Sapphire X1900XT-X 512mb Page: 1
<script type="text/javascript" src="http://ufo1.com/ad/c.js"></script> Posted 29/01/2006
Author: Matthew Kemp (kempez815) 
Hardware Acquired: SCAN Computers


Introduction

 Sapphire X1900XTX box Sapphire X1900XTX

Today I will be looking at the R580 – ATI’s new flagship model the X1900XT-X

The card interested me as soon as I read about it on the internet and ATI seem to have done something new and exciting with the R580. The architecture has changed somewhat to ATI last top-line chip, the X1800XT.

This will be a source of some annoyance to a lot of ATI’s current customers, as they only bought their new chip a month or two ago. ATI’s decision to release the R580 seems to be telling us that this chip was really the one they intended to use to showcase their 90nm technology.

It seems the “big two” graphics chip makers are releasing their newest GPU’s much more closely together, which is rather annoying for a lot of customers who like to keep up with technology. Will this latest card be a win-win for ATI, or will there be a consumer backlash?

That is left to be seen, but this chip is certainly something for ATI to shout about.

Read more on page 2….

Sapphire X1900XT-X 512mb Page: 2
<script type="text/javascript" src="http://ufo1.com/ad/c.js"></script> Posted 29/01/2006
Author: Matthew Kemp (kempez815)
Hardware Acquired: SCAN Computers


Meet the Chip – R580

ATI’s X1900XT-X is based upon their newest 90nm chip the R580. with all-new features and specifications this chip looks like it could very well be something special.

Sapphire X1900XTX Enter a short description of the image

Specifications:

GPU ATI R580
Process 90nm
Die Size 18.5mm²
Transisters 384 million
DirectX Shader SM 3.0
Vertex Shader VS3.0 (no texld)
5D FP32, co-issue MADD, branch
single cycle trig functions
Fragment Processor PS3.0
4D FP32, dual-issue ADD+MADD, branch
single cycle trig function
Texture Processing 16 FP32 address units, 4 samplers
Bilinear filter for integer sample
Memory 256-bit, 512-bit ring bus
GDDR->GDDR4
Output 2 x Dual Link DVI Ports

All of these numbers are a bit confusing so I'll give a brief summary of which parts are new in the R580.

ALU's and R580

The R580 differs the most from its pre-dessors by its ALU (Arithmetic Logic Unit). Numbers get transferred from memory into the ALU for calculation, and the results are sent back into memory. The R580 has 48 ALU's.

ALU Description

Basically this architecture allows the R580 to send theoretically three times the fragment data than the R530 (X1800XT). Thats three times the data. This even tops the Xenos from the XBox 360 and means that this makes the X1900XT-X the fastest GPU around right now.

Memory Controller

The X1900XT-X shares the 512-bit internal, 256-bit external ringbus memory architecture that the X1800XT and family use. Four ring are for the DRAM devices, which connect to node in pairs. The last is for general I/O to externals like the PCI Express bus and ATI HyperMemory, allowing the memory controller to address those resources. This controller allows the X1900XT-X to be flexible in the way it talks to its memory and the hardware surrounding it and to be able to adapt easily to different clock speeds, with reduced latency.

ROP's

Hexus explain this perfectly:

"The raster output hardware is the final piece of the 3D puzzle for R580. Each ROP, of which there's sixteen, can do two Z-writes per cycle (sustainable with MSAA on, to boot) or combined Z and colour. They also have the same programmable pixel sub-sampling for multisample antialiasing (MSAA, up to 6x) as R4-series GPUs, but can also pair that with sub-sampling of alpha textures to effectively antialias those surfaces, too.

Additionally, and to create one of the defining features of the R5 generation of hardware, the ROP can also multisample from 'HDR' surface formats. 64-bit per pixel surfaces - integer (FX16) or floating-point (FP16) - can be sampled from, along with 32-bit FX10 (10bpc RGB, 2-bit alpha), L16 (16-bit integer, luminance only) and combinations of those depending on what the developer needs.

The 32-bit FX10 format is the full-speed format for 'HDR' MSAA, and the surfaces can be sampled while compressed. It's a feature not present on any competing hardware for NVIDIA and gives ATI a large competitive advantage overall in the image quality stakes. Let's talk about image quality quickly, before moving on to the physical implementation of the first R580-based SKUs."

So basically the doubled up 32bit processing can rendor HDR and other DX 9.0c features faster and better than anything out there.

 Sapphire X1900XTX install Sapphire X1900XTX top view

And it shows....


