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Sapphire RADEON X800GT AGP 256MB
Sapphire RADEON X800GTO AGP 256MB
Sapphire RADEON X800GTO2 PCI-E 256MB
Sapphire RADEON X1300 PCI-E 256MB
Sapphire RADEON X1600 XT PCI-E 256MB
Sapphire RADEON X1800 XL PCI-E 256MB
Sapphire RADEON X1800 XT PCI-E 512MB

January 13, 2006








TABLE OF CONTENTS

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



Each time we touch upon Sapphire, one and the same phrase comes to my mind - all is well. Yep, ATI suffers, wins, loses, triumphs, trembles, rejoices. And its Partner Number One just keeps working and manufacturing a lot of video cards.

The company still wears the yellow jersey for the range of products based on ATI processors. I guess there is no point in describing Sapphire - all our readers know well this Hong Kong company, who has been strategic Partner One of ATI Technologies since its foundation. It certainly manufactures video cards based only on processors from this company.

Today we are going to review seven cards from Sapphire! Two of them are AGP cards. We have recently published our 3Digest for November 2005, where we reviewed X800GT/GTO AGP among other cards. Just these very cards from Sapphire (two of them) took part in the tests. Ratings, calculated according to our procedure, show that both products are in top ten, thus they can be popular among those users who don't want to give up their platforms with the AGP interface.

Another interesting video card from the old X800 series is the PCI-E X800GTO2. As is well known, GTO2 means X800GTO that is guaranteed to unlock its pipelines to the X850 level (16 pixel and 6 vertex pipelines). In our case, the card came WITH ALL ITS PIPELINES UNLOCKED, only its frequency was on the X800XL level - 400/990 MHz. But we know that such products are based on the R480 core (not on the R430 core), so they can be overclocked to a much higher frequency. It's a present to overclockers! But let's be consistent. We shall get back to this issue below.

The other four products are new cards from the new X1xxx series. They will be also reviewed in turn.

Video Cards



Sapphire RADEON X800GT AGP 256MB
Interface: AGP 2x/4x/8x

Frequencies (chip/memory — physical (memory — effective):: 475/495 (990) MHz

Memory bus width: 256bit

Number of vertex pipelines: 6

Number of pixel pipelines: 8

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

PCB color: blue.

Output connectors: VGA, DVI, S-Video.

VIVO: not available

TV-out: integrated into GPU.




Sapphire RADEON X800GTO AGP 256MB
Interface: AGP 2x/4x/8x

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

Memory bus width: 256bit

Number of vertex pipelines: 6

Number of pixel pipelines: 12

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

PCB color: blue.

Output connectors: VGA, DVI, S-Video.

VIVO: not available

TV-out: integrated into GPU.




Sapphire RADEON X800GTO2 PCI-E 256MB
Interface: PCI-Express x16

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

Memory bus width: 256bit

Number of vertex pipelines: 6

Number of pixel pipelines: 16

Dimensions: 190x100x15mm (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.




Sapphire RADEON X1300 PCI-E 256MB
Interface: PCI-Express x16

Frequencies (chip/memory — physical (memory — effective):: 450/275 (550) MHz

Memory bus width: 128bit

Number of vertex pipelines: 2

Number of pixel pipelines: 4

Dimensions: 160x100x15mm (the last figure is the maximum thickness of a video card).

PCB color: blue.

Output connectors: VGA, DVI, S-Video.

VIVO: not available

TV-out: integrated into GPU.




Sapphire RADEON X1600 XT PCI-E 256MB
Interface: PCI-Express x16

Frequencies (chip/memory — physical (memory — effective):: 580/690 (1380) MHz

Memory bus width: 256bit

Number of vertex pipelines: 6

Number of pixel pipelines: 16

Dimensions: 160x100x15mm (the last figure is the maximum thickness of a video card).

PCB color: blue.

Output connectors: VGA, DVI, S-Video.

VIVO: not available

TV-out: integrated into GPU.




Sapphire RADEON X1800 XL PCI-E 256MB
Interface: PCI-Express x16

Frequencies (chip/memory — physical (memory — effective):: 500/500 (1000) MHz

Memory bus width: 256bit

Number of vertex pipelines: 8

Number of pixel pipelines: 16

Dimensions: 205x100x15mm (the last figure is the maximum thickness of a video card).

PCB color: red.

Output connectors: 2x DVI, S-Video.

