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Review: SAPPHIRE X800 GTO Ultimate 256MB PCIe

by Tarinder Sandhu on 28 September 2005, 01:44

Tags: ATi Technologies (NYSE:AMD)

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SAPPHIRE Radeon X800 GTO Ultimate Silent Series 256MB

Right before the launch of the much-anticipated R520-series of GPUs, ATI's busy rolling out new SKUs of existing R4xx products. Barely a month have elapsed since the launch of the Radeon X800 GTO SKU. We took a look at SAPPHIRE and PowerColor versions, each equipped with 256MB of GDDR3 memory and both retailing at around the £110 mark.

The X800 GT 256MB part encroached on GeForce 6600 GT 128 pricing but, on balance, was faster in the majority of games we tested with. 8 rendering pipelines were run at 475MHz, and, crucially, a 256-bit memory interface provided nearly 32GB/s of bandwidth from GDDR3 DRAM devices run at 980MHz for both cards. The Radeon X800 GT 256MB was nothing more than a cut-down (in fragment processors, at least) version of GPUs higher up in the X8x0 range, and, by consequence, X800 GT cores were ones that failed to run with the requisite 12 or 16 pipelines demanded on X800/X850 models. ATI sold the not-quite-right cores on cheaply to its Add-In Board partners (AIBs) who released products on a new SKU, the X800 GT. Makes economic sense, doesn't it? The consumer was the winner, for once.

Now ATI is at it again. Taking into account the method by which the X800 GT SKU came about, it's inevitable not all high-end cores are the same. A bad yield may force ATI into ditching them as 8-pipe GPUs, perfect for the X800 GT. A reasonable yield may not quite make it up to the 16 pipelines, run at 400MHz+ demanded by X800 XL/X850-series of cards but may well run with 12 pipelines at decent speeds. What to do with them? These cores are obviously too good to be put into cheap-ish X800 GT retail packages. What ATI has decided to do, to maximise return on these cores that didn't quite make the right grade but are 'better' than those sold as basic X800 GT GPUs, is to launch another SKU. Et voila, the X800 GTO arrives.

The ATI Radeon X800 GTO carries all the goodness the X800 GT does. However, it runs with a 12-pipeline setup that's nominally rated at 400MHz. Memory speed remains the same, that is, at 980MHz and off a 256-bit interface. SAPPHIRE sent us its X800 GTO Ultimate 256MB card for evaluation. Read on to see what we thought.