iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






HIS RADEON X800 XL IceQ II Turbo 256MB
HIS RADEON X850 XT IceQ II Turbo 256MB
HIS RADEON X850 XT Platinum IceQ II 256MB
Based on ATI RADEON X800XL/X850XT


  1. Introduction
  2. Video cards' features
  3. Testbed configurations, benchmarks
  4. Test results: TRAOD
  5. Test results: FarCry Research
  6. Test results: FarCry Regulator
  7. Test results: FarCry Pier
  8. Test results: Half-Life2, ixbt01
  9. Test results: Half-Life2, ixbt02
  10. Test results: Half-Life2, ixbt03
  11. Test results: DOOM III
  12. Test results: 3DMark05 Game1
  13. Test results: 3DMark05 Game2
  14. Test results: 3DMark05 Game3
  15. Test results: 3DMark05 MARKS
  16. Test results: Chronicles of Riddick, demo 44
  17. Test results: Chronicles of Riddick, demo ducche
  18. Conclusions

3D graphics old-timers may remember the years when it took ATI half a year from the announcement to the real products (for example, RADE 128, RADEON). Of course, ATI lived a single life at that time, without partners. And it manufactured all the cards on its own. That's what we were told then, but now we know that the Canadian company had no video cards manufacturing plants, it just placed its orders to this or that plant (that is it practiced outsourcing).

What has changed since those times? Of course, after the company started working with video cards manufacturers, new cards have started to appear on the shelves much earlier, however it concerns not all series. The company from Toronto still orders High-End products to some plants (in China) and actually sells off-the-shelf cards instead of chips. Partners just put their stickers and package the cards in their boxes. That was the case with the RADEON X800 (R420/423), it also carries on now with the X850 (R480). It should be noted though that with the release of the X800, the market took a step back in terms of increased period it takes new cards to hit the shelves. It concerns the X800 XT PE, which got available only in Autumn 2004, five months after its announcement. There were problems with the yield percentage of chips capable of operating at 520 MHz with 16 active pipelines. With the release of the X800 XT (not PE) the situation got a tad better, because 16-pipeline chips (which still couldn't guarantee operation at 520 MHz) could be already put to sterling use instead of being installed to the X800 PRO in their locked form.

The new announcement was made on December the 1st. It's March already, three months have passed, but the X850 XT cards are already on sale. It's still much time, but the progress in comparison with the X800 XT is obvious. Manufacturing problems seem to be fixed up.

What concerns the X800 XL, though it's essentially the same X800 XT operating at lower frequencies, these ATI chips are sold separately and manufacturers are free to make video cards with these chips on their own. In this article below you will find out that there are practically no difference in PCB layout between the X850 and the X800XL. But the former cards are manufactured solely on ATI's orders, while the latter cards can be manufactured by partners. The reasons are not clear. Only marketing specialists seem to see some interest here.

That's how marketing specialists picture the present day competition:

  • RADEON X850 XT PE competes with GeForce 6800 Ultra (their prices are approximately at the 600-620 USD level)
  • RADEON X800 XT PE (leaves the market) also competes with the 6800 Ultra
  • RADEON X850 XT competes with GeForce 6800GT (the prices are about 500 USD, but in this case the 6800GT is still cheaper)
  • RADEON X800 XT (leaves the market) also competes with the 6800GT
  • RADEON X850 PRO competes with GeForce 6800GT (the situation with prices is vague so far)
  • RADEON X800 XL competes with GeForce 6800
  • RADEON X800 competes with GeForce 6600GT

So, we review three video cards from HIS (HighTech Information Systems) from Hong Kong, but only one of the cards is actually manufactured by the company – the X800 XL. As I have already mentioned, the other two (X850 series) are manufactured by ATI (let's just assume it does it on its own).

However all the three cards are equipped with a proprietary cooling system, which is certainly of a special interest. But even that's not the most important thing! What's the most important is that the IceQ II Turbo series guarantees raised frequencies via a proprietary utility! Remember Gainward and its Golden Sample series. In fact HIS offers a similar functionality in video cards based on ATI chips.