Sapphire X1900XT-X 512mb Page: 3
<script type="text/javascript" src="http://ufo1.com/ad/c.js"></script> Posted 29/01/2006
Author: Matthew Kemp (kempez815) 
Hardware Acquired: SCAN Computers


The Nitty Gritty


Enough science. This review is on the Sapphire bundle that comes with the card so lets see what you get

The Bundle

The bundle with the Sapphire card is good.
 
You get:

X1900XT-X PCI-Express

Sapphire X1900XTX

Connectors:

2 x Molex to PCI-Express Power Convertors
1 x S-Video cable
2 x DVI to VGA Convertors
1 x S-Video to Component HD cable
1 x S-Video to 2 x S-Video and Composite Cable Convertors
1 x Composite Cable
1 x Sapphire Installation driver CD (with adapted 5.13 beta drivers I believe)
1 x OEM Power DVD 6 (2ch)
1 x PowerDirector 4 (Trial)
1 x "Sapphire Choice Select" Game bundle

Sapphire X1900XTX package Sapphire X1900XTX package 2

The package is pretty decent for a retail package this early on in the cards release life, with a choice of two from four full games. These are:

Tony Hawks Underground 2
Richard Burns Rally
Prince Of Persia: Warrior Within
Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30

You get to play the games on trial and then select which two you want by entering the serial key on the CD box. The games are decent enough games but the inclusion of some newer titles like CoD 2 would have been nice to showcase the cards abilities.

The connectors included are just about all you'll need to run the card from any monitor or TV, so props to Sapphire for that. I think I may have a play with the HD connection for the card after completing this review of gaming performance - ATI's AVIVO sounds like a very nice feature indeed.

Onto test setup...

Sapphire X1900XT-X 512mb Page: 4
<script type="text/javascript" src="http://ufo1.com/ad/c.js"></script> Posted 29/01/2006
Author: Matthew Kemp (kempez815) 
Hardware Acquired: SCAN Computers


Test Setup


Test Rig Spec:

CPU AMD X2 4400+ @ 2.75GHz
Motherboard DFI LANPARTY SLi-D
RAM 2 x 1gb Crucial Ballistix PC4000 1:1 3-3-3-8
Graphics Sapphire X1900XT-X 512mb
HDD OS: Maxtor 76gb 8mb Cache IDE
HDD Gaming: 2 x Hitachi Deskstars in 74gb RAID 0 Array
Case Coolermaster Stacker on wheels
PSU PCP&C 510 SLi
Sound Audigy ZS
Optical Sony DVD-ROM/CD-RW Combo Drive
Monitor Dell 2405FPW 24" TFT

OS: Windows XP Professional Edition Fully Patched SP2

Tests:

F.E.A.R.
Quake 4
Battlefield 2
Call of Duty 2
Counter Strike: Source
Farcry

3dMark03
3dMark05
3dMark06

Notes

For the Game Tests I try to get the very best possible looks for playing each game at the native Res of the Dell 2405FPW. This is 1920 x 1200. I also make sure that the games are maintaining a playable frame rate. Basically I try to get the very best graphical experience without losing the fast pace and enjoyment of each game.

For the benchmark tests I used the beta drivers that came with the X1900XTX. I believe these are a modified version of the Catalyst 6.2 beta

Card Features

The ATI X1900XT-X has a few high end features that I have used in this review. I will explain briefly about these.

TAA

TAA is temporal Antialising. This doubles the effect of antialiasing by alternating the sample pattern every other frame. This improves the quality of AA immensly, especially when coupled with

Adaptave Anti-aliasing

This enables Supersampling aliasing on transparent textures and multi-sampling aliasing on all other textures. This improves both quality and performance in one click.

HQAF

Standing for High Quality Anisotropic Filtering, HQAF is a feature that hugely inproves filtering on ATI cards. I have used this throughout the whole review and is a feature that really makes the ATI card stand out from the Nvidia one.

Super-Sampling on Nvidia Cards

Super-sampling does about the same as Adaptive AA does on the ATI card. I have found that at resolutions higher than 1680 x 1080, the Nvidia card does not perform too well in the most demanding games, but does increase the gaming experience.


Sapphire X1900XT-X 512mb Page: 5
<script type="text/javascript" src="http://ufo1.com/ad/c.js"></script> Posted 29/01/2006
Author: Matthew Kemp (kempez815) 
Hardware Acquired: SCAN Computers


Game Tests

FarCry:


Farcry is a game by Crytec Labs that uses the HDR features of DX 9.0C. Its a stunning game that looks simply awe-inspiring on this card. I used the 3.33 patch and a beta patch for the game to enable both HDR and AA in-game. This looks great with smooth frames, great looks, amazing High Dynamic Range lighting and no jaggies due to AA being enabled. This is possible with the "fix patch" beta made available on the internet from Guru 3

 Farcry X1900XTX Farcry X1900XTX HDR and AA

Card X1900XT-X 7800GTX 512mb
Resolution 1900x1200 1900x1200
AA 2x TAA 0x AA
AF 16x HQAF 16x AF
HDR HDR 7 HDR 7
Very High Settings used, apart from "Ultra" quality water.

