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HIS X800XL vs Sapphire X800XL 512 MB

We’ve taken a look at two completely different X800XL cards. One card, the Sapphire X800XL 512 MB, features lots of memory while the other, the HIS x800XL, runs very silent. Which one is the right one for you?

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INTRODUCTION
 
If you are after a card with a good price vs performance ratio, the ATI X800XL is a good choice. Even though cards using it are $100 cheaper that the X850XT based cards, it still isn’t a cut down chip, and except for lower core and memory speeds, it has the same amount of pipelines and technical features as its bigger brother.
 
With tons of companies selling X800XL cards, it is obvious they try their hardest to find that special feature that makes their card special and buyable.
 
Today, I am testing two cards with different features. First we have the HIS X800XL. As other HIS cards I’ve reviewed, this comes with their IceQII cooling system, making it very silent. In the other corner, I have the Sapphire X800XL 512 MB, which, as you might figure out, comes with twice the memory of ordinary X800XL cards: 512 MB.
 
TECH SPECS AND FEATURES
 
As I mentioned in the beginning the X800XL shares much of the same features as the more expensive X850XT.
 
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 256MB PCIe Sapphire Hybrid X800XL 512 MB
Chipset Radeon X850 PCIe Series Radeon X850 PCIe Series Radeon X800 PCIe Series Radeon X800 AGP Series
ASIC R480 R480 R430 R430 
Pixel Pipelines 16 16 16 16
Vertex Engines 6 6 6 6
Transistor 160M 160M 160M 160M
Fill Rate 8640MTexel/s 8640MTexel/s or
8528MTexels/s 
6912MTexel/s 6912MTexel/s
Memory Size(MB) 256 256 256 512 
Memory Type GDDR3 GDDR3 GDDR3 GDDR3
RAMDAC (MHz) 400 Dual 400 Dual 400 Dual 400 Dual
Engine CLK (MHz) 540 540 (Turbo)
533 Normal 
400  400
Memory CLK (MHz) 1180 1180 (Turbo)
1148 (Normal)
986 MHz 980 MHz
Memory Interface (bit) 256 256 256 256
Memory Bandwidth 37.8GB/s 37.8GB/s or
36.8GB/s
32.0GB/s 32.0GB/s
Maximum Resolution 2048×1536 2048×1536 2048×1536 2048×1536
Bus Interface PCIe PCIe PCIe PCIe
 
The HIS X800XL and the Sapphire X800XL 512 MB run at similar clockspeeds.
There are some differences however:
  • The Sapphire X800XL 512 MB has Video In as well as Video Out and thus has the Rage Theater chip. This chip is missing on the HIS x800XL card.
  • The Sapphire card  needs extra power through a power connector
  • While the HIS has one VGA connector and one DVI connector the Sapphire card has two DVI connectors.
  • The Sapphire card comes with a standard ATI cooler while the HIS card uses the Arctic Cooling  cooler.
Both cards however are dual-slot cards meaning you will have to make sure to have some extra room to the side of the PCI-E slot.
 

BOX AND BUNDLE
 
HIS continues to use their blue boxes. This is my 5th HIS card that I review and every box has looked exactly the same. Maybe it is time to update the box and boxart HIS?

HIS x800XL boxshot

Sapphire also uses a common theme on their boxes but every box is a bit different. I like the style they use with their metal-characters and if I had to choose one of these boxes as the coolest looking Sapphire’s would win hands down.
 

Sapphire Box

Opening up the boxes is much more interesting. In addition to each card we also find a lot of goodies:
 
Cables
Various cables are included to allow you to hook up the cards to TV’s etc. The Sapphire card also has cables for Video In.
 
Manuals
Both manuals are good and should be thorough enough to allow even a novice to easily install the cards. While the Sapphire manual is thicker it is less detailed since it just has more languages. This means this manual lacks some depth and you for instance get no info about the use of an ATI HD output cable (component) which the HIS manual mentions can be used for HD-output but which only supports 480i/480p for copyrighted DVD’s.
 
 

Sapphire Bundle
Sapphire x800XL 512 MB bundle

Overclocking utilities
Both cards provide utilities for overclocking. The HIS tool is called iTurbo and is used to automatically overclock the card to 432 MHz (core) / 1 GHz (memory). The Sapphire card uses a utility called Redline. This utility is a bit more advanced that iTurbo and includes features like automatically find the highest overclocking both for core and memory, just like a tool as ATITrayTool. Both utilities need a serial number to be installed, something I find very odd. I guess Sapphire and HIS don’t want the utilities be spread to users of other cards.´
 

HIS x800XL bundle
 
Software
Both cards come with a lot of software:
 
Sapphire x800XL 512 MB
- PowerDirector 3 DE
- PowerDVD 5 (2 channel)
- Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow
- Prince of Persia: the Sands of time
 
HIS x800XL
- Power Director 3 SE+
- Power2Go 4 SE
- PowerDVD 6
- PowerDVD Copy (trial)
- PowerBackup (Trial)
- Medi@Show 3 (Trial)
- 3D Album Picture Pro
- Dungeon Siege
- Flatout
 
Sapphire has chosen to include 2 games in their bundle that are starting to show their age. It is great games but since there’s already a sequel for each game I think it would have been cooler to include those. HIS on the other hand mix a very old game (Dungeon Siege) with a new, and real good, game: Flatout.
 
