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Palit RADEON X700 128MB/X550 XT 256MB PCI-E
Based on RADEON X700/X550

February 24, 2006





TABLE OF CONTENTS

  1. Introduction
  2. Video card's features
  3. Testbed configurations, benchmarks
  4. Test results
  5. Conclusions



Among lots of famous brands we may sometimes come across those who change reference designs of video cards or just ship accelerators with increased frequencies as a separate series.

But you can rarely come across manufacturers who overhaul reference designs in the majority of cases (either designs are now too expensive, or they are just too complex; but even if companies manufacture video cards on their own, they use reference designs).

One of such companies is Palit, whose Mid- and Low-End cards are mostly of a proprietary design and differ from reference designs from ATI or NVIDIA (it's no secret that Palit openly manufactures video cards with processors from both chipmakers).

Having already reviewed video cards from this company, I cannot say that all its solutions were successful. But this fact only rouses interest, because it's obviously boring to review the twentieth reference card.

Today our lab will review two video cards, based on totally different GPUs, but still using the same PCB. That's how Palit engineers managed to cross (if we may say so) X700 and X550 by means of the same PCB. Of course, these are unusual X700 and X550 cards. As we shall see, both cards are equipped with faster memory than required. That's why the X550 got the XT suffix, though there is officially no such ATI product. Nevertheless, the CATALYST driver identified this card as X550 XT.

What concerns PAlit itself, there is no point in describing it to you. Many computer enthusiasts remember cards from this company since their childhood - they used to be sold as noname, as they are sometimes sold now. Just a couple of years ago, the board of directors was sure that there was no need in promoting the brand, they wanted to sell their products as Noname. But now the attitude has changed. More and more often we come across cards in retail packages from Palit, this brand can be often seen in price lists. The company is based in Taiwan, its manufacturing facilities are in China. Two years ago it got under the financial influence of a large Chinese holding, so there appeared more resources for new designs and production development. About a year ago, being on the verge of ruin due to the policy of its former management, Gainward got under the influence of Palit (in a nested doll style). I will not go into details of Palit-Gainward relationships in this article, but they are not simple.

Let's proceed to the cards.

Video card



Palit RADEON X700 128MB PCI-E
Interface: PCI-Express x16

Frequencies (chip/memory — physical (memory — effective):: 400/450 (900) MHz (nominal — 400/350 (700) MHz)

Memory bus width: 128bit

Number of vertex pipelines: 3

Number of pixel pipelines: 8

Number of texture processors: 8

Number of ROPs: 8

Dimensions: 190x100x15mm (the last figure is the maximum thickness of a video card).

PCB color: red.

Output connectors: VGA (d-Sub), DVI, S-Video.

VIVO: not available

TV-out: integrated into GPU.




Palit RADEON X550 XT 256MB PCI-E
Interface: PCI-Express x16

Frequencies (chip/memory — physical (memory — effective):: 400/450 (900) MHz (nominal — 400/250 (500) MHz)

Memory bus width: 128bit

Number of vertex pipelines: 2

Number of pixel pipelines: 4

Number of texture processors: 4

Number of ROPs: 4

Dimensions: 190x100x15mm (the last figure is the maximum thickness of a video card).

PCB color: red.

Output connectors: VGA (d-Sub), DVI, S-Video.

VIVO: not available

TV-out: integrated into GPU.






Palit RADEON X700 128MB PCI-E
The video card has 128 MB of GDDR3 SDRAM allocated in eight chips on the front and back sides of the PCB.

Infineon memory chips (GDDR3). 2.2ns memory access time, which corresponds to 450 (900) MHz.




Palit RADEON X550 XT 256MB PCI-E
The video card has 256 MB of GDDR3 SDRAM allocated in eight chips on the front and 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
Palit RADEON X700 128MB/X550 XT 256MB PCI-E
Reference card RADEON X700
Reference card RADEON X550


Comparison with the reference design, back view
Palit RADEON X700 128MB/X550 XT 256MB PCI-E
Reference card RADEON X700/X550
Reference card RADEON X550


Have you ever seen a $80 product with GDDR3 memory? I cannot recall such cases. And here we can see that a budget X550, which is actually intended for a low $60-$70 segment, is equipped with super fast memory. Our tests show that a 4-pipeline chip operating at 400 MHz does not need such memory. Even the X600XT operating at 500 MHz was content with 760 MHz memory. In this case the memory operates at 900 MHz, while the GPU frequency is lower. Even AA will not save this product, as despite the excessive memory bandwidth, the chip itself cannot cope with this load.

The X700 from Palit (to be more exact, this modification of the X700) is a tad less distinguished from the general line. The card possesses increased memory frequencies (900 MHz instead of standard 700 MHz). The other features are identical to the reference design.

