Sapphire HD 2900 XT

Introduction, packaging, package and specification


AMD/ATI introduced the 2900 XT in May. With full DirectX 10 support and some pretty awesome multimedia features the card looked to be pretty nice. Finally ATI had a competitor for the 8800 series. We took a long look at the features and specification of the card in our article here.

Today I have the Sapphire HD2900XT in the labs, let's take a look to see what kind of performance we can get out of AMD's newest top-line GPU.


Sapphire have adorned their 2900XT's box with the usual space-age CGI character. However I was pleasantly surprised to see that their as a viewing window to allow you to see the actual card itself, something I appreciate in packaging. This is sure to tempt people towards the card as it shows it off in all it's glory.

saphire hd2900xt sapphire hd2900xt box

The inside of the box is equally well packaged with a nice foam insert for the card to sit in. The package that comes with the card is nestled in it's own box below the card itself.

sapphhire 2900xt packaging inside

All is well on the packaging front then, although the box information could be a little less crowded.


It has to be said that the package for the 2900 XT is very impressive indeed. You get:

* Getting started manual
* CyberLink PowerDirector 4
* CyberLink PowerDVD 6
* Furturemark's 3DMark06 Pro Edition
* Half Life 2 "The Black Box" Edition voucher
* Installation driver CD
* 1 x Crossfire Dongle
* 1 x S-Video to dual S-Video and dual Composite connectors
* 2 x DVI to VGA connectors
* 1 x DVI to HDMI connector
* 1 x S-Video to component connector

sapphire hd2900xt bundle

ATI and Sapphire have done very well in putting this package together, very well indeed. Everything you will need is there, along with a generous amount of decent media software, a couple of Half Life 2 related AAA titles and a very nice benchmark for when you want to show off your new card.

It's not often I say this, but that is a complete bundle and is impressive.


Taken from Sapphire's website:

Quick specs:

Chipset        HD 2900 XT
process (Die size)        0,08 µ
transistor count        720 Mio
memory options        512 MB
Core frequency        740
Memory frequency (eff.)        1650
Shader Processor Units        48
pixel shader pipelines        16
Geometry pipelines        8
Vertex shader        8
steam processors        320
Memory Bus (bit)        512
memory type        GDDR3
data bus        PCI Express x16
RAMDAC        2x400MHz
AA samples per fillrate (Gsamples/sec)       
textures applied per pass       
maximum texels filtered per Pixel (texel/pixel)       
standard cooling        active
standard slot solution        dual
external power need        yes, 6pin, 8pin
DirectX        DX10 SM4.0
Memory Optimization        Hyper Z HD
Full Screen Anti-Aliasing        Smoothvision HD + Adaptive AA
HDR (10:10:10:2)        16-bit integer or floating point
Video acceleration        MPEG-2, MPEG-4, DivX, WMV9, VC-1, and H.264
FullStream  (Video-deblocking)        Real, divX, WM9,
HDTV compatibility (YPbPr)        yes
HDMI compliance / HDCP ready         HDMI 1.2 / yes
HDMI modes (over DVI)        480p, 720p, 1080i
Dual-Link capabilities        2
native display support        10-bit
3D Graphics Resolution        2560x1600
TV Out resolution        1024x768 1080i
Dual Display support        Hydravision 3

Full ATI marketing stuff:

700 million transistors on 80nm HS fabrication process
512-bit 8-channel GDDR3/4 memory interface
Ring Bus Memory Controller

* Fully distributed design with 1024-bit internal ring bus for memory reads and writes
* Optimized for high performance HDR (High Dynamic Range) rendering at high display resolutions

Unified Superscalar Shader Architecture

* 320 stream processing units
o Dynamic load balancing and resource allocation for vertex, geometry, and pixel shaders
o Common instruction set and texture unit access supported for all types of shaders
o Dedicated branch execution units and texture address processors
* 128-bit floating point precision for all operations
* Command processor for reduced CPU overhead
* Shader instruction and constant caches
* Up to 80 texture fetches per clock cycle
* Up to 128 textures per pixel
* Fully associative multi-level texture cache design
* DXTC and 3Dc+ texture compression
* High resolution texture support (up to 8192 x 8192)
* Fully associative texture Z/stencil cache designs
* Double-sided hierarchical Z/stencil buffer
* Early Z test, Re-Z, Z Range optimization, and Fast Z Clear
* Lossless Z & stencil compression (up to 128:1)
* Lossless color compression (up to 8:1)
* 8 render targets (MRTs) with anti-aliasing support
* Physics processing support

Full support for Microsoft® DirectX® 10.0

* Shader Model 4.0
* Geometry Shaders
* Stream Output
* Integer and Bitwise Operations
* Alpha to Coverage
* Constant Buffers
* State Objects
* Texture Arrays

