review and Mitsubishi Diamond Pro 2070sb, this card demonstrated the excellent quality in the following resolutions and frequencies:

Sapphire Hybrid RADEON X700 PRO 256MB 1600x1200x85Hz, 1280x1024x100Hz, 1024x768x120Hz


Test results: performance comparison

We used the following test applications:

  • Serious Sam: The Second Encounter v.1.05 (Croteam/GodGames) – OpenGL, multitexturing, ixbt0703-demo, test settings: quality, S3TC OFF

  • Quake3 Arena v.1.17 (id Software/Activision) – OpenGL, multitexturing, ixbt0703-demo, all test settings to maximum: detailing level – High, texture details – #4, S3TC OFF, curved surfaces are strongly smoothed using variables r_subdivisions «1» and r_lodCurveError «30000» (note that by default r_lodCurveError «250» !), the configurations can be downloaded here

  • Code Creatures Benchmark Pro (CodeCult) – gaming test demonstrating how the video card works with DirectX 8.1, Shaders, HW T&L.

  • Unreal Tournament 2003 v.2225 (Digital Extreme/Epic Games) – Direct3D, Vertex Shaders, Hardware T&L, Dot3, cube texturing, default quality

  • Unreal II: The Awakening (Legend Ent./Epic Games) – Direct3D, Vertex Shaders, Hardware T&L, Dot3, cube texturing, default quality

  • RightMark 3D v.0.4 (one of game scenes) – DirectX 8.1, Dot3, cube texturing, shadow buffers, vertex and pixel shaders (1.1, 1.4).

  • Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness v.49 (Core Design/Eldos Software) – DirectX 9.0, Paris5_4 demo. The tests were conducted with the quality set to maximum, only Depth of Fields PS20 was disabled.

  • HALO: Combat Evolved (Microsoft) – Direct3D, Vertex/Pixel Shaders 1.1/2.0, Hardware T&L, maximum quality

  • Half-Life2 (Valve/Sierra) – DirectX 9.0, demo (ixbt07. The tests were carried out with enabled anisotropic filtering as well as in heavy mode with AA and anisotropy.

  • Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell v.1.2b (UbiSoft) – Direct3D, Vertex/Pixel Shaders 1.1/2.0, Hardware T&L, Very High settings; demo 1_1_2_Tbilisi

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

  • FarCry 1.2 (Crytek/UbiSoft), DirectX 9.0, multitexturing, demo01 (research) (the game was started with the -DEVMODE option), test settings – Very High.

  • Return to Castle Wolfenstein (MultiPlayer) (id Software/Activision) – OpenGL, multitexturing, ixbt0703-demo, test settings – all to maximum, S3TC OFF,

  • DOOM III (id Software/Activision) – OpenGL, multitexturing, test settings – High Quality (ANIS8x),

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



Serious Sam: The Second Encounter



  • RADEON X700 PRO versus GeForce 6600GT – all gone to hell.
  • RADEON X700 PRO versus GeForce 6600 – overall victory. But will it be real?
  • RADEON X700 PRO versus RADEON X600XT Extreme – it's crystal clear that no matter how hard you pull its ears, or to be more exact – its frequencies, a 4-pipeline chip is powerless against a 8-pipeline one, especially at 425 MHz.



Code Creatures



  • RADEON X700 PRO versus GeForce 6600GT – alas, defeat.
  • RADEON X700 PRO versus GeForce 6600 – sure victory. But one question again: will the prices allow this victory to come to life?
  • RADEON X700 PRO versus RADEON X600XT Extreme – excellent result, X600XT can order a pyramid for itself.



Unreal Tournament 2003



  • RADEON X700 PRO versus GeForce 6600GT – impressive victory only in 1600x1200 with AA or AA+AF! In all the other cases – defeat, though quite a minor one. Still, AA is the heel of Achilles for 6600GT.
  • RADEON X700 PRO versus GeForce 6600 – excellent victory! If the price for X700 PRO is at least somewhere in the middle between 6600 and 6600GT, this card will be a success.
  • RADEON X700 PRO versus RADEON X600XT Extreme – need any comments? Who wants X600XT for $180? - I think nobody.



Unreal II: The Awakening



  • RADEON X700 PRO versus GeForce 6600GT – similar situation, 6600GT faints and falls on the race-track, its competitor shooting ahead to the first place only in 1600x1200 with AA or AA+AF. Californian representatives are sure to say that this mode is not included into the list of Olympic sports, but if we spend 200 dollars for a video card, why not include AA?
  • RADEON X700 PRO versus GeForce 6600 – sure thing, defeat there, victory here. I should think so... It's 190-dollar video card versus 140-dollar one. It would have been strange, if 6600 had become a leader.
  • RADEON X700 PRO versus RADEON X600XT Extreme – "Hush my little angel, don't you cry." - Certainly it's a lullaby for X600XT, because even its overclocked modification is heavily outscored in performance.



