01 - Introduction
is the third largest provider of VGA cards and possibly the largest when
it comes to ATI cards. We had previously reviewed Powercolor's
X300 which proved to be the best overclocker currently available on storeshelves.
we present Powercolor's leading card for the mid-to-high end market, the
X600 XT. As its name gracefully suggests, the X600 is the next generation
version of the 9600 chipset.
- Packaging - Bundle
The packaging is the same as with the X300. The most important details
of the card can be seen on the front: 128MB of memory, 128-bit memory bus
and it's PCI-Express slot type along with OpenGL, DirectX support and finally
Inside the package, you'll find the DVI-I Connector for inputting video using
a camera or some other device to your computer, an S-Video and a composite
cable so you can use your tv or projector as a screen, and of course a
printed version of the card's manual.
as with the X300, inside the package you will find the "ProPack"
containing the full version of Hitman: Contracts, Cyberlink DVD
Suite (featuring Powerdirector, Mediashow, PowerDVD,PowerProducer DVD and
Power2Go) and of course a CD with ATi's drivers and some additional utilities.
2. A closer look
02 - A closer look
||Radeon X600 - R380
||128 MB 128-bit GDDR
||2 Giga pixels /sec
||DVI-I / TV-Out / D-Sub
The Powercolor X600 features 128MB of GDDR RAM in 4 memory
modules from Hynix. Hynix is probably the best memory choice for graphics
cards. This will probably show up during the overclocking section of
|A close-up of the Hynix memory
However, with only a 128-bit memory bus, it seems the X600
won't be able to compete with the PCX 5900 from Nvidia, just as the 9600XT
keep up with the FX5900.
Even though the R380 chipset, on which the X600XT is built,
is a brand new chipset from ATI, not much has changed from the 9600's R360.
the memory clock speed increased from 300MHz to 370MHz and the X600 now supports
OpenGL 2.0 where the 9600 stopped at version 1.5. Everything else has remained
|The fan dressed up in its octapus
suit is the first thing we noticed when we first got the card in our
What is really impressive with the Powercolor X600XT is the
way it cools its core and memory. On the PCB, as you can see for yourself,
there are four silver-coloured heatsinks over the memory chips and
a fan over the processor unit. This way, the core is relieved of hot air
through the memory heatsinks and away from the card.
|The rear side of the X300 (click
3. Test System
Test System - Page 03
Processor: Retail Intel Pentium 4 530 3GHz
Case: Antec 1080AMG
Motherboard: MSI 915G Combo
Memory: 2x512MB OCZ PC-4200 Memory
Hard Disk Drive: WD800JD 80GB 7200RPM
CD-RW: LiteOn LTR-52246S
PowerSupply: Levicom 500Watt
Microsoft WindowsXP Pro Service Pack1
Codecreatures Benchmark Pro v1.0
Farcry v1.1 Build 1256
CounterStrike Source Beta
Medal of Honour Pacific Assault Demo
Ground Control II
3DMark05 - Page 04
With 3DMark05, Futuremark continues the tradition in its benchmarking software by providing a state-of-the-art Microsoft ® DirectX ® 9 3D performance benchmark.
3DMark05 is an all new 3DMark version taking the most out of Microsoft's DirectX
9. The previous version 3DMark03, did a nice introduction into this level
of technology. However 3DMark03 used DirectX 9 specific features in a limited
manner, because fully supporting hardware
was rare at the time of its launch. In contrast, 3DMark05 requires DirectX
9 hardware with full support for at least Shader Model 2, and takes shader
usage to never before seen levels.
Just like its predecessors, 3DMark05's point system is set so that at the moment
of release, the high-end VGA cards available in stores can only score around
5000 3DMarks, whereas the worst card that meets the programs requirements yields
a score of 1000.
Game Test 1 - Return to Proxycon
Being the sequel to the "Battle of Proxycon" from
3DMark03, in "Return to Proxycon" we're
once again set in space and the battle continues as space pirates invade
a cargo ship in order to take control of its valuable cargo.
This test, tries to simulate a future first-person shooter game with all the high details that entails. The dynamic shadows, high-detailed environment and advanced lighting techniques ensure that under normal circumstances, no recent card can run it with decent frame rates.
You can see that the X600XT faired better than the other
two cards. Of course, we did not get the same difference we would expect
but in this benchmark, even the slightest difference is very important.
Game Test 2 - Firefly Forest
A forest gets filled with magic fireflies in the night. The moon is nearly full, illuminating the forest with a bluish faint light. The magic fireflies have flickering bright green lights that playfully move around the forest.
This scene is a nice example of a smaller scale outdoor scene with rich vegetation. Immediate visibility is not so far, and there is a skybox surrounding the whole scene.
A large number of trees with their branches swinging separately, and dense vegetation being dynamically distributed according to the camera movements, make this test the most demanding of the three.
As the most demanding game test, the difference in the resulting
fps is as expected, small. We couldn't help but count the frames
by hand while staring in awe at the excellent graphics of "Firefly forest".
