iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail







May 9, 2006


  1. Introduction
  2. Video cards' features
  3. Testbed configuration, benchmarks
  4. Test results
  5. Conclusions

Not long ago we reviewed (several times) production-line cards, based on ATI RADEON X1900 XT/XTX. And I complained that none of the manufacturers found time for customizing this product. All of them buy ready cards from the Canadian vendor, apply their stickers, pack them into their boxes, and sell through their channels.

That certainly suits the Canadians! The company has designed lots of uber-expensive cards, it controls the production, the quality is up to the mark, and it doesn't have to worry about sales: partners will buy the cards, so it's up to them to reach the end consumer. ATI does not have a lot of dealers and distributors, it deals with just a dozen of partners.

But ATI forgets that its conditions for manufacturing and EVEN PARTIAL modification of these cards are practically impossible. So a rare manufacturer will go for breach of warranty from the almighty Canadian company or for bureaucracy processes to agree on a new modified design. Running a few steps forward, I'll tell you that HIS, who actually dared modify a cooling system, only now, in MAY(!) has managed to implement the idea, which was born back in January, when the X1900 was released. Just look how much time has passed.

You should never go too far in anything, but in this case the Canadian company certainly did it! There are so many grudges against the reference cooling system, that very howling cooler that comes shipped with the reference cards! Moreover, it's highly inefficient - we have noticed many times that the core temperature may reach even 100ºC. And the Canadian company actually forbids any changes (to pedants - ATI's system of certifications, agreements, and approvals practically equals a ban). Looks like a dog in the manger. The company does not equip its cards with good cooling systems (tell me the name of the engineer, who decided to use the cooler from a warm X1800 in the X1900 card - I'll publish this address in our forum, and in a week mass media will report a Lynch law case...); and stands in the others' way. Just think about how long it took HIS to do it. And we don't know for sure whether the case it closed yet. Perhaps the company just breached the warranty and sells the cards at its own authority.

Indeed, the reference cooler sometimes can be heard only under a very heavy load after a long operation period (I admit that it generated very little noise, when we wrote our baseline material. That was why I wrote that this cooler was quiet. But further tests confirmed our readers' comments: the device gradually started getting on our nerves). I wrote long ago that if the prices for X1900 XTX and 7900GTX had been the same, there would have been a choice problem - even though the former offered better anisotropy and support for HDR+AA.

But the above-said concerned reference cards and their not quite efficient cooling systems (I'd like to ask those people, who order such coolers for the Canadian company, whether they would have installed THIS into their computers... NVIDIA engineers turned out to be more clever - the 7900 GTX cooler is above praise).

But despite the delay, the HIS product with a modified cooler has seen the light. According to the tests, it surpasses all expectations in quiet and efficient operation.

Let's examine the card.

Video card

GPU: RADEON X1900 XT (R580)

Interface: PCI-Express x16

GPU frequencies: 625 MHz (nominal — 625 MHz)

Memory frequencies (physical (effective)): 725 (1450) MHz (nominal — 725 (1450) MHz)

Memory bus width: 256bit

Number of Shader Vertex Processors: 8

Number of Shader Pixel Processors: 48

Number of texture processors: 16

Number of ROPs: 16

Dimensions: 205x100x32mm (the last figure is the maximum thickness of a video card).

PCB color: red.

Output connectors: 2 x DVI (Dual-Link), TV-Out.

VIVO: available (RAGE Theater)

TV-out: integrated into GPU.

The video card has 512 MB of GDDR3 SDRAM allocated in eight chips on the front side of the PCB.

Samsung (GDDR3) memory chips. 1.1ns memory access time, which corresponds to 900 (1800) MHz.

Comparison with the reference design, front view
Reference card ATI RADEON X1900 XTX 512MB

Comparison with the reference design, back view
Reference card ATI RADEON X1900 XTX 512MB

I guess there is no point to note that the card itself (without a cooler) is the very same product from ATI, HIS has nothing to do with its manufacturing, as well as all the other ATI partners. You should always look at the small sticker with a bar code that shows the title of a card. It's on the back of the PCB. If P/N starts with 102A, it means that the card is made by ATI's orders on one of Celestica or Foxconn's plants, that is by the Canadian company (it does not have its own plant, it places orders to third-party plants, but it is still responsible for design and quality control).

