iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






Based on ATI RADEON X800 XL


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

RADEON X800 XL appeared at the end of last year, being actually a remake of the R423, updated by the new 0.11-micron process technology. That is this chip contains 16 pixel and 6 vertex pipelines. However, it was initially intended for the middle end market, thus it runs at lower frequencies than the R423. Despite the die complexity (16 pipelines and a 256bit memory controller), the prime cost of this product is much lower than that of the R423. That's why it was decided to design the new chip instead of sending the R423 chips, which failed the frequency tests, to the $300-$350 sector. To all appearances, ATI calculated that it would be more profitable than using such expensive chips in cheaper video cards.

Thus, we have a super-powerful architecture, which has already proved itself in High-End cards, but its frequencies are reduced. Of course, I mean ATI processors in general. It's hard to compare ATI with NVIDIA: both 3D graphics trends have their pros and cons. ATI offers very fast calculations, short pipelines, but consequently larger expenses for texturing (these cards have smaller, worse organized caches). NVIDIA provides less faster ALU and shader operations, but its pipelines are long and saturated with caches, so they offer excellent fast texture and stencil operations. We are not going to touch upon supporting shaders of various versions, the common denominator here is Version 2.0 anyway. There is something coming on with Shaders 3.0, but that's in future... And we are interested in the present moment and the nearest future.

Proceeding from the above said, the X800 XL at a reasonable price will have all chances for popularity. That's why all ATI partners at once set their sights on manufacturing it and they are right.

Besides, in this case the canadian company does not impose ready-made solutions but sells chips separately (or together with GDDR3 memory), so the partners can manufacture these cards on their own, sticking to the reference design so far.

MSI is the old friend of the Russian market, currently being ATI's partner (not only NVIDIA), it actually manufactures all models ATI has in stock. It manufactures the fastest High-End cards (they are actually manufactured by ATI and then sold to its partners) as well as the cheapest products like the X300SE. An old friend is always of high account, that's why there is no point in describing MSI merits.

Let's proceed to the card.

Video card

Interface: PCI-Express x16

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

PCB color: red.

Output connectors: 2xDVI, S-Video.

VIVO: available (RAGE Theater)

TV-out: integrated into GPU.

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
Reference card ATI RADEON X800 XL

Comparison with the reference design, back view
Reference card ATI RADEON X800 XL

This video card is obviously manufactured on MSI plants, but it's a complete copy of the reference design. There is even no need to change the traditional MSI red color, because it matches the traditional color of all reference cards from ATI. I can only note that the MSI lacquer color is more saturated, closer to crimson, while ATI cards have a slightly pinkish-lilac tint.

I repeat that this product supports VIVO, where VideoIn is based on RAGE Theater.

Besides, this card has 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 system.


A small cooling device is made in the traditions of cards based on GeForce processors.

A closed heatsink with a fan shifted to the left that drives the air through the housing above the processor. The rotational speed of the fan varies from 2000 to 3500 rpm, it's driver-controlled depending on the heating (you can also control it via the latest RivaTuner).

The fan is illuminated by a blue LED, modders may like it

The cooler noise is insignificant, it is no louder than the overall background.

The cooling device is screwed to the card (that's very good, unlike the old plastic joint-pins), there is thermal paste between the chip and the heatsink.


User's manual, CD with drivers, several games (see the photo on the right), some handy utilities, DVI-to-d-Sub, HDTV, VIVO adapters. The MSI bundle is as rich as ever, but the games are getting old, it's time the company replace them with something newer.



MSI knows very well how to present a product. I have seen their packages many times, but I still cannot help admiring them! A bright design, a nice stylish box with a window to show off the card! It looks great!

Installation and Drivers

Testbed configurations:

  • Athlon 64 (939Socket) based computer
    • CPU: AMD Athlon 4000+ (2400MHz) (L2=1024K)
    • Motherboard: ASUS A8N SLI Deluxe based on NVIDIA nForce4 SLI
    • RAM: 1 GB DDR SDRAM 400MHz
    • HDD: WD Caviar SE WD1600JD 160GB SATA

  • Athlon 64 (754Socket) based computer:
    • CPU: AMD Athlon 64 3700+ (2400MHz) (L2=1024K)
    • Motherboard: ASUS K8V SE Deluxe based on VIA K8T800
    • RAM: 1 GB DDR SDRAM PC3200
    • HDD: Seagate Barracuda 7200.7 80GB SATA

  • Operating system: Windows XP SP2 DirectX 9.0c
  • Monitors: ViewSonic P810 (21") and Mitsubishi Diamond Pro 2070sb (21").
  • ATI drivers 6.525 (CATALYST 5.4); NVIDIA drivers 71.89 WHQL.

VSync is disabled.

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 were 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 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 (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

Summary performance diagrams

You can find our comments in the conclusions.


MSI RX800 XL-VT2D256E PCI-E - first of all I want to say that the quality of this card is very high, 2D image at 1600x1200@85Hz is excellent. The cooling system is very good, it's quiet (I cannot tell you what will happen in a couple of months, I had no opportunity to use this card for so long), the system's got illumination for modding fans.

Here are the test results: the card for about $350-370 fairs very well among the GeForce 6800 and even the 6800GT (the latter is obviously more expensive). Its disadvantages are inherent in all ATI products: defeats in DOOM III and CR (these games require fast texturing and stencil operations, that's what NVIDIA is better at). If a similar product from HIS with an IceQ cooler were available at the same price, it could have borne the palm. But firstly, this card is not on sale; secondly, it's much more expensive, so it seems to me that the X800 XL from MSI is currently beyond competition in terms of price, performance, bundle, cooler efficiency, and illumination.

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

According to the test results, the MSI RX800 XL-VT2D256E PCI-E
gets the Excellent Package award (May)

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)

May 23, 2005.

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