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Sapphire Radeon X800 PCI Express

Best balance between budget and performance?

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Review I recently looked at a PCI Express version of Nvidia's GeForce 6800 Ultra from Leadtek. While not a new graphics chip, the support for PCI Express incarnation was reason enough to take a look, and the same applies to this Sapphire Radeon X800 board, writes Benny Har-Even.

Sapphire Radeon X800 PCI-EWhen the X800 originally launched, there was no vanilla version - just the X800 Pro. Based on the 'R420' GPU, this was a 12 pixel-pipeline chip built on a 130nm process. The X800, however, is an 'R430', a 12-pipeline chip produced on a 110nm process. While this enables clock speeds to be ramped up, the X800 is actually clocked below the Pro, at 390MHz for the GPU and 350MHz - 700MHz effective - for the memory. Instead, consumers can enjoy the benefits of greater availability and lower prices and it's still higher than the 325/700MHz specs of the regular GeForce 6800.

Essentially, the 16 pixel-processing pipelines of the R430 are grouped into batches of four - if one of the groups isn't quite up to scratch, the chip becomes an X800. It also has a full six vertex shaders and of course, supports 3Dc normal map compression.

Alongside the GPU, the board boasts 256MB of GDDR 3 memory, which compares favourably to its Nvidia equivalent - most standard GeForce 6800-based boards have only 128MB of memory.

Lost most other cards in this class, the Sapphire board sports a VGA and a DVI connector, with a VGA dongle adaptor included in the box. There's a TV port which connects to a cable providing S-Video and composite ports. The cost saving compared to more powerful cards means there's no video input, so you can't use it to capture video content. However, it's lower power requirements means that it doesn't require an external power connector. Indeed, the GPU is also covered by a relatively modest heatsink and fan arrangement, which in turn means that noise levels aren't excessive.

Sapphire bundles a full version of Price of Persia, Cyberlink's PowerDVD and Red Line's overclocking utility with the card. There's also an OEM 'lite' version without these extras.

Next page: Verdict

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