On the utility side both cards come with a bunch of cut-down or trial versions. HIS has an edge with more software but if you are really serious about video editing you still will need to get updated software since they are cut-down versions.
 
INSTALLATION
 
As usual these days there isn’t much to say about installation. Both cards are easy to install and all you need to remember is that the Sapphire x800XL 512 MB needs extra power.
 
Sapphire card
The Sapphire XL 512 MB
HIS X800XL
The HIS x800XL

Both cards come with a driver CD but I expect you will get newer drivers from the net anyway after installation. HIS offers Cat 5.6 on their site while Sapphire offers Cat 5.4. As always it looks like you might as well get the latest drivers from ATI anyway since both companies lag in offering the latest drivers on their site.
 

TESTING
 
The benchmarking and testing part of the review is a bit more interesting that usual. We know the x800XL cards are great performers but this time we will see what an extra 256 MB actually can do for the cards with today’s games.
 
The test system
 
The cards were tested on this system:
 
-          AMD64 X3200+
-          1024 MB PC3200 DDR memory
-          ASUS A8N-SLi Deluxe nForce 4 motherboard
-          Maxtor 200 GB DiamondMax 10 HD
-          WinXP SP2
-          Cat 5.6
 
The software used for testing
 
I used the following software and games for the testing:
 
-          3Dmark05
-          CS:Source
-          Doom 3 (Timedemo)
-          Half Life 2 (ttl_bench demo from http://www.thetechlounge.com/)
-          Far Cry
-          Battlefield 2 (with Fraps)

3Dmark05
 
What review would be complete without some 3Dmark scores? I choose to test the cards both at the default setting as well as 4xAA/8xAF and 6xAA/16xAF.
 
3Dmark05
 
In this synthetic benchmark it doesn’t look like the extra 256 MB memory has any impact on the score. Both x800XL cards fall about 16-20% behind the HIS x850XT.
 
Far Cry (v1.3) – HardOCP Demo
 
Next we take a look at the excellent game Far Cry. Maybe this game will fly with some extra memory for all those huge environments.
 
 
Now this is more like it. At 1024×768 and 1280×1024 the Sapphire x800XL 512 MB manages to perform at x850XT levels while leaving the HIS x800XL behind by ~10%. First at 1600×1200 the x850XT draws ahead while the Sapphire card still manages to get 7% better framerate than the HIS card.
 
 
When we increase the AA and AF levels to the maximum settings (6x and 16x respective) the picture changes again. Once again the both x800XL performs similar while the x850XT performs about 15% better at the higher resolutions.

Doom 3
 
There has been much talk about Doom 3 and the Ultra setting which uses more than 256 MB of textures and thus will benefit from a 512 MB card. I was therefore very curious to see how good the Sapphire card would perform.
 
Doom 3 Hugh Quality
 
At the High quality setting there is no difference between the both x800XL cards. Both perform well but fall behind the x850XT about 10-25%.
 
Doom 3 Ultra Quality
 
Oddly enough there is no change when we switch to the Ultra quality setting. I’ve seen other reviews getting similar results so it simply is possible that the built-in timedemo isn’t using many of those >256 MB textures that the Ultra quality setting is supposed to be using.
 
Bottom line though is that while it certainly is possible that the Ultra quality setting does run better on the 512 MB Sapphire card it is nothing I could verify from either the timedemo or the short gameplay that I tested.
 
Half Life 2
 
The benchmarking utility Benchemall supplies us with a demo to bench Half Life 2. Unfortunately that demo is extremely CPU-bound and thus I started to look around for a new demo to use. After some searching on the net I found a good demo at The Tech Lounge (http://www.thetechlounge.com/) which does scale nicely through resolutions.
 
Half Life 2 , 4x8x
 
At 4x AA and 8xAF the Sapphire card manages to perform really well. At 1280×1024 it ties the x850XT and is 12% faster than the HIS x800XL. Both x800Xl cards perform very well and are close to 60 fps even at 1600×1200. It’s clear the Half Life 2 engine works well on ATI cards.
 
Half Life 2, 6x/16x
 
There’s no change when we increase the settings to 6xAA and 16xAF. The Sapphire x800Xl 512 MB manages to perform just as well as the x850XT leaving the HIS x800XL card around 15% behind. It still is impressive to see that even the HISx800XL manages to put out 45 fps at 1600×1200 with 6xAA/16xAF. It looks fantastic!