Dynamic Geometry Acceleration

* High performance vertex cache
* Programmable tessellation unit
* Accelerated geometry shader path for geometry amplification
* Memory read/write cache for improved stream output performance

Anti-aliasing features

* Multi-sample anti-aliasing (up to 8 samples per pixel)
* Up to 24x Custom Filter Anti-Aliasing (CFAA) for improved quality
* Adaptive super-sampling and multi-sampling
* Temporal anti-aliasing
* Gamma correct
* Super AA (CrossFire™ configurations only)
* All anti-aliasing features compatible with HDR rendering

Texture filtering features

* 2x/4x/8x/16x high quality adaptive anisotropic filtering modes (up to 128 taps per pixel)
* 128-bit floating point HDR texture filtering
* Bicubic filtering
* sRGB filtering (gamma/degamma)
* Percentage Closer Filtering (PCF)
* Depth & stencil texture (DST) format support
* Shared exponent HDR (RGBE 9:9:9:5) texture format support

CrossFire™ Multi-GPU Technology

* Scale up rendering performance and image quality with 2 or more GPUs
* Integrated compositing engine
* High performance dual channel interconnect

ATI Avivo™ HD Video and Display Platform

* Two independent display controllers
o Drive two displays simultaneously with independent resolutions, refresh rates, color controls and video overlays for each display
o Full 30-bit display processing
o Programmable piecewise linear gamma correction, color correction, and color space conversion
o Spatial/temporal dithering provides 30-bit color quality on 24-bit and 18-bit displays
o High quality pre- and post-scaling engines, with underscan support for all display outputs
o Content-adaptive de-flicker filtering for interlaced displays
o Fast, glitch-free mode switching
o Hardware cursor
* Two integrated dual-link DVI display outputs
o Each supports 18-, 24-, and 30-bit digital displays at all resolutions up to 1920x1200 (single-link DVI) or 2560x1600 (dual-link DVI)1
o Each includes a dual-link HDCP encoder with on-chip key storage for high resolution playback of protected content2
* Two integrated 400 MHz 30-bit RAMDACs
o Each supports analog displays connected by VGA at all resolutions up to 2048x15363
* HDMI output support
o Supports all display resolutions up to 1920x1080i
o Integrated HD audio controller with multi-channel (5.1) AC3 support, enabling a plug-and-play cable-less audio solution
* Integrated AMD Xilleon™ HDTV encoder
o Provides high quality analog TV output (component/S-video/composite)
o Supports SDTV and HDTV resolutions
o Underscan and overscan compensation
* HD decode for H.264/AVC, VC-1, DivX and MPEG-2 video formats
o Flawless DVD, HD DVD, and Blu-ray™ playback
o Motion compensation and IDCT (Inverse Discrete Cosine Transformation)
* HD video processing
o Advanced vector adaptive per-pixel de-interlacing
o De-blocking and noise reduction filtering
o Edge enhancement
o Inverse telecine (2:2 and 3:2 pull-down correction)
o Bad edit correction
o High fidelity gamma correction, color correction, color space conversion, and scaling
* MPEG-2, MPEG-4, DivX, WMV9, VC-1, and H.264/AVC encoding and transcoding
* Seamless integration of pixel shaders with video in real time
* VGA mode support on all display outputs

PCI Express x16 bus interface
OpenGL 2.0 support

1 Some custom resolutions require user configuration
2 HDCP support for playback of protected content requires connection to a HDCP capable display

Now let's get onto the good stuff...
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Most Recent Comments

09-07-2007, 03:39:55

I know some of you have been awaiting this one for a while

Sorry about that

Here we go

Enjoy Quote

09-07-2007, 06:56:17

As always, nice review Kempez!Quote

09-07-2007, 07:04:16

wow, it kicked the 8800's ass at some things :O

in 3dmark it dominated

nice looking card Quote

09-07-2007, 07:45:41

Tis nice looking, not kind on the ears thoughQuote

09-07-2007, 07:47:23

Originally Posted by name='Kempez'
Tis nice looking, not kind on the ears though
I heard a crossfire setup of those. Man oh man hecka loud! If ATI sorted their size/power/noise issue, then I'd have definitely considered an HD2900XT.Quote

09-07-2007, 07:53:10

Not a fan on the sandwich heatsink. The 8800 Blocks are expensive enough, the 2900s are going too need even more copper = higher price again. Same goes for after-market air coolers.

But at the oblivion resultsQuote

09-07-2007, 07:58:50

Looks nice..

But a question, would this be a good upgrade from my x1900xt or should i go for a 2600xt? I am in two minds, as i dont really play a lot of games. But i do run two 1600x1200 monitors, and would like to be able to do dual screen with dx3d apps.

