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Sapphire Radeon X800 PCI Express

Best balance between budget and performance?

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Testing the board on a 3.46GHz Pentium 4 Extreme Edition, I was able to compare the X800 with previously reviewed X800 XL and the X800 XT Platinum Edition cards.

Sapphire Radeon X800 PCI-E 3DMark 05

Generally, the performance is in line with what you'd expect. Move up the product line and you see an linear scale showing clearly what you get for your money.

Sapphire Radeon X800 PCI-E 3DMark 03

The exception is Doom 3, where the X800 XL is outpaced at all resolutions when full-screen anti-aliasing (FSAA) and anisotropic filtering (AF) are enabled. However, the XL was tested last December with an older driver, version 4.11. If the XL was re-tested using the current driver, 5.3, I'd expect its Doom 3 performance to improve and bring it back into line.

Sapphire Radeon X800 PCI-E Doom 3

So what do you lose by saving money and going for a 12-pipeline ATI card over a 16-pipeline version? Essentially, you rule out playing at 1600 x 1200 with FSAA and AF enabled. If you really want to crank it up, you'll going to have to go for a more powerful card. What's more, the 3.46GHz Extreme Edition Pentium 4 that these tests were conducted on is still a high-end machine, so most people will see lower scores. This might even put 1280 x 1024 with FSAA and AF out of reach, depending on the CPU.

Sapphire Radeon X800 PCI-E Half-life 2

If you only play games at 1024 x 768 then the standard X800 is a great choice - it's hard to justify going for a more expensive card. But at higher resolutions, the benefits of a 16-pipe card can be clearly seen, especially in newer games. With a DirectX 8.1 title like Unreal Tournament 2004, the X800 acquitted itself well even at maximum settings, but for more up-to-date games it hasn't quite got the horsepower to compete.

This means that the price:performance sweet spot for ATI is still the X800 XL. Comparing it with Nvidia-based offerings, seeing as the X800 offers 256MB of video memory compared to 128MB, and that the standard GeForce 6800 lacks the SLI compatibility, the X800 blows the Nvidia product out of the water.

Verdict

If you can't stretch your budget to a Radeon X800 XL, the X800 is a good alternative. At around £167 the Sapphire board is not so far off the price of a single GeForce 6600 GT. For those that don't want the costs associated with going down Nvidia's SLI route it's a sensible choice.

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Sapphire Radeon X800 PCI Express
 
Rating 80%
 
Price £167 inc. VAT
 
More info The Sapphire site

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