Sapphire Radeon X1900XT 512MB

Overall Score

Introduction

So the internal battle rages on between nVIDIA and ATi after a relative tie between the ATi Radeon x1800XT and the nVIDIA GeForce 7800GTX, ATi opted to spice things up a tad. So we have ATi bumping up the Shader Unit count from 16 to 48 and if you haven’t heard ATi have released this refresh of their R520 VPU and codenamed it R580 which brings us to today’s review of the Sapphire x1900XT 512MB video card.

The Card

Sapphire, much like most Powered by ATi cards, has followed ATi’s reference design to a "T" which seems to be the norm. The cooler used on the card is quiet when idling but once the card is in operation it gets quite loud but nothing unbearable. It tends to idle around 52C while loading slightly above 70C so it does run hot but that doesn’t seem to cause any problems at all which is a testament to ATi’s engineering talent.

 

The Sapphire x1900XT 512MB is clocked at ATI’s reference speeds of:

 

• 625MHz Core

 

• 1.45GHz Memory

 

The initial MSRP is $499USD which is a bargain considering nVIDIA’s current pricing for the 7800GTX 512MB of $699USD (The Sapphire x1900XTX 512MB’s MSRP is set at $599USD).

 

Here are some shots of the card itself; you can click the thumbnails to get a full size image.

We’ll be skipping the Technology aspects of the x1900XT as to not bore you and go straight to what really matters… performance.

Performance
System Specifications:
• AMD Athlon64 X2 4200+
• DFI Lanparty UT NF4-Ultra
• 2GB OCZ PC4000 Platinum Edition *XTC*
• WD Raptor 36GB 10,000 PRM SATA
• NVIDIA Forceware 81.85
ATI Catalyst 6.2
• Asus EAX1800 XL 256 MB
ATi Radeon X1800XT 512MB
Sapphire Radeon x1900XT 512MB
Gigabyte GeForce 7800 GTX 512MB

Splinter Cell 3 – Chaos Theory
• Shadow Quality: HIGH
• HDR rendering: ON
• AF Level: 16x (HQ AF enabled on ATi cards)
• Trilinear filtering: ON
• Parallax mapping: ON
• Specular lighting: ON
• Hardware Shadow mapping: ON
• Soft shadows: ON


Splinter Cell 3 makes heavy usage of SM3.0 code therefore is a killer even for todays highest end cards. From the graph above we can see the Sapphire x1900XT 512MB leading the way with the nVIDIA 7800GTX 512MB nipping at its heals. Both the x1800XL and XT are at the bottom of the pack not having enough Shader Units to compete (16 each).

Far Cry
• Shadow Quality: HIGH
• HDR rendering: OFF
• AF Level: 8x (HQ AF enabled on ATi cards)
• Trilinear filtering: ON
• All other Settings on the Highest possible


Now we seem to be hitting a CPU bottleneck which is pretty apparent at both the 1024×768 and 1280×1024 resolutions and continues on even at 1600×1200. We know from personal experience that with a larger CPU, the Sapphire x1900XT 512MB just blows all these cards out of the water in this particular game. So although it’s leading right now, if you have an AMD Athlon64 X2 4800+ or FX-60 processor be prepared to be amazed.

Doom 3
• Shadow Quality: HIGH
• AF Level: 8x (HQ AF enabled on ATi cards)
• Trilinear filtering: ON
• All other Settings on the Highest possible


Doom 3, much like any other OpenGL game, is usually nVIDIA’s territory. This time, however, the x1900XT 512MB defeats nVIDIA’s top card running nVIDIA’s preferred game. What’s even more amazing is that even at 1600×1200 you can still play Doom 3 with really nice settings and get a near avg of 80FPS at 1600×1200 with the X1900XT 512MB.

Quake 4
• Shadow Quality: HIGH
• AF Level: 8x (HQ AF enabled on ATi cards)
• Trilinear filtering: ON
• All other Settings on the Highest possible


Once again in an OpenGL based game we have the x1900XT 512MB card pulling away from nVIDIA’s flagship board the 7800GTX 512MB, a card nearly twice its price. What’s even more impressive is that even the lowly x1800XL 256MB can play Quake 4 with relative ease.

3DMark Series


Nothing we can really say here, aside from 3DMark 2003 (which clearly favours any board with the most Texture units thus 24vs16) it’s a clear win for the x1900XT 512MB which has REALLY impressed us thus far.

Final Thoughts
Well what else can be said about the amazing performance of the Sapphire x1900XT 512MB. When a card comes out at nearly half the price of the competitors best product while only being the second best of its kind (x1900XTX being the best ATi board) then you have to be amazed. Today we saw the Sapphire x1900XT 512MB take the crown away from nVIDIA 7800GTX 512MB which was no easy feat. All is not lost for the green guys, the 7900 series is on the horizon which promises to give the guys in Red a little more competition. Until then, we here at Xtreme CPU gladly recommend this Sapphire board to anyone wanting a decently price High end board able to play any of today’s games at insane levels of realism.

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