Sapphire HD 2900 XT
The Card - Close up
Sapphire HD2900XT close up
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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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