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Gigabyte GV-R80P256D Radeon X800Pro Graphics Card Review (1)
Jon 19 Oct 2004

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The world of 3D graphics is moving fast, very fast... perhaps even too fast. So fast that many users out there are wondering whether they should keep their current graphics card a little longer or upgrade now. Needless to say that the release of Doom III doesn't help to make the decision an easy one either. Today we are reviewing ATI's new series of graphics cards, the X800 Series and have chosen the Gigabyte Radeon X800 Pro card for this review. 

I think it is important to point out before we start off that although the card tested here is a Gigabyte board, the same results apply to other available X800 Pro cards. We have indeed tested the Asus AX 800 Pro and Gecube X800 Pro as well, and the results were all identical. This can be explained by the fact that all these boards use the ATI reference design and are therefore identical. In fact, the only difference between X800 Pro cards are the custom stickers on the fan and the cooling system as well as the software bundle.

Basic Specifications:

Chipset:  Radeon X800Pro (R420)
Memory: 256 MB
Memory Type DDRIII 8Mx32 
Memory Bus: 256 bit 
Number of pipelines : 16
AGP 8X 
D-SUB, TV-OUT
DVI Port

The following is a list of the main features of the R420 graphics chip :

  • SMARTSHADER HD
    • Support of DirectX9 Programmable Vertex and Pixel Shaders
    • VS2.0 Vertex Shader functionality
      • Up to 65,280 instructions including loops and subroutines.
      • Single Cycle Trigonometric Operations (SIN & COS)
    • DirextX9 Extended Pixel Shaders
      • Up to 1,536 instructions and 16 textures per rendering pass
      • 2nd Generations F-Buffer support for unlimited Shader instruction lengths
      • 32 temporary and constant registers
      • Facing register for two-sided lighting
      • Multiple render target support
      • Shadow volume rendering acceleration
      • 128-bit, 64-bit & 32-bit per pixel floating point colour formats
  • SMOOTHVISION HD
    • 3Dc Normal Map Compression
      • High quality 4:1 Normal Map Compression
      • Works with any two-channel data format
    • 2x/4x/6x Multi-Sampling full scene Anti-Aliasing modes, adaptive algorithm with programmable sample patterns and colour buffer compression
    • Temporal Anti-Aliasing
    • Lossless Color Compression (up to 6:1)at all resolutions, including widescreen HDTV resolutions
    • 2x/4x/8x/16x anisotropic filtering modes
  • HYPER Z HD
    • 3-level Hierarchical Z-Buffer with early Z test
    • Lossless Z-Buffer compression (up to 48:1)
    • Fast Z-Buffer Clear
    • Z Cache Optimisations for shadow rendering
    • Optimized for performance at high display resolutions, including widescreen HDTV resolutions
  • VIDEOSHADER HD
    • Seamless integration of pixel shaders with video FULLSTREAM video de-blocking technology
    • Noise removal filtering for captured video
    • MPEG-2 decoding with motion compensation, iDCT and colour space conversion
    • All-format DTV/HDTV decoding
    • YPrPb component output
    • Adaptive de-interlacing and frame rate conversion

Sounds familiar? That's because the X800 Pro is actually nothing more than a heavily tweaked R300 chip (Radeon 9700 and up). Simply put, if you could add 8 pixel pipelines to the Radeon 9700 Pro in order to have 12 pixel pipelines and if you did some overclocking, you would end up with an X800 Pro. Okay, I may be exagerating a little, but you have to admit that the feature list is not much different than the original Radeon 9700... 

Fortunately, the X800 Pro is not totally identical to the R300. The X800 Pro boasts an improved support for DirectX 9: it can now handle more pixel shader instructions through the support of Pixel Shader 2.0b. Also, ATI has implemented a new compression technology for normal maps called 3Dc. Normal maps increases the quality of bump maps, as they can be used to add much more surface detail. It is also interesting to note that some upcoming games such as Half Life 2, Serious Sam 2, Tribes Vengeance or Far Cry will support normal maps in the future.

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