VIVO: available (RAGE Theater)

TV-out: integrated into GPU.




Sapphire RADEON X1800 XT PCI-E 512MB
Interface: PCI-Express x16

Frequencies (chip/memory — physical (memory — effective):: 625/750 (1500) MHz

Memory bus width: 256bit

Number of vertex pipelines: 8

Number of pixel pipelines: 16

Dimensions: 205x100x31mm (the last figure is the maximum thickness of a video card).

PCB color: red.

Output connectors: 2x DVI, S-Video.

VIVO: available (RAGE Theater)

TV-out: integrated into GPU.






Sapphire RADEON X800GTO2 PCI-E 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. 1.6ns memory access time, which corresponds to 625 (1250) MHz.




Sapphire RADEON X800GT AGP 256MB; Sapphire RADEON X800GTO AGP 256MB
The cards have 256 MB GDDR3 SDRAM allocated in 8 chips on the front and the back sides of the PCB.

Samsung (GDDR3) memory chips. 2.0ns memory access time, which corresponds to 500 (1000) MHz.




Sapphire RADEON X1300 PCI-E 256MB
The video card has 256 MB of DDR SDRAM allocated in eight chips on the front and back sides of the PCB.

Infineon memory chips (DDR). 2.8ns memory access time, which corresponds to 350 (700) MHz.




Sapphire RADEON X1800 XL PCI-E 256MB; Sapphire RADEON X1600 XT PCI-E 256MB
The cards have 256 MB GDDR3 SDRAM allocated in 8 chips on the front side of the PCB (4 chips in case of the Sapphire RADEON X1600 XT PCI-E 256MB).

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




Sapphire RADEON X1800 XT PCI-E 512MB
The video card has 512 MB of GDDR3 SDRAM allocated in eight chips on the front side of the PCB.

Samsung (GDDR3) memory chips. 1.26ns memory access time, which corresponds to 800 (1600) MHz.






Comparison with the reference design, front view
Sapphire RADEON X800GT AGP 256MB; Sapphire RADEON X800GTO AGP 256MB
Reference card ATI RADEON X800 XT AGP
Sapphire RADEON X800GTO2 PCI-E 256MB
Reference card ATI RADEON X850 XT PCI-E
Sapphire RADEON X1300 PCI-E 256MB
Reference card ATI RADEON X1300 PRO PCI-E
Sapphire RADEON X1600 XT PCI-E 256MB
Reference card ATI RADEON X1600 XT PCI-E
Sapphire RADEON X1800 XL PCI-E 256MB
Reference card ATI RADEON X1800 XL PCI-E
Sapphire RADEON X1800 XT PCI-E 512MB
Reference card ATI RADEON X1800 XT PCI-E


Comparison with the reference design, back view
Sapphire RADEON X800GT AGP 256MB; Sapphire RADEON X800GTO AGP 256MB
Reference card ATI RADEON X800 XT AGP
Sapphire RADEON X800GTO2 PCI-E 256MB
Reference card ATI RADEON X850 XT PCI-E
Sapphire RADEON X1300 PCI-E 256MB
Reference card ATI RADEON X1300 PRO PCI-E
Sapphire RADEON X1600 XT PCI-E 256MB
Reference card ATI RADEON X1600 XT PCI-E
Sapphire RADEON X1800 XL PCI-E 256MB
Reference card ATI RADEON X1800 XL PCI-E
Sapphire RADEON X1800 XT PCI-E 512MB
Reference card ATI RADEON X1800 XT PCI-E


We can see well on the photos that all the video cards are based on the reference designs. X800GT/GTO/GTO2 cards are obviously based on the same PCB as the X800 XT/X850 XT. What concerns the X1xxx series, the X1300 and X1600 XT cards are manufactured by Sapphire on its own, they are also copies of the reference design. And the X1800 XL, X1800 XT are just reference cards, bought from ATI. Partners just put their own stickers and labels on such products, place them in their packages, and sell through their channels.

Let's review the cooling systems. Review of the X1800 XL/XT coolers will be skipped, as they are copies of the reference design, which we already reviewed many times.

Sapphire RADEON X800GT AGP 256MB; Sapphire RADEON X800GTO AGP 256MB

Unique exterior and usual mode of operation. We haven't run across such heart-shaped heatsinks before :)

Mode of operation is simple: since GeForce4 Ti times, it's a closed flat heatsink with an off-center fan that sucks the air inside and drives it along the core heatsink.

