If money is no problem, the HIS X850 XT PE IceQ II Dual DVI VIVO 256MB PCIe is the card to get. Blazing performance, lots of features and a good bundle make this card the best you can get right now.
The quest for more speed and more power keeps going on. Not content with letting NVIDIA catch up to its Radeon X800 XT PE series, ATI has launched a series of new PCI-Express (PCIe) based cards. Today, we are reviewing a card from HIS that uses the new speed king chip from ATI, the Radeon X850 XT PE.
Features and Specifications
Transition from one bus (AGP) to a new bus (PCI-Express) is never easy. Motherboard vendors should thank ATI for making it a bit easier by not only releasing a lot of models using the new bus but that they also choose to release them as PCI-Express only versions first.
Let’s look at how the X850 XT PE compares to some of the other HIS ATI cards:
|Model Name||HIS X850XT PE IceQ II Dual DVI VIVO 256MB PCIe||HIS X850XT IceQ II Turbo Dual DVI VIVO 256MB PCIe||HIS X800XL IceQ II Turbo Dual DVI VIVO 256MB PCIe||HIS Excalibur X800XT PE IceQII VIVO 256MB AGP|
|Chipset||Radeon X850 PCIe Series||Radeon X850 PCIe Series||Radeon X800 PCIe Series||Radeon X800 AGP Series|
|Manu. Process (Micron)||130nm||130nm||130nm||130nm|
|RAMDAC (MHz)||400 Dual||400 Dual||400 Dual||400 Dual|
|Engine CLK (MHz)||540||540 (Turbo)||432 (Turbo)||520|
|Memory CLK (MHz)||1180||1180 (Turbo)||1000 (Turbo)||1120|
|Memory Interface (bit)||256||256||256||256|
|HDTV (YPrPb component output)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
The chip used in the X850 XT PE is the R480 chip. The main difference between this chip and the older R420 chip that you find in the old X800 XT’s is so called ‘process enhancements.’ These have made it possible for ATI to clock it slightly higher than the X800 XT PE. As you might notice, the Radeon X850 XT PE isn’t that much faster on paper than the X800 XT PE.
The Bundle and the Card
Opening up the box we find the following included items:
• HIS X850 XT PE video card
• Adapter for molex-to-PCI-E power
• Two DVI-to-VGA adapters
• S-video Cable
• Video In/Out cable
• Component Video cable
• Composite Video cable
• Installation/User Guide
• Installation driver CD
• PowerDVD 6 (version 5 was included in my bundle but the HIS web site says version 6 now)
• PowerDirector 3 SE Plus
• Power2Go 4
• PowerDVD Copy (trial)
• Medi@show 3 (trial)
• PowerBackup (trial)
• 3D Album Picture Pro
• ATI Demos
• Dungeon Siege 1.1 (full game)
• Flatout (full game)
As you can see, HIS includes a lot of goodies in the box. This card supports both Video In and Video Out, and you get software both for taking care of the media you are capturing as well as software to watch it afterwards.
On the game side, the bundle feels a bit weak, or at least it did when I got the box. Dungeon Siege is a very old game, and I’m not sure why they bother including it. My retail box only had that game, but HIS sent over Flatout afterwards, and this game will now be included in the retail box. This game is very good and makes the bundle much better. Follow this link for some review scores of the game and check the cool screenshots below. As expected, the card runs this game flawlessly at the highest resolution.
Just as the previous HIS cards I reviewed, this one uses the IceQ II cooling system from Artic Cooling. In contrast to the X800 XT and X800 Pro cards though, the X850 XT already was a two-slot design straight from ATI, so you won’t lose any additional slots due to the cooling. The cooling system extends to the back of the card where it cools the memory chips.
Since this card needs more juice than the PCI-Express slot can provide, there also is a power connector on the card. Since not many older power supplies come with the correct PCI-Express power connector, HIS includes an adapter. Unfortunately, the power connector is placed below the end of the fan housing, and I had a hard time removing the power cable. I simply couldn’t reach in and hook it off from the connector. I had to use a small screwdriver to reach.
The IceQ II cooling extends to the memory chips both on the front and the back of the card.
Instead of providing both a VGA and a DVI connector, the X850 XT PE has two DVI connectors. HIS of course has included two DVI-to-VGA adapters if you have to use VGA anyway. Since this is a VIVO (Video In/Video Out) capable card, there isn’t a normal S-VIDEO connector directly on the card. Instead you use a special cable that has both the S-VIDEO In and S-VIDEO Out (as well as composite In and Out) cables.
Performance – Test System and Settings
Since this is a PCI-Express card, I no longer could use my old AMD64 system. Instead I used a Foxconn nForce4 motherboard (review) together with a new Socket 939 AMD64 3200+ CPU. I chose to compare the HIS X850 XT PE with two other HIS cards, an X850 XT and an X800 XL, as well as my old HIS X800 XT PE (AGP). The drivers used were the latest available at the time of the test (Catalyst 5.2).