Or would a 8800GTS 640mb be better, given the price differences between them.Quote

09-07-2007, 08:30:27

Tremendous review Kemp. I wonder why an 8 pin pci-e thingy isn`t in the bundle ? Seems strange to adopt a personalized connection type and not equip the average user with the means to use it.

That aside, bundle scores very nicely - tbh other manufacturers can learn a whole lot from this. Users love `free` stuff, and when it`s closely associated with the product too it`s great. Jeez a user would be happy with an XL "I score with Ati" shirt folded at the bottom of the box

Slightly off topic perhaps, but I see the Oblivion scores are silly-high in comparison with a 8800GTS... leads me to think if the game was heavily dev`d around an Ati engine. Would answer a few questions tbh. I can`t remember whether it boasts a card manuf when u run it.

Over all tho, I think it turned out as u may have previously thought, a good solid competitor for an 8800GTS. And it seems if u`r a really big Oblivion fan, u should seriously consider it.Quote

09-07-2007, 12:12:28

Nice review but I think the comment about the "needing the extra 2 pins" was unnecessary. If you take a look @ the rear of your 8800GTX, you'll notice there is in fact a 6 pin and an 8 pin. NVIDIA chose to only solder on 6 of those 8 pins though. ATi could've done the same thing, you don't need 8 pins. ATi's Overdrive unlocks when you use an 8 pin and a 6 pin, but some people @ XS have discovered you can use two 6 pins and short the remaining 2 with a paperclip and Overdrive unlocks Quote

09-07-2007, 12:55:21

This I know, what I am questioning is why did ATI choose to include this? And why have they chosed not to unlock overdrive if you dont use the 6 PIN. Normal users won't be sticking paperclips into graphics cards and why the hell should they?

I am not just catering for the knowledgable enthusiasts in the reviews, it has to be everyone tbhQuote

09-07-2007, 13:34:24

long review

On the quake4 test. Did you do a timedemo the results seem a bit 'wild'

All of the fps results are a bit wierd how do you get the avg fps etc?

edit: Once again I did three two minute runs on Quake 4 on each card and took the average of all my readings from these.

Sounds like a FRAPS type job?

The oblivion benchmark? is quite interesting.

On the hardware side, the cooler is quite nice

Shame about it being noisy

I thought the review was excellent. I really liked the beginning with the hardware images and little bits of info like the fan being noisy etc

I would be interested to see the HDMI capabilities of the card Quote

09-07-2007, 13:50:15

Ye I use FRAPS to record FPS and play a manual run through of the game. Not sure why you say "wild", tis just min, max and average FPS. I know it works well cause the FPS stay the same every time and comparing two similar cards gets similar results. Some cards handle games well staying very steady, some really fluctuate ate certain points. That's where my impressions of the game come in so I can say if it was smooth or not (not just let the graphs do the talking)

Ta mate

I would have tested HDMI but I don't have an HDMI TV/Monitor (yet). Still, I know HDCP works wellQuote

17-07-2007, 05:27:54

There is a flaw in the review and nvidia cards were in disadvantage ..

"Both nVidia cards are using the nVidia !!! 97.92 !!! Forceware drivers.

The ATI card was installed with the Catalyst Control Center 7.6's."

The latest oficial is 158.22 and the latest beta is 163 ... Can the reviewer repeat the tests with latest official if not beta drivers...I hate nvidia very much but the reviews must be fair..

Latest drivers VS latest drivers

7.6 official VS 158.22 officialQuote

17-07-2007, 05:44:37

The review clearly states that these results were taken from a previous review which is the reason for the older drivers.

Yes there would perhaps be a difference, but not to the extent it would skew the results.

I no longer have the 8800 GTS's as they are back with the manufacturers.Quote

17-07-2007, 06:27:40

Ya .. sorry..I forgot that the review states that thing.Quote

06-08-2007, 09:57:59

Hello Kempez.After 7.8 will be released is any chance to update the review.The AA performance has been improved radically.Quote

06-08-2007, 10:46:07

I no longer have a 2900XT, and unfortunately I can't redo each review after every driver release, I have enough trouble reviewing the new stuff that comes in! Quote

06-08-2007, 13:25:17

Originally Posted by name='badsykes'
Hello Kempez.After 7.8 will be released is any chance to update the review.The AA performance has been improved radically.
When will they be out? These 7.7's look nice, but performance sucks.Quote

07-09-2007, 09:23:24

Originally Posted by name='Kempez'
I no longer have a 2900XT, and unfortunately I can't redo each review after every driver release, I have enough trouble reviewing the new stuff that comes in!
Heh sorry mate :P..I think the reviews for a new VGA should be done after a couple of month..The trend is too early releases but with buggy drivers Quote

08-09-2007, 14:57:50

Trouble is this isn't when the graphics cards companies want them done, and we kind of have to live by their schedule I'm afraidQuote

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