Game Test 3 - Canyon Flight
A Jules Verne type airship flies through a canyon guarded
by a dangerous sea monster. The airmen defend their ship using heavy cannons,
but these seem to have no effect on the huge sea monster.
Finally the crew manages a narrow escape using the 'last resort' afterburners
of the airship.
This scene is fairly complex with large areas of
water reflecting the high canyon walls. The water is actually one of the
key points of interest in this scene. The water not only does realistic
looking reflections and refractions, it has a depth fog, making the sea
monster swimming under the airship actually look deep down in the water.
The air in this scene also uses
a volumetric fog, making distant cliffs of the canyon look really far
Here, the Powercolor X600 XT ran the games almost 3 fps faster.
Hopefully, this will help it in acquiring a larger 3DMarks score than the
3DMarks on 3DMark05 are now calculated by the following formula:
(Game Test 1 * Game Test 2 * Game Test 3)^0.33 * 250
That's basically the geometric mean of the total frames in
each game multiplied by 250. This means that all game tests are now equal.
Let's see our result for the X600:
The X600 managed to stay clear of the lowest limit of
1000 3DMarks, but still, it's really a long road to the 5000 3DMarks an
5. 3DMark 2003
05 - 3DMark 2003
3D Mark is a widely used and accepted benchmark that stresses the DirectX performance of a VGA card. A very strong point of 3DMark is that it's VGA card measuring is does not require any CPU power. So the resulting fps are a good reference a VGA card's rendering performance. For testing the performance of each card we used the 4 game benchmarks 3DMark has.
3Dmark03 also includes sound and CPU tests as well as some other feature tests.
- Game Test 1 - Wings of Fury (DX7)
This test is a combat flight simulator written for older hardware (DirectX 7). Particles are used a lot in this test - smoke and vapor trails, flak and gunfire, and explosions are produced using point sprites and quads.
- Game Test 2 - Battle of Proxycon (DX8)
This test is a simulation of first person shooter game types. 1.1 and 1.4 Vertex shaders are widely used since all character models are skinned using vertex shaders.This makes this test a good vertex shader comparison for VGA cards.
- Game Test 3 - Trolls' Lair (DX8)
This test should be the favorite of all RPG lovers. It is a cut scene of a female warrior facing two malicious trolls. Again the same vertex and pixel processing is used as in game test 2.
This test also uses post-processing effects, such as Depth of Field and Bloom effects which are widely used in today's game cut scene sequences.
- Game Test 4 - Mother Nature (DX9)
Mother nature represents the level of effects and realism that are possible using 2.0 vertex and pixel shaders, plus some other features that DirectX 9 offers.
No doubt X600 is an upper class chipset when comparing it to the X300. We witnessed 50% higher overall performance on all four game tests.
- 3DMark Official score
If you test your machine with 3DMark you can post the results at 3DMark' online result browser. For more information visit futuremark.com.
The final 3DMark03 score reveals the gap between X600 and X300 which wasn't so obvious in the previous test.
6. 3DMark 2001
06 - Aquamark3 / 3DMark 2001
Since the majority of today's applications and games are compatible with DirectX 9, the need of benchmark applications that use DX 9 has been brought up. The benchmark uses the 3D engine (Krass engine) of the Aquanox game.
The Aquamark Triscore comprises 3 values: the overall system performance, the performance of the graphics system and the CPU performance. Keep in mind that this is not the total result of the tests, but the result of the whole benchmark process including all 9 chapters.
3DMark 2001 is the predecessor to 3DMark03. It's mainly a directx8.1 benchmark and the score depends a lot on the CPU power of your computer. However for reference use only we decided it'd be best to just leave it in our benchmark list so you can compare the next generation cards with the possibly outdated you have at home.
07 - Codecreatures
CodeCreatures is a synthetic 3D benchmark that is a good reference for VGA performance comparison. This is a high-end 3D benchmark that also requires DirectX 8 hardware, making a good tool for measuring the potential of DirectX 8 game performance.
The Codecreatures benchmark is written with Microsoft's DirectX 8.1 API and incorporates the use of Vertex and PixelShaders popular on next generation 3D accelerators.
The benchmark plays a photo-realistic nature scene and calculates the performance of the graphics adapter by measuring the fps that it can display at 1024x768, 1280x1024 and 1600x1200 resolutions.
Codecreatures run smoothly under 1024x768 and 1280x1024 using Powercolor's X600 XT where X300 could not yield satisfying results.
The codecreatures number is the resulting score of the total benchmarking process which includes some other measures except from a plain sum up of the fps results.
2430 codecreature points indicate the average 24 fps we got in this benchmark. Surely it's not enough considering the cost of the card but we can't say we're satisfied.
8. Half life 2
08 - Half life 2
Half life 2 is no doubt the most anticipated pc game of all times. Gamers keeping the excellence of Half Life 1 in their mind as well as the remarkable E3 demo preview, have been anxiously waiting for the much delayed release of HL2.