Video Cards

HIS RADEON X800 XL IceQ II Turbo 256MB; HIS RADEON X850 XT IceQ II Turbo 256MB; HIS RADEON X850 XT Platinum IceQ II 256MB
Interface: PCI-Express x16

Frequencies (chip/memory – physical (memory – effective):

  • HIS RADEON X800 XL IceQ II Turbo 256MB – 400/490 (980) MHz (nominal – 400/500 (1000) MHz)
  • HIS RADEON X850 XT IceQ II Turbo 256MB – 520/540 (1080) MHz (nominal – 520/540 (1080) MHz)
  • HIS RADEON X850 XT Platinum IceQ II 256MB – 540/590 (1180) MHz (nominal – 540/590 (1180) MHz)

Memory bus width: 256bit

Number of vertex pipelines: 6

Number of pixel pipelines: 16

Dimensions: 190x100x16mm (the last figure is the maximum thickness of a video card).

PCB color: red.

Output connectors: 2xDVI, S-Video. (HIS RADEON X800 XL IceQ II Turbo 256MB contains DVI, d-Sub, S-Video)

VIVO: available (RAGE Theater) (HIS RADEON X800 XL IceQ II Turbo 256MB lacks this feature)

TV-out: integrated into GPU.

HIS RADEON X850 XT IceQ II Turbo 256MB; HIS RADEON X850 XT Platinum IceQ II 256MB
The cards have 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.

HIS RADEON X800 XL IceQ II Turbo 256MB
The card has 256 MB GDDR3 SDRAM allocated in 8 chips on the front and the back sides of the PCB.

Samsung (GDDR3) memory chips. 2.0ns memory access time, which corresponds to 500 (1000) MHz.

Comparison with the reference design, front view
HIS RADEON X850 XT IceQ II Turbo 256MB; HIS RADEON X800 XL IceQ II Turbo 256MB; HIS RADEON X850 XT Platinum IceQ II 256MB Reference card ATI RADEON X850 XT

Comparison with the reference design, back view
HIS RADEON X850 XT IceQ II Turbo 256MB; HIS RADEON X800 XL IceQ II Turbo 256MB; HIS RADEON X850 XT Platinum IceQ II 256MB Reference card ATI RADEON X850 XT

As I have already said above, all PCBs are practically identical, being copies of the reference design. The only difference is that the X800 XL has unsoldered elements for external power supply, which is not necessary for this product.

As you can see, the "non-ordered" manufacturing quality is not worse, so I still don't understand why the X850 is hidden from partners' manufacturing. Besides, they could have diversified the range of their products.

Two cards from the X850 series offer VIVO, where VideoIn is based on RAGE Theater. But the X800 XL is deprived of this feature, though the PCB layout provides a seat for this element (I repeat again that they have the same PCB).

Besides, all the X850 products have two DVI jacks, regular monitors with d-Sub can be connected via the corresponding adapters that come shipped with the bundle.

Let's review the cooling systems.

HIS RADEON X850 XT IceQ II Turbo 256MB; HIS RADEON X800 XL IceQ II Turbo 256MB; HIS RADEON X850 XT Platinum IceQ II 256MB

A proprietary Arctic Cooling device. In fact you can buy such a cooler separately, they are available on sale. But the HIS implementation has a peculiarity: plastic transparent housing is covered with paint, which is luminous in ultraviolet. By the way, I can say without false modesty that this advice was given to designers by yours truly.

So, the cooler consists of a copper base, which is pressed to processor core and memory chips (via thermal spacers), soldered to a finned heatsink. A plastic air duct (housing) goes right above the heatsink. There is a turbine at one end that pumps the air in, and a bell at the other end, through which hot air is blown away from the PC case. It's clear that the air passes through the heatsink and cools it.

This device is unique in its low noise (turbine configuration is well though-out) and very good cooling efficiency. Rotational speed from 2500 to 6000.

You can watch a video clip and evaluate the startup noise of a computer at this link (1.3MB, AVI DivX 5.1). You can also compare it with the background noise without a video card (740KB, AVI DivX 5.1).

