TABLE OF CONTENTS
Even though ATI officially unveiled the new series - RADEON X1xxx, they will appear on sale a tad later and we still have an occasion to speak about older products.
Firstly, it's a notorious RADEON X800GT/GTO. Essentially, it's a X850 card, but with fewer pipelines and lower frequencies. The core is the same - R480. Secondly, an attempt to win the way to the withering but still large market of AGP video cards for the RADEON 9800 replacement - X700 in various modifications. We already wrote about the latter, you can read the articles listed at the end of this review. But today we are still going to review another X700 AGP variant from HIS.
So, meet X800GT/GTO. What is it? And what's it for? In my opinion, the latter would have hardly been redesigned to the X800GT/GTO to drop its price, but for the successful NVIDIA steps to launch a line of new cards, which damped the ardour of users and potential buyers to the former Hi-End from ATI - RADEON X850 XT.
Even my first X800GT review contained a lot of unpleasant things about the Canadian company trying to sell the same product for the second time. Think about it. We have RADEON X800 (R430), 12 pixel pipelines and 400/700 MHz frequencies. Then the R480 is launched (former X850 XT): cut down to 8 pipelines, but operating at 475/990 MHz. Even an inexperienced reader may think that the cards will demonstrate similar performance.
But the X800GT price is much lower than for the X800. The latter card is discontinued. Why? The R480 was manufactured (the past tense is justified) by the 0.13 micron process technology. And the R430 (RADEON X800 core) - by 0.11 micron. The latter seems more promising, it must have a higher frequency potential. But the die is a failure. Well, because the core frequencies in the X800 and the X800XL do not exceed 400 MHz (the chips often cannot operate at 430 MHz).
We know well that it's the R480 that can work at 500 MHz and even at 540 MHz. The R423-R480 transition is marked by a streamlined process technology, plummeted yield of effective chips, and much more R480 chips available than R423, even though they are identical in terms of 3D features.
And here our version, previously running in a single rut, forks. As there are various opinions as to why launch the X800GT and kill the X800, but keep the X800XL.
Opinion One. X850XT sales dropped. Even though the price drop has been announced, this process takes much time to reach retail sales. Considering the stock of these cards, chances for the new prices to reach the consumer unchanged are minimal. The stock of R480 is substantial. To proceed manufacturing X850 XT based on these chips and sell these cards at low prices means the following: firstly, setting up the partners, who bought the same cards at higher prices from the Canadians; secondly, as I have already written above, retailers will hardly be optimistic about this decision, considering that they need to sell their stock of cards bought at much higher prices.
So the only option to bargain off R480 (the longer are they in warehouses, the lower are chances to get any profit) is to lock normal 16-pipeline chips to 8 pipelines (X800GT) or to 12 pipelines (X800GTO). To reduce frequencies relative to the X850 XT and offer these expensive cards as middle-end accelerators below $200. And to discontinue the X800 based on R430 to keep it out of the way, since all R430 cards can work with 16 pipelines and thus can be used in X800 XL.
The Canadian company will bear the expenses of dropping selling prices for the new X850XT cards in the form of X800GT/GTO. Partners will not suffer, that's why they were so enthusiastic about unveiling the new products (though they are not essentially new).
These expenses boiled over into ATI losing 100 million dollars for the last quarter. Of course, the losses from dethroning X850 XT into X800 GT/GTO are not that large, but they still contribute to this sum. But if the R480 cards had been left in warehouses, there would have been less losses now and much more of them in the next quarter.
Opinion Two. X850 XT popularity dropped considerably, so there is no point in manufacturing them in the same volumes as before. Drop prices? They already did that, but it was of little help for the above mentioned reasons. The Canadians started losing popularity in general, as NVIDIA offered its new products in summer, while ATI didn't. You cannot stick to old products for a long time - the interest in them abates. So it should be whipped up: there are plenty of R480 chips anyway, there is no reason to use them all for X850 XT cards - launch a supposedly new product at an attractive price, reduce frequencies so that it does not interfere with other products, but make a present to overclockers: they know well the R480 potential. Any announcement automatically whips up interest to the company. When everyone finds out that there is nothing new there but prices and cut-down cores, the X1xxx will appear.