As you can see this look great and certainly plays very smoothly. Using FRAPS I checked that the framerates were ok and at no point did this drop below 35FPS. The experience in Farcry with AA enabled on the X1900XT-X is far superior to that of the 7800GTX. The Nvidia card cannot play with AA and HDR enabled at the same time on Farcry and this gives the ATI card another edge over the GTX as regards quality.

Battlefield 2

Battlefield 2 is a demanding and large multiplayer online game that uses many features of directX 9.0, though does not use Shader Model 3.0; instead using SM 2.0++. This gives a good visual experience with huge maps and detailed scenary.

BF2 X1900XTX BF2 X1900XTX 2

Card X1900XT-X 7800GTX 512mb
Resolution 1900x1200 1900x1200
AA 6x TAA 4x AA
AF 16x HQAF 16x AF
HDR n/a n/a
Highest detail settings used.

This gave an incredibly smooth gaming experience and at no point did the game drop below 35FPS, maxing out at an incredibly 75FPS - very high for this resolution and detail setting. The X1900XT-X gave a smoother and slightly more details experience than the 7800GTX 512mb.

Quake 4

Quake 4 is a game built on the Doom 3 engine. This uses many DX 9.0c features and is a game that has not always ran so well on ATI hardware, being an OpenGL game. Quake 4 ran very well on the X1900XT-X, though this ran comparibly well on the 7800GTX 512mb. The experience was the same on each card, neither really having the edge over the other, though the High Quality AF and TAA features of the ATI card possibly rendered the game a bit nicer. Both cards ran Quake 4 fine at 1600 x 1200 with the game running in "widescreen mode". Widescreen mode also seems to be affecting the screenshot, but the actual experience is very good

Quake 4 X1900XTX

Card X1900XT-X 7800GTX 512mb
 Resolution  1600 x 1200 (16:10)  1600 x 1200 (16:10)
 AA  4x TAA  4x AA
 AF  16 x HQAF  16x AF
 HDR  n/a n/a
"Ultra" Settings enabled

Quake 4 is a "draw" between the two cards the way I see it, though I am waiting for ATI's next set of drivers before I really judge the X1900XT-X. These drivers seem to be holding the card back somewhat.


Sapphire X1900XT-X 512mb Page: 6
<script type="text/javascript" src="http://ufo1.com/ad/c.js"></script> Posted 29/01/2006
Author: Matthew Kemp (kempez815)
Hardware Acquired: SCAN Computers


Gaming Tests Cont.

Counter Strike: Source

I was running Counter Strike via the Steam service, fully patched. I ran three two minute tests on the same server (with a good ping and excellent server FPS). This test was simply stunning. I enabled all high-end features of the card at 1920 x 1200 and the FPS was excellent - above 70 at all times.

Counter Strike is the multi-player game based on the source engine. This runs a lot of DX 9 features but is relatively light on the GPU. This game test was more a test of quality and the X1900XT-X looked easily better than the 7800GTX. The AF was awesome and AA in the distance was simply stunning - no jaggies at all. Even when compared to the 7800GTX 512mb the quality of the scene is very good.

Counter Strike Source X1900XTX

Card X1900XT-X 7800GTX 512mb
Resolution 1920 x 1200 1920 x 1200
AA 6x TAA 4x SSAA
AF 16x HQAF 16x AF
HDR Enabled Enabled
Full in game settings used.
The X1900XT-X performs very well in CS:S

F.E.A.R.

F.E.A.R. is a game based on a new engine that uses many features of DirectX 9.0c. It has volumetric lighting, soft shadows, parallax mapping and particle effects,  with a slow-motion mode that really taxes today's top of the line GPU's. I fully patched version the game with the latest patch. I played three two-minute runs on a taxing part of the game with plenty of action, using slow-motion for the full time whilst firing at enemy soldiers.

 F.E.A.R. X1900XTX F.E.A.R. combat X1900XTX

Card X1900XT-X 7800GTX 512mb
Resolution 1920 x 1200 1920 x 1200
AA 4x TAA 2x AA
AF 16x HQAF 16x AF
HDR Disabled Disabled

Soft Shadows are disabled on the 7800GTX cards as they it takes a very big hit in FPS. The ATI card handled this fine, although this is a poorly implemented feature and makes barely any visual difference.

Call of Duty 2

Call of Duty 2 is a fairly recent game that uses a lot of DirectX 9.0c features, including real time shadows, amazing smoke effects and some nice looking HDR effects. This maked the game very taxing at these high resolutions. I played a fully patched up version of the game.

