With ATi's motherboard chipsets like CrossFire and its Radeon Xpress hitting the market, it is a very exciting time to be a hardware enthusiast! nVIDIA is not the only company with a dual videocard solution in the works, and with ATi licensing CrossFire to Intel for use with the upcoming 975X chipset, ATI CrossFire poses a real threat to nVIDIA's chipset dominance.
Will ATi's new Radeon X1800 XL VPU be enough
to recapture the high end value segment? Its fight against the GeForce 7800GT will certainly be interesting,
and if the benchmarks are close, you can bet ATi and nVIDIA will engage in a
Gigabyte's GV-RX18L256V-B Radeon X1800 XL videocard is a pretty nice single-slot PCI Express x16 videocard! The Radeon X1800 XL GPU is clocked at 500 MHz, and backed by 256MB of Samsung GDDR3 memory that hums away at 1 GHz. The videocard supports video In/Video Out (VIVO) and High Definition Television (HDTV) output. Other goodies included with the package are a DVI-to-analog converter, an S-Video cable, a VIVO cable, a Component output cable and for some reason, a molex splitter cable. The software bundle consists of Xpand Rally, Counter Strike Condition Zero, Power Director and PowerDVD.
Manual, Driver CD, Power Director CD, Xpand Rally
CD, Counterstrike Condition Zero CDs, DVI to analog converter,
S-Video Cable, VIVO Cable, Component Cable, S-Video to
Composite Converter, power splitter.
The Gigabyte GV-RX18L256V-B is one big videocard,
measuring 11 x 23 cm in length. On the plus side, while the
GV-RX18L256V-B is long, it only occupies a single slot thanks to a compact cooling solution. We will get into the technology behind the Radeon X1800 series videocards in a bit, right now let's look a bit closer at the Gigabyte GV-RX18L256V-B itself.
High end videocards draw more power than
the PCI Express bus can provide and on the Gigabyte GV-RX18L256V-B, there is a 12V
connector on the top right hand corner of the PCB. For some reason however, Gigabyte does not include a molex to six pin 12V converter with the package, it instead bundled a molex Y molex splitter cable. It's no doubt an over sight on its part and retail cards will come with the appropriate cable for sure.
There is a small aluminum heatsink on
top of the videocard's MOSFETs. The heatsink is designed to take advantage of
the air moving through the VPU heatsink. As with any high end videocard, good
system airflow is always recommended.
Gigabyte equipps the GV-RX18L256V-B with a single slot
heatsink that incorporates a 40 mm temperature adjusting fan. At boot up,
the fan spins at full speed and produces quite a racket, but then the RPM falls
quickly to normal operation within a second and it is quiet.The Radeon X1800 XL core comes in direct contact with a copper heatsink which quickly pulls the heat away. The eight Samsung GDDR3 memory modules are cooled by a large cast aluminum heatspreader which forms the remainder of the thermal solution the squirrel cage fan is embedded into.
Since there is no memory DRAM on the back of the Gigabyte GV-RX18L256V-B, no cooling is required there. The heatsink bolts onto the videocard via eight points, four right around the Radeon X1800 XL core and the other four are spread out around the rest of the videocard. This ensures that the thermal solution makes good contact with the videocard core and memory. Even with the Gigabyte GV-RX18L256V-B running overclocked and under full load, the fan did not generate a lot of noise.
Hidden under the Gigabyte GV-RX18L256V-B heatsink is an ATi
Rage Theater chipset which gives the videocard its VIVO ability. The ATi Rage
Theater supports high quality TV-output via composite or S-Video output connectors
and supports NTSC/PAL display modes from 320x200 on up to 800x600.
According to ATi, the Video In features include composite/S-Video analog inputs
for NTSC, PAL or SECAM formats which are converted into high quality, low noise
digital videos for a clear image. The Rage Theater also supports VBI services
such as Teletext, Closed Captioning and Intercast.
Like most high end videocards, the Gigabyte GV-RX18L256V-B natively supports dual DVI for
dual digital outputs. If you still use an analog monitor,
Gigabyte does include a DVI to analog converter in the box.
Don't miss the expert tips on choosing the right driver and AVIVO output signal
clean up a little later in the review, first let's walk through what
the Radeon X1800L brings to the table.