Battlefield 2 (v1.01)
 
Not only is this game the newest and one of the hottest game when writing this, it also is a resource hog. The game really likes lots of CPU power, lots of system memory and according to some sources, lots of graphics memory.
 
Since the game does not have any built-in benchmarking I decided to use the program Fraps to try to give us an idea on how each card handles the game. Fraps was set up to record the framerate for 3 minutes. I then started a single player game with 16 people and tried to play the first minutes in a similar way (taking the same attack route, jumping in the same APC, attacking the same flag and so on).  While you cannot compare the framerates each second between the cards, you still will get a pretty good idea on how each card handles various situations in the game.
 
All settings were set to HIGH and the view distance was also set to 100%.
 
Battlefield 2, 1024, HIS x800XL

Battlefield 2, 1280x960, HIS x800XL

 
The x800XL actually had some real issues playing the game. The framerate fluctuates a lot and there were lots of times it almost halted to a stop before continuing. This is something I noticed while playing on the net to. Most of the times the framerate is ok but occasionally you get huge slowdowns even at 1024×768. At 1280×960 it is virtually unplayable.
 
Battlefield 2, 1024, Sapphire x800XL 512 MB
 
Battlefield 2, 1280x960, Sapphire x800XL 512 MB
 
Just by looking at the scores for the Sapphire x800Xl 512 MB it is obvious it handles this much better. This also is the feeling I get when playing the game over the net. The Sapphire card has lot less dips and is much more playable. Even at 1280×960 it works better even though the framerate is often below 30 fps.
 
While I didn’t plot the same map on the HIS850XT it also works very well and, just as the x800XL 512 MB, performs much better than the HIS x800XL.
 
As I said in the beginning this just indicates how the different cards can perform in Battlefield 2. With different settings, other maps and so on the performance differs so it still is possible to get playable framerates even of the HIS x800XL.

OVERCLOCKING

Since both cards come with an overclocking utility it is natural to see how good they overclock. I would expect the HIS x800XL to overclock better since it has a much more interesting cooling solution.
 
Sapphire x800XL 512 MB
The included utility Redline helps you to find the best overclock for both core and memory. Unfortunately the suggestions for clockspeed were a bit to optimistic both when it comes to core and memory and crashed 3DMark05. In the end I used ATITool and found the possible overclock at 437 MHz for the core (9% overclock) and 518 MHz for the memory (5.7% overclock).
 
HIS x800XL
The included utility iTurbo allows you to boost the speed too instantaneously to 433/ 500 MHz. The max speed you can set for the core in the utility is 435 Mhz and 535 MHz for the memory. When I tried to increase that overclock in ATITool I found that while the core couldn’t be raised without getting artifacts the memory could be increased to 543 MHz (a 11% overclock).
 
Overclocking
 
Both cards benefit from the overclock, although not as much as I expected. The overclock helps the Sapphire card to actually beat the HIS x850XT at 1600×1200 6xAA/16xAF.
 
NOISE AND TEMPERATURE
 
Keeping the noise down from our computers is becoming more and more important for a lot of people, including me.
 
The Sapphire x800XL 512 MB comes with a standard fan/cooler and is very noisy. While writing this review and using the Sapphire card I had to turn the computer off when the computer was in the same room as I was sleeping since the noise simply was to annoying.  The idle temperature was 45 C and the temperature at full load was 70 C.
 
In contrast the HIS x800XL is a very silent card. The IceQ cooling system works very well, keeping both the temperature as well as the noise down. The idle temperature was 43 C and the temperature at full load was 66 C.

CONCLUSION

 
The x800XL based cards do provide a very good price vs performance ratio. Instead of being a cut down version of the top of the line chip it has all the features, just at a bit slower speeds.
 
The HIS x800XL has a lot good points. It is cheap, doesn’t need extra power, it has a good bundle and it is silent. On the negative side it lacks Video in and does indeed perform worse than the Sapphire card in some of the benchmarks.
 
The Sapphire x800XL 512 MB also has a lot of good points. Even though the extra 256 MB of memory won’t help in all games I did actually see some applications where it helped. It also features Video In and a decent bundle. On the negative side we have the price which is close to what you pay for x850XT cards as well as it being a noisy card.
 
HIS x800XL
 
Pro
  • Good bundle
  • Solid performance
  • Silent and cool
Con
  • Lacks Video In
 
 
Rating: 8.5 / 10 and a Bjorn3d.com Seal of Approval Award
 
Sapphire x800XL 512 MB
 
Pro
  • Decent bundle
  • Has VIVO-support
  • Extra memory that actually is useful in some applications today
Con
  • Needs extra power
  • Noisy
  • Costs almost as much as a x850XT
 
 
Rating: 8 / 10 and a Bjorn3d.com Seal of Approval Award
 
Summary: You won’t go wrong in choosing either of these cards. While HIS has managed to create a silent and cool card with a great prive vs performance ration, Sapphire has concentrated on providing more features and performance. In the end it all depends on what you value the most.


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