Cooling method is much more efficient than in traditional coolers with a central heatsink, but it's not enough for modern Hi-End accelerators. But it's actually sufficient for the X800GT/GTO. Moreover, its noise is insignificant. Besides, you can use RivaTuner to set the rotational speed to minimum. These cards shall not be overheated operating at the standard frequencies.







Sapphire RADEON X800GTO2 PCI-E 256MB

It's a similar device, but it has a larger heatsink plus a more powerful turbine and a copper insert in the heatsink that touches a core. In fact, even a reference cooler would have been enough.

The noise is also insignificant, it also allows to control rotational speed of the fan.







Sapphire RADEON X1300 PCI-E 256MB

A simple black heatsink made of aluminum alloy. It's quite large actually. It's evidently insufficient, as the card gets very hot even at the X1300-non-Pro frequencies, the heatsink temperature may reach 90º and higher.

Perhaps it will not damage the card itself, but the temperature inside a PC case will rise, which may lead to negative consequences.

It's a mystery why cool only the front side memory chips, and leave the back side chips unattended.







Sapphire RADEON X1600 XT PCI-E 256MB

The cooling system is similar to what we have described in the beginning: a closed heatsink, a turbine drives the air from left to right (and upwards). The cooler has another outlet - it expands in the upper part. This is all necessary to cool well not only the core, but memory chips as well.

The heatsink has a copper base.

The noise is insignificant, but it may grow as the temperature rises.







Bundle

Sapphire RADEON X800GT AGP 256MB; Sapphire RADEON X800GTO AGP 256MB
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 cables, an external power cable.


Sapphire RADEON X800GTO2 PCI-E 256MB
A similar bundle, but the external power cable is different (6-pin) and the SVideo-to-RCA adapter is replaced for a VIVO splitter.


Sapphire RADEON X1300 PCI-E 256MB
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 cables, HDTV adapter.


Sapphire RADEON X1600 XT PCI-E 256MB
The same bundle.


Sapphire RADEON X1800 XL PCI-E 256MB
The same bundle plus an external power cable.


Sapphire RADEON X1800 XT PCI-E 512MB
The same bundle.




Packages.

Sapphire RADEON X800GT AGP 256MB

The company changed its package design more than a year and a half ago. These packages now have bright jackets with cardboard boxes inside. Bundle components are arranged in plastic sections.







Sapphire RADEON X800GTO AGP 256MB

Packages have windows to demonstrate video cards - it makes them look more attractive and more convenient for users.







Sapphire RADEON X800GTO2 PCI-E 256MB

Glossy jackets have been showing off some aliens for over a year. At least they look more refined now. They used to be looking like gamers dying from exhaustion, because they hadn't left their computers for a week.







Sapphire RADEON X1300 PCI-E 256MB

An alien on this package is holding the Earth with infantile joy (what does it mean?). We can only marvel at designers' fantasies.

But customers will hardly see these packages, as this is a budget card. The X1300 will most likely be sold as PPP or lite retail.







Sapphire RADEON X1600 XT PCI-E 256MB

This card is just a step higher in the X1xxx series, but the face on the package becomes evil, the jacket gets whiter. Designers work wonders. I wanted to ask many times what did they mean by drawing such faces on packages. Should we expect troubles from this card, is it not friendly?







Sapphire RADEON X1800 XL PCI-E 256MB

As the cards grow more powerful, the traits are getting more blurred and start to resemble the first alien mummies, probably corpses of native gamers delivered from Mars. Stern looks and gaunt frames are an evident warning about the consequences of installing this card on your computer...







Sapphire RADEON X1800 XT PCI-E 512MB

The same situation here. Designers seem to have run out of imagination and the most powerful card does not have a box of its own design. Package windows disappeared as well.









Installation and Drivers

Testbed configurations:

  • Athlon 64 (939Socket) based computer
    • CPU: AMD Athlon 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

  • Athlon 64 (754Socket) based computer:
    • CPU: AMD Athlon 64 3700+ (2400MHz) (L2=1024K)
    • Motherboard: Albatron K8Ultra-U Pro on ULi M1689
    • RAM: 2 GB DDR SDRAM 400MHz (CAS (tCL)=2.5; RAS to CAS delay (tRCD)=3; Row Precharge (tRP)=3; tRAS=6)
    • 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 (PCI-E video cards) CATALYST 5.13; NVIDIA drivers 81.98.