Efficiency and quiet operation come at a cost. The card has to pay with a wide cooling system, so that the second slot after PCI-E x16 is blocked (however, this place is occupied by PCI-E x1 in a lion's share of motherboards, which is not currently used and it will hardly be used in the nearest future). So it's not a flaw of the cooler, but rather its peculiarity.


HIS RADEON X800 XL IceQ II Turbo 256MB
User's guide, CD with drivers, a game, a proprietary utility – iTurbo, DVI-to-d-Sub, HDTV, S-Video-to-RCA adapters.

HIS RADEON X850 XT Platinum IceQ II 256MB; HIS RADEON X850 XT IceQ II Turbo 256MB
User's guide, CD with drivers, a game, a proprietary utility – iTurbo (only for the X850 XT so far!), PowerDVD, DVI-to-d-Sub, HDTV, VIVO adapters, an external power cable.


HIS RADEON X850 XT IceQ II Turbo 256MB; HIS RADEON X800 XL IceQ II Turbo 256MB; HIS RADEON X850 XT Platinum IceQ II 256MB

All the three cards have identical boxes, only the stickers and inscriptions are different (see the picture). These products are packaged in boxes made of thick white cardboard inside bright covers. The box has a window, through which you can see the card. The stickers specify frequencies that you can obtain using the iTurbo utility. We shall write about this issue below.

Installation and Drivers

Testbed configurations:

  • Athlon 64 (939Socket) based computer
    • AMD Athlon 3800+ (2400MHz) (L2=512K)
    • ASUS A8N SLI Deluxe motherboard on NVIDIA nForce4 SLI
    • RAM: 1 GB DDR SDRAM 400MHz
    • HDD: WD Caviar SE WD1600JD 160GB SATA

  • Operating system: Windows XP SP2; DirectX 9.0c
  • Monitors: ViewSonic P810 (21") and Mitsubishi Diamond Pro 2070sb (21").
  • ATI drivers 6.512 (CATALYST 5.2); NVIDIA drivers 71.81.

VSync is disabled.

One of the most important features of the Turbo series is a bundled proprietary utility – iTurbo (by the way, its author is well known in the 3D-graphics community :). Like ExperTool from Gainward, this program (see the first screenshot) allows to raise operating frequencies of the card at one button press (see the second screenshot). Thus, the manufacturer guarantees operation of the above mentioned cards within the frequency range specified on the box stickers (see above).

That's why remember to install iTurbo, if you buy one of such cards. In this case your video card will work a tad faster :).

Test results: performance comparison

We used the following test applications:

  • 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.

  • Half-Life2 (Valve/Sierra) – DirectX 9.0, demo (ixbt01, ixbt02, ixbt03 The tests were carried out with maximum quality, option -dxlevel 90, presets for video card types are removed from dxsupport.cfg.

  • FarCry 1.3 (Crytek/UbiSoft), DirectX 9.0, multitexturing, 3 demo from Research, Pier, Regulator levels (the game is started with -DEVMODE option), Very High test settings.

  • DOOM III (id Software/Activision) – OpenGL, multitexturing, test settings – High Quality (ANIS8x), demo ixbt1 (33MB!). We have a sample batch file to start the game automatically with increased speed and reduced jerking (precaching) d3auto.rar. (DO NOT BE AFRAID of the black screen after the first menu, that's how it should be! It will last 5-10 seconds and then the demo should start)

  • 3DMark05 (FutureMark) – DirectX 9.0, multitexturing, test settings – trilinear,

  • The Chronicles Of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay (Starbreeze/Vivendi) – OpenGL, multitexturing, test settings – maximum texture quality, Shader 2.0, demo 44 and demo ducche.

    I wish to thank Rinat Dosayev (AKA 4uckall) and Alexei Ostrovski (AKA Ducce) for creating a demo for this game. I also want to thank Alexei Berillo AKA Somebody Else for his help

TR:AoD, Paris5_4 DEMO

Test results: TRAOD

As you can see, HIS products are victorious everywhere, even in non-Turbo mode.

