iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






PowerColor RADEON X800 XL AGP 256MB


  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 MARKS
  13. Test results: Chronicles of Riddick, demo 44
  14. Test results: Chronicles of Riddick, demo ducche
  15. Conclusions

All enlightened readers know that ATI has fallen in love with new technologies connected with PCI-Express and has totally abandoned AGP. Until recently, new products have been flowing into the PCI-E sectors, while nothing new has been designed among AGP video cards.

Let's have a look at the alignment of forces in the PCI-E sector:

  • 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

And here is the situation that has existed up to now in the AGP sector:

  • RADEON X800 XT PE competes with GeForce 6800 Ultra
  • RADEON X800 XT competes with the 6800GT
  • RADEON X800 PRO competes with GeForce 6800GT
  • RADEON 9800 PRO competes with... probably only GeForce 6600GT and is outperformed
  • RADEON 9800 competes with GeForce 6600.

Note the gap between the X800 PRO and the 9800 PRO. It's well known that the price for the former accelerator does not go down, it froze at 400 USD, while the price for the latter is going down very slowly. New products are obviously wanted at the prices between $400 and $200.

The rumours about ATI's work on the PCI-E-to-AGP bridge have been circulating for a long time already, but they have obtained the status of real information only recently, after the corresponding announcement of the new products based on R430 with RIALTO bridge, as well as R481, which supports AGP natively. And that's how marketing specialists picture the current situation:

  • RADEON X850 XT PE competes with GeForce 6800 Ultra
  • RADEON X800 XT PE leaves the market
  • RADEON X850 XT competes with the 6800GT
  • RADEON X800 XT leaves the market
  • RADEON X800 PRO competes with GeForce 6800GT
  • RADEON X800 XL AGP competes with GeForce 6800
  • RADEON X800 AGP competes with GeForce 6800LE and the 6600GT
  • RADEON 9800 PRO competes with GeForce 6600
  • RADEON 9800 (9800 PRO 128bit) also competes with the 6600 or even with the 6200.

Prices for the X800 XL and X800 with AGP interfaces can be expected within $350 and $250 correspondingly (for a start), so the new products are quite competitive.

So, here is the first product from the new series: the card bears the PowerColor brand, though due to their complexity they are manufactured by ATI so far (it places orders).

Video card

PowerColor RADEON X800 XL AGP 256MB
Interface: AGP 2x/4x/8x

Frequencies (chip/memory physical (memory effective): 400/495 (990) MHz (nominal - 400/495 (990) MHz)

Memory bus width: 256bit

Number of vertex pipelines: 6

Number of pixel pipelines: 16

Dimensions: 225x100x16mm (the last figure is the maximum thickness of a video card).

PCB color: red.

Output connectors: DVI, d-Sub, S-Video.

VIVO: available (RAGE Theater)

TV-out: integrated into GPU.

PowerColor RADEON X800 XL AGP 256MB
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
PowerColor RADEON X800 XL AGP 256MB
Reference card ATI RADEON X800 XL PCI-E

Comparison with the reference design, back view
PowerColor RADEON X800 XL AGP 256MB
Reference card ATI RADEON X800 XL PCI-E

There is even no need in pointing out the key difference from the PCI-E counterpart – it's the bridge:

Note two peculiarities: firstly, the bridge is almost cool, at least you can touch it with your finger (when the card is working); secondly, the PCB is longer due to the bridge. Compare it with the widespread X850 PCB (the same PCB is used in the X800 XL PCI-E):

Even on the photos above you can see that the card is longer. It should be noted that the PCB dimensions are even larger than in GeForce 6800 Ultra, which used to have the largest PCB among single-core video cards up to now. You should take it into account, if you plan on buying this card and you have a small PC case.

In order to avoid damaging the open RIALTO die, a soft heat-conducting material is glued to the chip.

The card is equipped with VIVO, where VideoIn is based on RAGE Theater.

Let's review the cooling system.

PowerColor RADEON X800 XL AGP 256MB

It's a closed-type heatsink with an off-center fan, which drives the air along the heatsink over GPU. The air is sucked in from inside the PC case and is blown out back to it, but it does not diminish the efficiency much, because the heating is not that intense (0.11-micron process technology, and the frequencies are not too high). The heatsink on the core is made of copper alloy. Memory chips on the front side use the same cooler, chips on the back side are cooled with a special plate.

A fan inside the cooler is equipped with a tachometer, so the rotational speed changes from 2500 to 5000 rpm depending on the heat. The cards produce no noise at startup.

You can watch a video and estimate the startup noise of the system unit at this link (1.1MB, AVI DivX 5.1). You can also compare it to the background noise without the video card (740KB, AVI DivX 5.1).

Let's have a look at the X800 XL core.

What we see is the same R430, which was for some reason called X800 PRO from the very beginning, though its a sterling 16-pipe chip. Probably the company wanted to confuse users again (even before the final decision on X800 XL, X800 titles) and called such cards X800 PRO (to have them confused with the 12-pipe AGP counterpart).