VSync is disabled.

Here is the situation with overclocking:

  • Sapphire RADEON X800GT AGP 256MB - 550/1150 MHz;
  • Sapphire RADEON X800GTO AGP 256MB - 560/1140 MHz;
  • Sapphire RADEON X800GTO2 PCI-E 256MB - 545/1220 MHz (considering that all 16 pipelines are working, we'll get even higher results than in case of the X850 XT PE);
  • Sapphire RADEON X1300 PCI-E 256MB - 500/800 MHz (higher frequencies are impossible, overheating is nearly unbearable);
  • Sapphire RADEON X1600 XT PCI-E 256MB - 630/1390 MHz;
  • Sapphire RADEON X1800 XL PCI-E 256MB - 550/1400 MHz (I have already explained why this core cannot operate at frequencies exceeding 550 MHz);
  • Sapphire RADEON X1800 XT PCI-E 512MB - 700/1650 MHz.

The last option is possible thanks to the new BIOS version with increased core voltage, so that 700 MHz cause no overheating and anomalous operation of the accelerator. Considering that 700/1600 MHz modifications will come as X1800 XT PE, we used this very card for summary diagrams.

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



Summary performance diagrams for PCI-Express video cards

Summary performance diagrams for AGP video cards



Conclusions

  1. Sapphire RADEON X800GT AGP 256MB is a very interesting product for its price (about $140-$150 for the beginning of 2006), based on the retiring AGP platform (but video cards with this interface are still in demand). Unfortunately, it's impossible to unlock pipelines, so overclockers will have to be satisfied with modifying frequencies. The card quality is up to the mark, we have no gripes with it.

  2. Sapphire RADEON X800GTO AGP 256MB is a similar product, but with more pipelines and reduced frequencies. But we know that the core is R480, so this core is born to be overclocked to 500 MHz or even higher. This accelerator is very popular among overclockers. It's sometimes possible to unlock its pipelines, but in the majority of cases it's impossible.

  3. Sapphire RADEON X800GTO2 PCI-E 256MB possesses the same characteristics as the previous product, but its GPU contains 16 pipelines instead of 12 pipelines expected. That is this card is identical to the X800 XL, but its core can easily operate at 520 MHz and higher. So this card can be easily upgraded into the X850 XT PE. I'll remind you that GTO2 is actually identical to GTO, but its core is not locked on the hardware level. That is overclockers can flash new BIOS to unlock all pipelines and get what they want. I cannot guarantee that all such cards will come with unlocked 16 pipelines.

  4. Sapphire RADEON X1300 PCI-E 256MB is a low end card in the new X1xxx family. It fairs well for its price of 70-90 USD (at the beginning of the year) and outperformed many competitors. The quality is up to the mark, but there are some overheating problems. In chase of noiseless operation, engineers somehow forgot that this video card should be installed inside a PC case. Even if it can operate in hot environment, the other PC components may get overheated.

  5. Sapphire RADEON X1600 XT PCI-E 256MB is a middle end accelerator, a top representative of the new generation of video cards below $200. Not long ago we reviewed it as an ambiguous product, as its price of $249, 12 pipelines, and just 4 texture processors combined with a 128-bit bus did not tally with each other. But mistakes were corrected and now such cards come at $170 (at the beginning of the year) and successfully compete with GeForce 6600GT/6800 cards. The competing GeForce 6800GS is much more expensive so its positioning has been changed. That's why the X1600 XT is currently the most successful product in its class.

  6. Sapphire RADEON X1800 XL PCI-E 256MB is a Hi-End video card, inexpensive in its class. It has become a very attractive product, after its performance was improved and its price reduced to the level of the competing GeForce 7800GT. Its only drawback is a noisy reference cooler, but it can be remedied in RivaTuner.

  7. Sapphire RADEON X1800 XT PCI-E 512MB is currently a top product from ATI. There started to appear overclocked modifications (700/1600 MHz), but their number is negligibly small. Besides, the R580 is round the corner. Gradual reduction of prices for such cards increases their popularity. Besides, a stronger product (GeForce 7800 GTX 512MB) is much more rare on the shelves (and its price in our retail is higher by $200-$250). The X1800 XT has an obvious advantage - a good cooling system, which drives the hot air out of a PC case. Besides, this cooler is quiet and can be controlled with RivaTuner.

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 cards.



Andrey Vorobiev (anvakams@ixbt.com)

2006



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