RightMark 3D



  • RADEON X700 PRO versus GeForce 6600GT – Amazing but true! The competitors are almost on a par in separate AA and AF modes as well as with this load! But combined AA+AF surprised X700 PRO so much that it can actually do it, that this video card was defeated all hollow, much heavier than the total loss with AA and with AF. Drivers? - Maybe...
  • RADEON X700 PRO versus GeForce 6600 – victory, victory. If the prices were adequate...
  • RADEON X700 PRO versus RADEON X600XT Extreme – the latter is defeated...



TR:AoD, Paris5_4 DEMO



  • RADEON X700 PRO versus GeForce 6600GT – defeated in all tests.
  • RADEON X700 PRO versus GeForce 6600 – impressive advantage.
  • RADEON X700 PRO versus RADEON X600XT Extreme – the same picture.



FarCry, demo01



The same picture! 6600GT is the best, it's followed by X700 PRO and then GeForce 6600. We shall not tell you where X600XT is, it's not a decent place.



Call of Duty, ixbt04



  • RADEON X700 PRO versus GeForce 6600GT – we have already seen this picture: ATI offspring is in the lead in 1600x1200 with additional load. But in this case the result is important, because the FPS values allow decent gameplay even with AA+AF.
  • RADEON X700 PRO versus GeForce 6600 – certain victory.
  • RADEON X700 PRO versus RADEON X600XT Extreme – the same picture.



HALO: Combat Evolved



No comments, on the whole the pitch is the same.



Half-Life2 (beta): ixbt07 demo



  • RADEON X700 PRO versus GeForce 6600GT – the canadian treasure manages to win the battle only with the complete load of AA+AF. But will the gamers enable this mode at such game speed?
  • RADEON X700 PRO versus GeForce 6600 – surely victory.
  • RADEON X700 PRO versus RADEON X600XT Extreme – the same picture.



Splinter Cell



The same pitch: GeForce 6600GT; X700 PRO; GeForce 6600; X600 XT Extreme. The lag between the second and the first video cards is very large.



Quake III Arena



  • RADEON X700 PRO versus GeForce 6600GT – well, it's all up to the age. This game is old, FPS values have grown up to the limit, both AA and AF must be enabled. And here X700 PRO is the leader.
  • RADEON X700 PRO versus GeForce 6600 – just imagine one interceptor in the sky and the other in the cart dragged along the airfield... That's the approximate difference between the competitors here.
  • RADEON X700 PRO versus RADEON X600XT Extreme – victory, what else.



Return to Castle Wolfenstein (Multiplayer)



The pitch is very similar to the previous, but the values are not that spread.



DOOM III



  • RADEON X700 PRO versus GeForce 6600GT – though the video card from Sapphire won in 1600x1200 with AA and AA+AF, but no one will use either this resolution or AA+AF with such cards, because the gameplay is not that good without them even in 1024x768.
  • RADEON X700 PRO versus GeForce 6600 – if not take into account heavy modes, which are surely not to be used in this case, we witness approximate parity.
  • RADEON X700 PRO versus RADEON X600XT Extreme – expectable victory.

This game proved again that NVIDIA video cards are better at it.

Conclusions

Thus, will the verdict be returned today or the barrister is on sick leave again? I guess that we should better hold back our conclusions, because the prices are so unpredictable now (mid October) that the mistake is almost imminent!

On the whole, we can see that X700 PRO obviously fairs somewhere between GeForce 6600GT and GeForce 6600. Perhaps that's how it should be! ATI has three video cards in the line, while NVIDIA has only two, and that's why X700 XT can and must oppose GeForce 6600GT, and X700 – GeForce 6600. And the role of X700 PRO is to be between them.

Unfortunately, the news for X700 PRO is not so rainbow: the sales commenced with incredible prices – about 200 USD, while GeForce 6600GT video cards are only a tad more expensive! Of course, this is conditioned by different memory capacities, the latter having only 128 MB, while both X700 PRO and X700 XT can be equipped with 128/256 MB of the very expensive GDDR3.

That's why we shall just state that GeForce 6600GT is obviously better, which is demonstrated by all tests. But will the price parity remain between X700 PRO and this card? I don't think so, there being a higher video card – X700 XT.

... But still, the cooler in Sapphire X700 PRO is very noisy. The company should think how to replace it for something more pleasant. :) That's sort of a concluding remark.

Our readers may be surprised why I haven't played with the new name – HYBRID – chosen by the Sapphire company. But I think that if someone has been persistently publishing on boxes an alien suffering from all the diseases in the universe instead of an attractive hero, probably picturing a gamer after many sleepless nights, we shouldn't be surprised at anything. At a new name as well.

In our 3Digest you can find more detailed comparisons of various video cards.





We express our thanks to
Sapphire Technologies
for the provided video card.


Andrey Vorobiev (anvakams@ixbt.com)

October 28, 2004



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