ATI rocket jumps to 110 nanometers! Allow me to explain the significance of this move before I talk about the card itself. Well, as you may know, ATI currently works on a 130 nanometer low-k fabrication process, which it originally introduced in its Radeon 9600 series way back in 2003. However, it has almost reached the limits of this process where performance is concerned. Consequently, in order for the company to keep the GPU size down (that is, to save silicon) and allow higher clock speeds, it had to shift to a lower fabrication, hence, the X800 XL.
Using a low-k dielectric on the X800 series of cards was one way to allow higher clock speeds. This is because a low-k dielectric reduces the crosstalk or interference that occurs between the wires connecting the transistors when theyre very close to each other. Needless to say, this interference will limit how high the chip could be clocked. But owing to the fact that the X800 XL series uses a 110 nm fabrication without low-k, it probably wont reach the levels of the current X850 crop of GPUs in the market.
The powercolor X800 XL is based on ATIs R430 core. The GPU uses a 0.11 micron (110 nanometer) process, has 16 pixel pipelines, and comes with 256 MB of GDDR3 memory that is clocked at 490 MHz (980 MHz DDR). The core is however clocked at 400 MHz- moderate compared to the R480 part beasts, viz. the Radeon X850s. As explained above, these lower clock speeds are only a result of the absence of a low-k conductor. Finally, to all the multimedia freaks out there, this card incorporates ATIs well known Rage Theatre chip meaning that it has VIVO (Video-In Video-Out) functions.
The card sticks to the typical ATI red PCB. The only thing thats different is the heatsink. The material used is a sort of aluminum alloy that has a darker and harder feel to it. The heatsink covers the main processor plus four memory chips. For cooling the chips, Powercolor uses a 70 mm fan, so you should have no heating issues. Finally, an aluminum flap covers the fins of the heatsink so as to properly channel the air passing through it.
The back panel of the card comes equipped with two DVI connectors and one proprietary VIVO connector. Using the dongles provided, you can output to component, composite, S-video and HD! Similarly you can input video in both component and composite using the dongle. Apart from this, the card accepts only the new 6-pin 12 V power connector, so if youre power supply doesnt have such a connector, use the one provided in the box, which converts from Molex power to 12 V.
This card is a stunner! After loading the latest catalyst drivers I achieved an index of 10,679 in 3D Mark03. This means that youll be able to play any game at 1600X1200 with full quality settings. Running 3DMark03 in 1600X1200 proved this point further. Straightaway I was greeted with, 6,935 3Dmarks. This is more than what a Radeon 9800XT would score in 1024X768.
Using the inbuilt Doom 3 benchmark, the X800 XL played the demo at 1024X768 under high quality settings at 70.8 fps. When I pushed up the resolution to 1600X1200, I still got a smooth frame rate of 40.7 fps. Quake III at 1600X1200 threw out 318 fps! Finally, using Futuremarks latest graphics benchmark, 3DMark05, the card gave an index of 4,795, which is higher than what a GeForce 6800GT would score.
Finally, the most interesting part about this card is that it costs just about 470$! If you are not interested in its VIVO capabilities, you can pickup a non-VIVO variant for just about 445$. Just for reference, this card performs as good as, if not better than, Nvidias GeForce 6800GT, which is far more expensive.
Specifications:X800 GPU, 110 nm fabrication, 256 MB GDDR3, 16 pixel pipelines, 6vertex pipelines, 400 MHz core, 490 MHz memory.