Anyway, everybody knows that the X800GT/GTO cards are short-life products: they will be manufactured until the company runs out of R480. The cards will disappear, as soon as the stock is depleted.
So, the initial card is X850 XT (16/6 pipelines, 520/1080 MHz). What we get is X800GT (8/6 pipelines, 475/990 MHz. And X800GTO (12/6 pipelines, 400/990 MHz).
Both products can be potentially unlocked to 16/6 pipelines. But in reality, the X800GT does not allow it (hardware lock inside the core), the X800GTO offers 50/50 chances... It depends. In order to sweeten the pill of locked chips, the Canadian company made an anecdotic move: "Buy tampax! The company offers a bonus: each tenth has a Christmas cracker inside!". In our case it's each second chip (not each tenth), and an unlock potential instead of a cracker. That is half of the GTO cards possess sterling R480 chips with all 16/6 pipelines, they are locked to 12 pipelines in BIOS. Flashing another version will obviously solve the problem. An attractive issue for overclockers!
There appeared X800GTO2 cards in limited quantities, all these cards are locked via BIOS. If we flash a normal BIOS version from the X850 XT, we'll get a sterling X850 XT. That is, these cards are the same GTO model, but we know for sure that they can be unlocked. There were only few of them (the carrot thing must be limited, or it'll stop working), so we can actually forget about them.
Now about HIS. It's a small Hong Kong company with a small plant in China, which manufactures video cards below Hi-End. As is well known, all powerful and expensive accelerators are sold by ATI as ready made cards. HIS just buys them, equips them with coolers from Arctic Cooling, which have become HIS' trademark in the IceQ series.
The X800GT/GTO cards are clearly based on the same PCB and are expectedly copies of the X850 in terms of PCB. The only difference is the lack of elements of a power unit, responsible for external power supply (the cards do not need it). Considering that nobody manufactured the X850 on its own, we can assume that HIS can now produce these cards using its own capacities and ATI just provides its chips. 1.6ns memory used in GTO cards (2.0ns would have sufficed) hints at the fact that HIS got ready cards from ATI, not just chips.
The company would have hardly removed the external power supply unit, so these cards seem to be manufactured specially for GT/GTO. And they were equipped with memory, which was in stock at that moment. So I cannot guarantee that all GTO cards will come with such memory.
What concerns the X700 AGP, its PCB was enlarged to accommodate a power unit (it requires external power supply) and RIALTO bridge.
Let's review the cooling systems.
Interestingly, designation on the GTO chip means X800 (though it's based on R430). And GT card is based on the previously manufactured X800SE, which is also locked on the hardware level to 8 pipelines (the chances are that 16 pipelines are initially unavailable due to defects).
A very important point! Cards based on X800GTO/GY come shipped with the iTurbo utility, which raises operating frequencies of both cards to 500/1000 MHz at a single click! Manufacturer guarantees such frequencies!
Note that not a single video card from those we review today is equipped with two DVI connectors. All of them offer d-Sub and DVI. You can also see that none of the cards is equipped with RAGE Theater, so there is no VIVO support.
Installation and Drivers
VSync is disabled.
A few words on overclocking. Here are the frequencies we managed to get:
Speaking of unlocking pipelines: neither X800GTO nor X800GT are amenable to such operation, it was useless to flash BIOS with 16 pipelines. The chips are locked on the hardware level.
Test results: performance comparison
We used the following test applications:
Summary performance diagrams for PCI-Express video cards
Summary performance diagrams for AGP video cards
You can find more detailed comparisons of various video cards in our 3Digest.
HIS IceQ II RADEON X800 GTO PCI-E 256MB and HIS IceQ II RADEON X800 GT PCI-E 256MB get the Original Design award (October).
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
October 31, 2005.
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