Sapphire HD 2900 XT

The Card - Close up

Sapphire HD2900XT close up

sapphire 2900xt front card

saphire hd2900xt size comparison

The 2900XT is another beast of a card from ATI, sizing it up though shows us that it isn't actually as big as you would think it would be. The 8800GTX is actually longer and the 2900XT is more the length of an X1950XTX.

sapphire 2900xt front card sapphire 2900xt card rear

The one major difference you will notice in the HD 2900 XT is that there is a heatsink wrapped around the rear of the card. Undoubtedly this is to cool the memory, power management chips and take heat away from the PCB. This is actually very effective and the 2900XT is certainly a lot less hot than it's 8800GTS/GTX rival.

2900xt core nekked 2900 xt core nekked 2
The core itself is rotated around and has a shim fitted to it to keep the contact from cracking the core. It's an interesting layout and obviously implemented as ATI could not get the core in place as normal due to it's large size.

sapphire 2900xt retention sapphire 2900xt retention

All around the card ATI and Sapphire have implemented really good retention mechanisms meaning that the card remains secure and straight, without the bending that we quite often see on GPU's due to their large weight.

sapphier 2900xt

Above is my main source of complaint with the 2900XT series of cards. The fact that the card needs an additional 2 pins on the standard 6 pin power dongle is pretty over the top in all honestly. nVidia's high-powered 8800 Ultra doesn't need this so why does the 2900 need it? I did not test the card with an 8 PIN power dongle in this test as I felt that there would be very few users at home who would have a PSU up to date enough to have 8 PIN PCI-e power.

sapphire 2900xt dvi ports sapphire hd2900xt cooling fins

Armed with two Dual Link, HDCP capable ports and ready for HDMI (with the supplied adaptor), the 2900XT really is a great for media-centric applications, even compared to it's well-endowed rival: the 8800 series.

Also in the pictures above is the copper fins from the cooler, of which we will take a look at in a sec.

The Cooler

The cooler on the HD2900XT is very effective in keeping this power-hungry GPU cool...but not so good at keeping it quiet.

sapphire 2900 xt cooler

The fan on the 2900 XT is very similar to that of the 8800GTS and GTX. However, unlike the pretty nice and quiet cooler on those cards, the fan on the 2900 seems to ramp up to a pretty loud whine which can be very irritating and off-putting. Certainly if you are thinking of putting the 2900 XT into a media centre then you would have to think of a different cooling solution or risk not hearing your movies!

sapphire 2900xt sapphire 2900xt cooler nekked

Having said that, the cooler on the 2900XT is well designed with everything cooled that needs to be. There is a pretty chunky piece of copper contacting with the core and ATI seems to have used a decent amount of good quality thermal paste on the core itself. Reaching 45°C idle and 57°C loaded up with ATI Tool and RTHDRIBL (ambient 23°C), the cooler does it's job and those heatpipes are effective at removing the heat.
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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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