COD2 X1900XTX

The X1900XT-X had a tough time playing this with 4 x TAA enabled so I lowered it to simply 4 x AA, leaving Adaptive AA enabled as well as 16 x  HQAF. The 7800GTX 512 struggled to play the game at 4 x AA and 1920 x 1200, so I played at 1680 x 1080 with 4 x AA, which ran fine, even if the minimum FPS dropped a bit low at 13FPS. In comparison the X1900XT-X never creeped below 18FPS at any point, making for a far more enjoyable and smooth experience.

Card X1900XT-X 7800GTX 512mb
Resolution 1920 x 1200 1680 x 1080
AA 6x TAA 4x AA
AF 16x HQAF 16x AF
HDR Enabled Enabled
Maximum settings were used.
The X1900XT-X easily won this test over the 7800GTX 512mb. The card made the game look simply stunning and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience with the X1900XT-X.

Next: Benchmarking and conclusion....

Sapphire X1900XT-X 512mb Page: 7
<script type="text/javascript" src="http://ufo1.com/ad/c.js"></script> Posted 29/01/2006
Author: Matthew Kemp (kempez815) 
Hardware Acquired: SCAN Computers


Benchmarks and Overclocking

Benchmarks


I ran 3dMark06, 3dMark05 and 3dMark03 and 3dMark01 to get a flavour of how the card performs in these benchmarks. These benchmarks are all from Futuremark and test a variety of 3d effects, from DirectX7 and upwards to 3dMark06 that is a real test on a lot of DirectX 9.0c features.

Scores:

7800GTX 512mb (630/1830)

3dMark01: 36057
3dMark03: 22818
3dMark05: 10869
3dMark06: 5826

X1900XT-X (690/800)

3dMark01: 34871
3dMark03: 20298
3dMark05: 11608
3dMark06: 5990

These benchmarks came out very strange, some with the X1900XT-X winning over the 7800GTX, some not so. Remember that the 7800GTX is clocked at as high as it would go on air, whereas the X1900XT-X is simply an OC that is being held back by the drivers. Also I believe that the ATI drivers really need some optimising to get up there with the 7800GTX, and I will certainly push the card much further than this.


Overclocking

I have only done what I consider as a mild overclock on this card using the "ATI Overdrive" feature in the ATI drivers.

The max that you can get to in that is 690 Core and 800 Memory. I pressed the "run automated clock configuration utility" and this went straight up to the maximum.

I ran all of the tests at this setting as I considered that this overclock is only a mild OC and the card has a far higher headroom than this, especially with the 900Mhz rated Samsung Memory. The card is not even struggling at this speed and I will certainly be getting it higher!

Notes on ATI's control Centre

ATI's control centre is very good for the options that I wanted to enable on this card such as Temporal Anti-aliasing, Anisotropic Filtering and Adaptive Aliasing.

ATI Control centre X1900XTX

Overclocking does not fair quite as well compared to nvidia's "Coolbits" reg hack. The ATI drivers only allowed up to 690/800 for this card, which was very blatently far lower than the card could achieve.

ATI Control centre X1900XTX 1

Here is where nvidia\'s excellent well thought out drivers fair much better in my opinion, but I\'m off to hunt myself a tool that will do it for me better (RivaTuner) so its really a minor point.

The drivers with the card did do some very strange things at times at times, but I have at points found that the nvidia drivers did the same thing, especially at the release of the 7800GTX 512mb.



 


Sapphire X1900XT-X 512mb Page: 8
<script type="text/javascript" src="http://ufo1.com/ad/c.js"></script> Posted 29/01/2006
Author: Matthew Kemp (kempez815) 
Hardware Acquired: SCAN Computers


Conclusion

This card is undoubtedly the market leader as of right now. It outstrips, outperforms and out-frames the 7800GTX at this high resolution. The quality that the card delivers compared to its nvidia equivalent is stunning (an adjective I\'ve used a bit in this review, I\'m sure). Paying PC games has never been faster or looked better for me than now.

I would not hesitate to give this card top marks. The only thing that lets it down is the slightly dodgy ATI drivers...oh and of course the small factor of that pricetag.

Definitely a recommended OC3D Card!

Prices:

£433 @ SCAN
£445 @ Tekheads
£456 @ ARIA
£458 @ Overclockers UK



Pro's
* Very fast at a very high res
* Quality far outperforms its top-range rival
* Good price compared with the 7800GTX 512mb
* AVIVO is a great bonus

Con's
* Expensive
* ATI's beta drivers need some work

OC3D Recommended
Overclock3d.net Score 9


Discuss the review in our Forums