Right now the market of top-end graphics cards feels a kind of shortfall as products on RADEON X800 XT Platinum Edition and GeForce 6800 Ultra graphics processing units are seldom spotted in shops. NVIDIA’s problems with the GeForce 6800 Ultra are well-known, while the lack of the RADEON X800 XT is rather strange as ATI seems to have mastered its tech process well enough to ensure the necessary chip yield.
Whatever the reason, the RADEON X800 XT is really shipped in very small quantities and its price is quite naturally high, lying in a range of $500-700. All we can do is to hope that this situation will be changing for the better, and there will be plenty of RADEON X800 XT cards that offer the highest performance to their users. So far only enthusiasts who don’t mind the price have been hunting for the rare available samples.
Getting closer to the subject of our today’s review, we should confess that we can’t appreciate the reference cooling system of the RADEON X800 or its slightly enlarged variant from ASUS. These cooling designs are good at handling the RADEON X800 PRO, yet they can hardly cope with the hotter RADEON X800 XT chip. If the card is working in a cramped PC case without additional system fans or if the weather is hot, the card may often overheat and hang up.
Saying so, we are basing on our own experience with different graphics cards on RADEON X800 series chips. Some manufacturers like Sapphire or HIS realize the urgency of this problem and equip their cards of that class with powerful and efficient cooling systems, but we are left wondering why ASUS hasn’t done the same (you may remember that ASUS once created an excellent cooling system for their version of the RADEON 9800 XT, for example). Of course, such a cooling system would increase the cost of X800-based cards somewhat, but such devices are anyway positioned by the Taiwanese company as top-end and expensive solutions for hardcore gamers and PC enthusiasts who don’t care much about the price factor.
A little while ago we published a review of the ASUS AX800 PRO/TD graphics card (see our ASUS AX800 PRO/TD Graphics Card Review). Being an overall excellent product with rich accessories and excellent 2D image quality, the card was not completely free from drawbacks like the aforementioned imperfect cooling system and the lack of heatsinks on the memory chips.
Of course a major company like ASUS couldn’t limit itself with making graphics cards on the junior X800 series chips only, so they soon added a major 16-pipelined model into the ranks. So, welcome the ASUS AX800 XT/TVD graphics card as it is going to be the subject of this review. We will pay special attention to the cooling system of this card to see if the manufacturer corrected the defects of the reference cooling design.