I repeat that the PCB design is unified, the same for both cards, VIVO is not allowed.

Palit RADEON X700 128MB/X550 XT 256MB PCI-E
Besides, both cards use the same cooling system. Well, you can hardly call it a system - a small closed heatsink with a fan, shifted to the left. There is nothing new, just a regular cooler. It produces little noise, as the fan rotates at low speed.







Bundle

Palit RADEON X700 128MB/X550 XT 256MB PCI-E
User's manual, CD with drivers, a couple of old games, DVI-to-d-Sub and HDTV adapters, TV cable.




Box.

Palit RADEON X700 128MB PCI-E

The boxes have similar designs, but they are still different. The box is made of thick cardboard with sections inside. One of the sections stores a video card like in a pocket, while other sections are used for storing other bundled components.




Palit RADEON X550 XT 256MB PCI-E

I haven't come across such packages for a long time, probably since the old Hercules and Diamond. They used to manufacture such boxes and to package the bundle in this way.






Installation and Drivers

Testbed configurations:

  • Athlon 64 (939Socket) based computer
    • CPU: AMD Athlon 64 4000+ (2400MHz) (L2=1024K)
    • Motherboard: ASUS A8N32 SLI Deluxe on NVIDIA nForce4 SLI X16
    • RAM: 2 GB DDR SDRAM 400MHz (CAS (tCL)=2.5; RAS to CAS delay (tRCD)=3; Row Precharge (tRP)=3; tRAS=6)
    • 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 CATALYST 5.13; NVIDIA drivers 81.98.

VSync is disabled.

We haven't tried overclocking.

Test results: performance comparison

We used the following test applications:

  • Splinter Cell Chaos of Theory v.1.04 (Ubisoft) — DirectX 9.0, multitexturing, maximum test settings, shaders 3.0 (for NVIDIA cards)/shaders 2.0 (for ATI cards); HDR OFF!

  • 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 1.33 (Crytek/UbiSoft), DirectX 9.0, multitexturing, 3 demos from Research, Pier, Regulator levels (-DEVMODE startup 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 1.20 (FutureMark) — DirectX 9.0, multitexturing, test settings — trilinear,

  • The Chronicles Of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay 1.10 (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 Ducche), who have created a demo for this game. I also want to thank Alexei Berillo AKA Somebody Else for his help.

  • F.E.A.R. v.1.01 (Multiplayer) (Monolith/Sierra) — DirectX 9.0, multitexturing, test settings — maximum, Soft shadows disabled.

  • Call Of Duty 2 DEMO (Ubisoft) — DirectX 9.0, multitexturing, test settings — maximum, shaders 2.0, tested in Benchemall, demo and a startup script, readme contains necessary instructions

  • 3DMark06 1.02 (FutureMark) — DirectX 9.0c, multitexturing, test settings — trilinear,

  • RightMark3D (iXBT.com) — DirectX, synthetic benchmark, Shader 2.0/2.0b/3.0, you can download it here.





Summary performance diagrams



You can find our comments in the conclusions.


Conclusions

Palit RADEON X700 128MB PCI-E is just a regular RADEON X700, memory operating frequency increased to 900 MHz yielded just 7-9% of performance gain. But considering that the price for this X700 is on the level of usual X700 cards, it may be a good choice. Is 128 MB of video memory sufficient? Do we really need 256 MB and higher? It's a difficult question. There is still no answer to it. I guess, such relatively weak cards don't need 256 MB, they will still be limited by GPU capacities. On the whole, it's a good product, in terms of pricing and increased memory bandwidth in the first place.

Palit RADEON X550 XT 256MB PCI-E is also a very interesting product. Of course, excessive memory bandwidth is of little use to this card, as its chip is actually half of the previous solution. But if the price keeps within the price range for the X550, why not? You get twice as large memory bandwidth for free! You may try to overclock the core, to profit from such fast memory.

The only shortcoming of this card is no VIVO. The cooling system rouses no censure (but I cannot evaluate possible cooler noise, which may appear after 2-3-4 weeks of usage).

The accelerators were stable, we had no gripes with them, everything was up to the mark. Good 2D quality, I felt no eye-strain even at 1600x1200@85 Hz. In my opinion, there is nothing surprising about it :)

You can find more detailed comparisons of various video cards in our 3Digest.










Theoretical materials and reviews of video cards, which concern functional properties of the GPU ATI RADEON X1800 (R520)/X1600 (RV530)/X1300 (RV515) and NVIDIA GeForce 6800 (NV40/45)/7800 (G70)/6600 (NV43)







Andrey Vorobiev (anvakams@ixbt.com)

February 24, 2006



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