FarCry, Research

Test results: FarCry Research

The X800 XL is obviously victorious, in fact it outscored even the 6800GT in heavy modes.

But the X850XT price is somewhere between the 6800U and the 6800GT. So it's hard to judge, but we can definitely say that it's no loser.

The X850 XT PE is the leader in this race.

FarCry, Regulator

Test results: FarCry Regulator

On the whole it's a similar picture.

FarCry, Pier

Test results: FarCry Pier

And here we can see a copy of the situation with the first test, where all HIS products are the winners.

Half-Life2: ixbt01 demo

Test results: Half-Life2, ixbt01

We can ignore the defeat of the X800 XL from the 6800GT in heavy modes, because they are in different price segments. In general the X800 XL is a more attractive solution here as well (with enabled iTurbo, this flaw also disappears).

But the X850 XT/XT PE is approximately on a par with its competitors.

Half-Life2: ixbt02 demo

Test results: Half-Life2, ixbt02

An obvious advantage of all HIS products over their competitors.

Half-Life2: ixbt03 demo

Test results: Half-Life2, ixbt03

The same picture.


Test results: DOOM III

Though the X800 XL fairs very well against the 6800 PCIE, the smashing defeat from the 6800GT does not allow to give victory to the HIS product, everything will be up to the price here. Let's call it a draw.

The other cards have lost the battle (this is quite expectable in this game, video cards based on ATI chips traditionally lag behind in DOOM III).

3DMark05: Game1

Test results: 3DMark05 Game1

3DMark05: Game2

Test results: 3DMark05 Game2

3DMark05: Game3

Test results: 3DMark05 Game3

3DMark05: MARKS

Test results: 3DMark05 MARKS

On the whole the X800 XL fairs well. Despite some defeats from the 6800GT one can say that the parity is preserved.

Approximately the same situation is with the X850 cards.

Chronicles of Riddick, demo 44

Test results: Chronicles of Riddick, demo 44

One can acknowledge a draw in the battle between the X800 XL and its competitors, but the X850 cards are obviously defeated.

Chronicles of Riddick, demo ducche

Test results: Chronicles of Riddick, demo ducche

And in this case all the three products from HIS have lost the battle.


  1. HIS RADEON X800 XL IceQ II Turbo 256MB is potentially the best choice in its price segment. Besides, its performance may grow in Turbo mode. What concerns this sample, its operating stability is up to the mark, its quality is very high, 2D picture at 1600x1200@85Hz is sharp. 440/1170 MHz overclocking.

  2. HIS RADEON X850 XT IceQ II Turbo 256MB – considering Turbo mode, this card almost catches up with the X850 XT PE flagship. It has a tad lower price, so we can recommend this product to all 3D enthusiasts, also taking into account the quiet cooling system. This video card also offers very high quality, the 2D picture at 1600x1200@85Hz is excellent. 550/1220 MHz overclocking.

  3. HIS RADEON X850 XT Platinum IceQ II 256MB is a product for overclocking enthusiasts, who need the very best accelerator with overclocking capacities at that. I can say the same about the quality of the card as I said in the previous case. 580(!)/1225 MHz overclocking.

Just for the fun of it, I installed two video cards from HIS into the nForce4 SLI based testbed. They look great. They obviously lack an adapter to be connected to something like SLI :-). I don't hint at anything. That's out of sheer curiosity. :)

In conclusion I offer you a video clip (2.6MB, AVI DivX 5.1), where one of the video cards tested today is installed into a modded computer.

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

According to the test results, HIS RADEON X800 XL IceQ II Turbo 256MB
HIS RADEON X850 XT IceQ II Turbo 256MB
HIS RADEON X850 XT Platinum IceQ II 256MB
get the Original Design award (March).

Theoretical materials and reviews of video cards, which concern functional properties of the GPU ATI RADEON X800 (R420)/X850 (R480)/X700 (RV410) and NVIDIA GeForce 6800 (NV40/45)/6600 (NV43)

Andrey Vorobiev (anvakams@ixbt.com)

March 16, 2005

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