The card has TV-Out with a unique jack. You will need a special bundled adapter to output video to a TV-set via S-Video or RCA.

Analog monitors with d-Sub (VGA) interface are connected to DVI with special DVI-to-d-Sub adapters. Maximum resolutions and frequencies:

  • 240 Hz Max Refresh Rate
  • 2048 x 1536 x 32bit x85Hz Max - analog interface
  • 2560 x 1600 @ 60Hz Max - digital interface

In fact, there is nothing much to add about the card itself. It's just a reference card, we have examined such cards many times.

Now what concerns the cooling system. It's a well-known unique system. It's unique because all its heatsinks are made of copper. And it's well-known because it's manufactured by Arctic Cooling. Concept of this cooling system comes from the Silencer technology.

Its operation principle is simple: the turbine drives the air through the copper heatsink and throws the hot air out of a PC case.

Unlike previous solutions, it implies using two different heatsinks: central heatsink for the core and a peripheral one for memory chips.

Heat transfer is reinforced with heat pipes. All metal components are made of copper alloy.

The turbine itself is modified relative to the previous models from Arctic Cooling. The number of blades is increased.

It should be noted that a special design of the card makes any cooler rotate at high speed at startup. Even this model drives a heavy air flow, so the noise is audible, though not that loud as generated by the reference device. But after 10 seconds the speed goes down and the cooler becomes inaudible - a usual thing with all Arctic Cooling products.

So on the whole, the cooling system is very good.


User's manual, CD with drivers, PowerDVD, DVD with game demos and various programs; FlatOut (it's time to bundle something more state-of-the-art); DVI-to-d-Sub and S-Video-to-RCA adapters, TV cords, composite output adapter.



We were very surprised to see that the company actually changed the package design. Black-blue-azure colors. The box also got bigger. The box window that shows off the card is preserved. All bundled components are arranged into plastic sections.

Installation and Drivers

Testbed configuration:

  • Athlon 64 (939Socket) based computer
    • CPU: AMD Athlon 64 4000+ (2400MHz) (L2=1024K)
    • Motherboard: ASUS A8N32 SLI Deluxe on NVIDIA nForce4 SLI X16
    • for ATI CrossFire tests we used the ASUS A8R32-MVP motherboard on ATI RADEON Xpress 3200 CrossFire
    • 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 6.4; NVIDIA Drivers 84.43.

VSync is disabled.

RivaTuner (written by A.Nikolaychuk) readings published above illustrate high efficiency of the new cooling system! Look, the card operates at increased frequencies and the core temperature under maximum load does not exceed 79°C! While the reference cooler demonstrated 95°C and even 100°C at the core!

And mind it that the turbine speed practically does not change, the cooler remains very quiet!

Test results: performance comparison

We used the following test applications:

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

  • Half-Life2 (Valve/Sierra) — DirectX 9.0, demo (ixbt01 . 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, demo from the Research level (-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,

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

  • The Chronicles Of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay 1.10 (Starbreeze/Vivendi) — OpenGL, multitexturing, maximum texture quality, Shader 2.0, demo 44.

    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.1.02 (Multiplayer) (Monolith/Sierra) — DirectX 9.0, multitexturing, maximum test settings, 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

Summary performance diagrams


  1. HIS IceQ III RADEON X1900 XT 512MB PCI-E is an excellent product! The main drawback of the X1900 (its noisy and not very efficient cooling system) is eliminated!

    The new cooler provides acceptable temperature conditions (even more than acceptable) as well as quiet operation. To say nothing of design: the card with such a cooler is nice just to hold in your hands. HIS has come up with a masterpiece!

    I think there is no point in comparing this accelerator to any competitors, as the card also works fine at the XTX frequencies (I tried to flash BIOS from XTX - it works great) and even at much higher frequencies. I shall not tell you the overclocking potential, lest I should be buried under emails asking where to buy such cards :). But it's very high. It depends on a given sample, mind it.

    The card's price is 100% justified ($600 in May), relative to the other cards of course.

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

HIS IceQ III RADEON X1900 XT 512MB PCI-E gets the Original Design 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)

We express our thanks to
Sapphire Russia
for the provided video cards.

PSU for the testbed was kindly provided by HIPER

Andrey Vorobiev (anvakams@ixbt.com)

May 9, 2006

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