iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






Sapphire RADEON X1900 GT 256MB PCI-E


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

Rumours about defeatured R580 modifications to appear even before ATI would launch new Middle-End solutions have been circulating for quite a long time already. And now it has happened. It's well known that the Canadian company had a gap in the $300 sector of modern accelerators supporting all 3D innovations. All the previous products as well as the curtailed R520 (X1800 GTO) are designed for cheaper segments. And the Hi-End X1900 has not gone down below $450 yet. Taking into account that NVIDIA products cover all price segments, the situation of the Canadians is hardly enviable.

And here appears RADEON X1900 GT. Like the X1800 GTO, it's also a defeatured product, not only in core, but also in memory size - we haven't seen X1900 XT/XTX 256MB cards so far. And the X1900 GT is equipped with this much memory.

The core is cut down by 1/4: there are only 12 units instead of 16 ROPs and texture units. And there are only 36 pixel units instead of 48. Besides, its operating frequencies are reduced from 625/1450 MHz (X1900 XT) to 575/1200 MHz (X1900 GT).

So, the reasons for launching this product are clear. Moreover, we have heard that thanks to very good yield of effective chips, the company uses sterling R580 chips for X1900 GT cards - it just locks them. There is no way to unlock the chips, of course. This method was successfully tested a year and a half ago: if ATI forbids unlocking - you cannot do it, no matter how hard you try.

Production volume of such cards is limited, as they use sterling but locked cores. So the company needs to produce as many cards as necessary to hang on until the launch of RV570 - a middle-end product to take up this niche later. So we have information that the company will produce only 25,000 X1900 GT cards. Thus, there may be shortage of these cards.

And now let's examine the card, represented by a product from Sapphire.

Video card

Sapphire RADEON X1900 GT 256MB PCI-E
GPU: RADEON X1900 GT (R580)

Interface: PCI-Express x16

GPU frequencies: 575 MHz (nominal — 575 MHz)

Memory frequencies (physical (effective)): 594 (1188) MHz (nominal — 600 (1200) MHz)

Memory bus width: 256bit

Number of Shader Vertex Processors: 8

Number of Shader Pixel Processors: 36

Number of texture processors: 12

Number of ROPs: 12

Dimensions: 210x100x15mm (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.

Sapphire RADEON X1900 GT 256MB PCI-E
The video card has 256 MB of GDDR3 SDRAM allocated in eight chips on the front side of the PCB.

Samsung (GDDR3) memory chips. 1.4ns memory access time, which corresponds to 700 (1400) MHz.

Comparison with the reference design, front view
Sapphire RADEON X1900 GT 256MB PCI-E
Reference card ATI RADEON X1900 XTX

Comparison with the reference design, back view
Sapphire RADEON X1900 GT 256MB PCI-E
Reference card ATI RADEON X1900 XTX

It's evidently based on the X1900XT reference design. So there is no point in describing it here in detail.

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 You can read about the TV-Out in more detail here. The product also has TV-In to be used with a special adapter.

Analog monitors with d-Sub (VGA) interface are connected 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

The cooling system is standard for the X1800XL/GTO, you can read all the details here.

It works in the same way: driving the air through a closed heatsink. The main distinctive disadvantage of this design is its fan rotating at high speed, so the cooler is far from quiet. It's especially noisy under heavy load on a core.


Sapphire RADEON X1900 GT 256MB PCI-E
User's guide, CD with drivers, PowerDVD, DVD with modern games - Brothers in Arms (Road to Hill 30); Prince of Persia (Warrior Within); Richard Burns Rally; Tony Hawk's Underground 2 (it's up to a user to decide which game to activate); DVI-to-d-Sub and S-Video-to-RCA adapters, TV cords, composite output adapter.


Sapphire RADEON X1900 GT 256MB PCI-E

More than a year and a half ago the company changed the design of its packages. These packages now have bright jackets with cardboard boxes inside. Bundle components are arranged into sections. Packages used to have windows to demonstrate video cards - it made them more attractive and more convenient for users. But now for some reason the company decided to give up plastic inside the box as well as windows. That's a pity. They shouldn't have spoilt the best they did by drawing another mummy from the British museum or a cross between a designer and a hydra.

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
    • 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
  • Monitor: Mitsubishi Diamond Pro 2070sb (21").
  • ATI CATALYST 6.5; NVIDIA Drivers 91.28.

VSync is disabled.

RivaTuner (written by A.Nikolaychuk AKA Unwinder) readings show that the card gets very hot. This cooler is evidently not efficient enough. Two-slot device from an X1800XT/1900XT card would have been quite appropriate, but unfortunately, the designers used a different solution.

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

Game tests that heavily load vertex shaders, mixed pixel shaders 1.1 and 2.0, active multitexturing.

FarCry, Research

Test results: FarCry Research

Game tests that heavily load vertex shaders, pixel shaders 2.0, active multitexturing.


Test results: F.E.A.R

Splinter Cell Chaos Theory

Test results: SCCT

Call Of Duty 2 DEMO

Test results: COD2

Half-Life2: ixbt01 demo

Test results: Half-Life2, ixbt01

Game tests that heavily load pixel pipelines with texturing, active operations of the stencil buffer and shader units

DOOM III High mode

Test results: DOOM III

Chronicles of Riddick, demo 44

Test results: Chronicles of Riddick, demo 44

Synthetic tests that heavily load shader units

3DMark05: MARKS

Test results: 3DMark05 MARKS

3DMark06: Shader 2.0 MARKS

Test results: 3DMark06 Shader 2.0 MARKS

3DMark06: Shader 3.0 MARKS

Test results: 3DMark06 Shader 3.0 MARKS

You can find our comments in the conclusions.


Sapphire RADEON X1900 GT 256MB PCI-E. This video card is outperformed by GeForce 7900 GT nearly in all tests. So this accelerator must be cheaper than the 7900 GT. Its advantages are HDR+AA support as well as anisotropy of higher quality. So the choice is up to users. The price will also play a pivotal role, of course. And don't forget that the run of these cards is very limited: the RV570 is going to be launched soon.

What concerns the card itself, it has worked great, we have no gripes with its operation, it has demonstrated excellent 2D quality! We managed to overclock the card to 600 MHz (core) and 820 (1640) MHz (memory).

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)

We express our thanks to
Sapphire Russia
for the provided video card

PSU for the testbed was kindly provided by HIPER


Andrey Vorobiev (anvakams@ixbt.com)

June 6, 2006

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