PowerColor RADEON X800 XL AGP 256MB
User's guide, CD with drivers, software bundle (a rich set of programs from Cyberlink and a game Hitman), DVI-to-d-Sub, HDTV, VIVO adapters.


PowerColor RADEON X800 XL AGP 256MB

A stylish cover with a box of white thick cardboard inside. The entire bundle is arranged into sections, so nothing is slack inside the package. This helps eliminate transportational damages (except for external damages of the package itself, of course :)

Installation and Drivers

Testbed configurations:

  • Athlon 64 3400+ based computer 64 3400+:
    • CPU: AMD Athlon 64 3400+ (L2=1024K)
    • Motherboard: ASUS K8V SE Deluxe based on VIA K8T800
    • RAM: 1 GB DDR SDRAM PC3200
    • HDD: Seagate Barracuda 7200.7 80GB SATA

  • Athlon 64 (939Socket) based computer
    • CPU: AMD Athlon 3800+ (L2=512K)
    • Motherboard: ASUS A8N SLI Deluxe based 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: View Sonic P810 (21") and Mitsubishi Diamond Pro 2070sb (21").
  • ATI drivers 6.517 (CATALYST 5.3); NVIDIA drivers 71.84.

VSync is disabled.

That's how look temperature conditions of this video card (maximum temperature readings) operating in a closed PC case without additional cooling with minimal air flow (a fan at the rear of the case):

As you can see, everything is within the mark, no overheating problems. We used RivaTuner for monitoring purposes (written by A. Nikolaychuk AKA Unwinder).

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 (-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 (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), who have created 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

Of course we should take into account the platform difference, so we can write off 4-5-7% of the difference between the X800 XL AGP and PCI-E. Our conclusion – both cards are practically identical in this test.

As for the rest, we can see that the X800 XL AGP is an overall leader. Interestingly, more expensive cards are outperformed.

FarCry, Research

Test results: FarCry Research

The conclusions are actually the same! Considering that CPU plays a large role in this game without AA+AF, the parity demonstrated in this mode can be ignored. And the X800 XL AGP is victorious with enabled AA+AF.

FarCry, Regulator

Test results: FarCry Regulator

The same picture – the X800 XL AGP demonstrates approximately the same speed as its PCi-E counterpart and becomes the leader of this race, having outperformed even more expensive video cards.

FarCry, Pier

Test results: FarCry Pier

The same picture.

Half-Life2: ixbt01 demo

Test results: Half-Life2, ixbt01

Regardless of the fact that the X800 XL AGP still outperforms the X800 PRO and greatly outscores the 6800, the 6800GT has taken over the leadership anyway. It's more expensive though.

Half-Life2: ixbt02 demo

Test results: Half-Life2, ixbt02

And in this test we again see a picture similar to the first tests, where the X800 XL AGP is a leader.

Half-Life2: ixbt03 demo

Test results: Half-Life2, ixbt03

The same picture!


Test results: DOOM III

As you can see, the 6800GT has taken over the leadership, the X800 XL AGP is heavily outperformed, but it looks not very bad against the 6800, considering the heavy modes with AA+AF. And it's a monster of a card against the X800 PRO (which is more expensive!)

3DMark05: MARKS

Test results: 3DMark05 MARKS

On the whole the picture is similar to the previous test. The X800 XL AGP has lost the battle against the 6800GT, but it's greatly outperformed the 6800 as well as the X800 PRO instead.

Chronicles of Riddick, demo 44

Test results: Chronicles of Riddick, demo 44

A similar situation. It should be noted though that the platform difference introduced some oscillations of performance delta between the X800 XL AGP and the X800 XL PCI-E.

Chronicles of Riddick, demo ducche

Test results: Chronicles of Riddick, demo ducche

That's almost the only test, where the X800 XL AGP is heavily outscored by nearly all competitors. What is it? An accident that depends on the test DEMO? Or this game has serious reefs for ATI products? Time will show: if nothing changes in the new driver versions, this game is much better optimized for NVIDIA products (which I have already mentioned).


So, PowerColor RADEON X800 XL AGP 256MB is an excellent product for its price range (if there is no artificial rise in prices!). I hope that prices for these products will not exceed the promised $350 limit. Popularity of these cards will be very high in this case (considering that the AGP sector is still very large). What concerns this sample, its operating stability is up to the mark, its quality is very high, 2D picture at 1600x1200@85Hz is sharp. It should be noted once more that the RIALTO bridge is almost cool, so the product does not have the drawback that all GeForce 6600GT/6600 cards have – HSI overheating, a lot of users have already complained about it in forums.

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 X800 (R420)/X850 (R480)/X700 (RV410) and NVIDIA GeForce 6800 (NV40/45)/6600 (NV43)

Andrey Vorobiev (anvakams@ixbt.com)

March 24, 2005

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