Articles: Graphics

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The PowerColor X600 XT uses the reference PCB design which is rather complex due to the relatively high clock rates – there are a lot of elements even on the front side of the PCB. There are also seats left for a Rage Theater chip with its companions that endow the card with the VIVO functionality. These seats are empty in our sample as the next snapshot shows:

The back side of the PCB is scattered with a handful of small elements. The additional power connector is missing – the device is quite satiated with the power it receives through the PCI Express x16 slot.

The amount of the onboard graphics memory is 128 megabytes; modern FBGA-packaged 2.5ns chips from Hynix are employed here. The chips are rated to work at 400 (800DDR) MHz, but they are clocked at 350 (700DDR) MHz on the PowerColor card. Checking the card after its installation into the system we were surprised to find that the frequency of the graphics core only equaled 350MHz. That’s strange for a graphics card with the “XT” in its name because the original RADEON X600 XT from ATI is clocked at 500MHz GPU and 365 (730DDR) MHz memory. So, the frequencies are severely undercut in the card from PowerColor. The low GPU clock rate can have a most negative effect on the performance since even the reference RADEON 9600 PRO and X600 PRO cards clock their processors at 400MHz, not to mention the RADEON 9600 XT clocked at half a gigahertz.

Running a little ahead, we should confess that the PowerColor card easily reached 500/365 (730DDR) MHz frequencies at overclocking, being based on the reference PCB and equipped with normal 2.5ns memory. In other words, it reached the nominal frequencies of the RADEON X600 XT. The overclocked PowerColor was stable throughout our tests and delivered the performance of a full-fledged RADEON X600 XT.

So why did the manufacturer drop the clock rates of its product? Is it an attempt to make the device cheaper? Well, the use of the reference PCB and the full-speed memory don’t confirm this supposition. We may be dealing with a kind of the FX Power Pack! Ultra/1300XT Golden Sample from Gainward, which had the design of the GeForce FX 5900 Ultra and offered excellent overclockability, but its default clock rates equaled those of the cheaper GeForce FX 5900 XT. But Gainward positioned its card as an overclocker’s choice from the start, giving all the necessary information to the potential customer, while PowerColor never mentions that its card works at reduced clock rates. There’s of course a possibility that this is a problem of our particular sample, but otherwise people who want to buy a RADEON X600 XT may be disappointed at the PowerColor X600 XT, not knowing beforehand about its real technical characteristics. We think this approach of the manufacturer can only harm its own reputation – customers’ confidence is easily lost, but hard to regain.

Noise, Overclocking, 2D Quality

The PowerColor X600 XT is no leader in acoustic characteristics – its small high-speed fan has to suck air in through the narrow slits in the “decorative” disc that covers it almost completely, so it’s no wonder it produces quite an annoying hissing sound. The term “noiseless” has nothing to do with this card of course. We also found a bright red LED on the fan, but this highlighting wasn’t practically visible through the thick layer of red rubber.

The card from PowerColor overclocked to 520MHz GPU and 380 (760DDR) MHz memory in our tests. That’s excellent considering the starting point (350MHz GPU and 350 (700DDR) MHz memory), but only average if we compare that to the frequencies of the reference RADEON X600 XT. Considering this good overclockability it becomes the stranger that the default frequencies of the card are set so low.

The quality of the onscreen image in 2D applications is what can be called the norm for the majority of modern graphics cards, i.e. it is sharp in all resolutions up to 1600x1200@75Hz inclusive.

Let’s now take a look at Albatron’s offer.

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