Test system (PCI-Express)
AMD Athlon 64 3200+
Foxconn nForce4 WinFast NF4K8MC-ERS (review)
Corsair XMS 512 MB PC4000 DDR RAM (running at 333 MHz)
HIS X850XT PE – DirectX 9.0c, Catalyst 5.2
HIS X850XT – DirectX 9.0c, Catalyst 5.2
HIS X800XL – DirectX 9.0c, Catalyst 5.2
Maxtor 80GB Serial ATA 7200RPM Hard Drive
Windows XP with Service Pack 2
Test system (AGP)
AMD Athlon 64 3000+
MSI K8N Neo nForce3
Corsair XMS 1 GB PC3200 DDR RAM
HIS X800XT PE – DirectX 9.0c, Catalyst 5.2
Maxtor 36GB Serial ATA 10000RPM Hard Drive
Maxtor 160GB EIDE 7200RPM Hard Drive
Windows XP with Service Pack 2
For this review I chose these benchmarks:
- 3DMark05 v1.2.0 – default settings
- Counter-Strike: Source – Video Stress Test – NoAA / 2xAF and 4xAA / 8xAF, both with highest details set in game with drivers set to application controlled
- Half Life 2 – No AA/ No AF and 4xAA/8xAF, all with highest quality details set in game. The demo used is the benchemall-demo
- Doom 3 1.1 (demo1) – NoAA / High Quality and 4xAA / High Quality, both with highest details set in game with drivers set to application controlled
- Far Cry 1.3 – NoAA / 1xAF and 4xAA / 4xAF, both with highest details set in game with drivers set to application controlled
To make the benchmarking as painless as possible, I used the excellent program Benchemall (v2.645) to run through all the programs/games except CS: Source, which I had to run manually, and Far Cry, which I benched using the HardwareOC Far Cry benchmarking utility.
Performance – 3Dmark 05
Our first benchmark is the synthetic benchmark from Futuremark, 3DMark05. I don’t think it needs any introduction.
As expected, the X850XT PE leads the pack, but as you can see, both the regular X850 XT as well as the old X800 XT PE follows pretty close behind. The X800 XL trails the other cards.
Performance – Half-Life 2 and CS: Source
There are two ways to benchmark using the Source engine that can be found in Half-Life 2. The first way is to use CS: Source and the included video stress test feature. This stresses the video subsystem the most.
Since the X800 XT PE is run in a system with a slightly slower CPU, this can affect the scores. This is probably what we see at 800×600 where the video card won’t be the bottleneck. Otherwise, it is interesting to see that even the X800 XL seems to beat the X800 XT PE at higher resolutions. The X850 XT PE once again leads with the X850 XT trailing behind closely.
Another way to benchmark the Source engine is to benchmark Half-Life 2. The utility Benchemall now includes a recorded demo that can be used to benchmark Half-Life 2. As expected, the scores are far below the scores from the CS: Source stress test since it is designed to test the whole system and not just the video subsystem.
It is pretty obvious that the benchmark is mostly CPU-bound, and the small differences we see could just as well be normal variance in the testing. It is pretty obvious that Half-Life 2 isn’t a good game to use for benchmarking, at least not with the Benchemall demo.
Performance – Doom 3
id’s games always have been favorites for benchmarking, and Doom 3 is no exception.
Doom 3 provides us with the scores that we expect. The X850 XT PE wins with the X850 XT and X800 XT PE closely behind.
Performance – Far Cry
Last but not least, it is time for Far Cry, a very cool first-person shooter with stunning graphics. The demo used is the PCGH_VGA Timedemo from 3dcenter.
As soon as the CPU stops being the bottleneck, we see a similar pattern as in the other benchmarks. I’m quite surprised that the X800 XT PE mananges to perform as well as the X850 XT at 6xAF/16xAF/1280×1024.
Performance – Overclocking
Some of HIS’s new cards have a utility included called iTurbo. The HIS X850 XT PE, however, does not support this utility, and you can instead overclock the card directly from the ATI control panel. I think in fact that the X850 XT PE chipset is the first that can be overclocked from inside the ATI control panel. Neither of the other cards have the extra tab in the control panel.
When I let the ATI control panel find the best overclock for this card, it suggested a moderate overclock to 560 MHz (from 540 MHz) for the GPU and 594 MHz (from 590 MHz) for the memory. I of course could not accept those moderate increases, so I used ATITool to find the max overclock. I ended up with 585 MHz on the core and 620 MHz on the memory. That is an 8.3% overclock on the GPU and a 5% increase on the memory. It’s not really that much, but it did actually give us some more frames per second in the games.
We see increases between 4-9%.
Noise and Temperatures
HIS claims that the cooling system keeps the noise down. To test the cooling, I let the card run the Far Cry benchmark twice at 1280×1024 with 6xAA and 16xAF. I then monitored the temperature of the chip by setting up a multi-monitor setup (1 monitor and 1 TV) and displaying the overdrive tab on the TV while running the Far Cry benchmark on the monitor.
Idle: 40 C
Far Cry: 75C
Far Cry: 75C
The noise levels are very low. Compared to the reference X850 XT PE I tried a while ago, I couldn’t hear this card spin up or run during all my benchmarks. That is partly due to the fact that I have several other fans that are quite noisy in the system, but even when I put my ear close to the card, it didn’t seem very loud at all.
This is a VIVO card, which means it has both Video Out as well as Video In. To test Video out, I hooked it up to my JVC 100 Hz 28” Widescreen TV. I then spanned the desktop to the TV and used it to watch some movies on the TV while working on the main screen. The quality was very good.
Watching a DivX clip (SG1:Atlantis), the CPU hovered around 20%.
Watching the Shrek 2 DVD, the CPU was around 5-15% during the whole movie.
Just as the HIS X850XT PE this is not a cheap card. The best price I could find right now was $605 at Newegg. It also seems Newegg have removed the X850XT PE. Here in Sweden the difference between the two cards is only $30.
What you get for the money however still is a kick-ass card. It is fast, and it is full with cool features like the cooling system, VIVO functionality and a (with the new game) good bundle.
In the end though I think that you are better off picking up a X850XT PE since you get more headroom for overclocking with that card.
+ Blazing fast
+ Great cooling system
+ Video In/out
+ Good bundle
– One more good game would have been nice
– Doesn’t overclock as well as the X850XT PE
Just like the HIS X850XT PE, the HIS X850XT is a great card with great performance.
The HIS X850 XT IceQ II Dual DVI VIVO 256MB PCIe gets 7.5 out of 10 from me and a Seal of Approval.