Regarding the storyline, the player again picks up the crowbar of research scientist Gordon Freeman, who finds himself on an alien-infested Earth being picked to the bone, its resources depleted, its populace dwindling. Freeman is thrust into the unenviable role of rescuing the world from the wrong he unleashed back at Black Mesa. And a lot of people he cares about are counting on him.
Characters - Advanced facial animation system delivers the most sophisticated in-game characters ever seen. With 40 distinct facial "muscles," human characters convey the full array of human emotion, and respond to the player with fluidity and intelligence.
Physics - From pebbles to water to 2-ton trucks respond as expected, as they obey the laws of mass, friction, gravity, and buoyancy.
Graphics - Source’s shader-based renderer, like the one used at Pixar to create movies such as Toy Story® and Monster's, Inc.®, creates the most beautiful and realistic environments ever seen in a video game.
AI - Neither friends nor enemies charge blindly into the fray. They can assess threats, navigate tricky terrain, and fashion weapons from whatever is at hand.
To measure performance we used the Video Stress Test(VST) that is available in the CounterStrike:Source beta available through Steam. We set all the details to the highest level and changed the resolutions from 800x600 to 1600x1200.
Let's hope performance on the final version of Half Life is the same as in the Video Stress Test, because no doubt this card can handle all its eye candy with great success.
Excellent results even with AA and AF enabled. 1024x768 seems to be the golden ratio between Quality and Performance with an average of 50fps.
9. Doom 3
09 - Doom 3
A massive demonic invasion has overwhelmed the Union Aerospace Corporations? (UAC) Mars Research Facility leaving only chaos and horror in its wake. As one of the few survivors, you struggle with shock and fear as you fight your way to Hell and back, in an epic clash against pure evil.
Activision made it's miracle again with Doom 3 which is said to be the best-looking game ever, thanks to the brand-new OpenGL graphics engine used to generate its convincingly lifelike, densely atmospheric, and surprisingly expansive environments. If you are a fan of the previous Doom games then you will get many flashbacks with this revision, since you will find reimagined versions of almost every monster from both Doom and Doom II.
To measure performance on the game we used the timedemo demo1 command from the console (Alt+Ctrl+~).
Enabling the high quality setting and executing the timedemo demo1 command twice for each resolution, we witnessed the following:
First without the Anti-Aliasing and Anisotropic Filtering settings enabled we got the following results:
Due to its heavy use of stencil shadows Doom 3 is very inconsistent in its framerates. That way even though the 30.5 fps seems enough during the single player game we got more often than not 20 frames per second.
Once again turning on the quality options for the game issued a 50% drop in performance and made the game unplayable.
10. Far Cry
10 - Far Cry
You are Jack Carver running your own boat charter business in beautiful Micronesia. With a past best left behind you, you'll be focusing on your present assignment: escorting an ambitious journalist named Valerie Cortez to the Island of Cabatu. It seems like a piece of cake, but you'll soon learn: paradise can be hell.
Farcry is an awesome First Person Shooter (FPS) based on a last generation 3D engine named as CryEngine. Real-time editing, bump-mapping, static lights, network system, integrated physics system, shaders, shadows and a dynamic music system are just some of the state of-the-art features that the CryEngine offers.
A great advantage and strong point of the CryEngine is its physics system which supports character inverse kinematics, vehicles, rigid bodies, liquid, rag doll, cloth and body effects. All physics seem to be very realistic and you never get bored when facing enemies, since character models have multiple animations that blend in believable ways.
With an integrated shader system and a massive terrain which maximizes the view distance to 2km these features make Farcry a perfect action game and also a referable benchmark to speak of.
- Benchmark Settings
For this game we recorded a new demo from the start of the Rebellion stage. We chose an indoor scene in order to avoid being CPU bound under any circumstances. This will produce slightly higher results since it is also less gpu intensive but we can't afford being stuck at 40-50 fps because of our cpu.
The 1.2 patch was used for our tests which updates the game's graphics engine to use the Shader model 3.0. Unfortunately this is supported for the 6800 series only.
The resolutions we run the demo on are the following: 800x600,1024x768, 1280x1024 and 1600x1200. The first test was committed with Anti Aliasing (AA) and Anisotropic Filtering (AF) features off. In the second test we leveled up AA at 4x and AF at 8x.
Like most ATi cards, Powercolor X600 XT did a great job rendering Far Cry. We almost hit 90 fps under the minimum resolution of 800x600 and the card maintained the fps at an acceptable level no matter how much we increased the resolution.
Unlike X300 enabling 4x Anti-aliasing and 8x of Anisotropic Filtering didn't half the framerates. The card stood up to it's class with a minor drop of 35%.
11. Medal of Honour Pacific Assault
11 - Medal of Honour Pacific Assault
Medal of Honor Pacific Assault puts you in the boots of a WWII soldier in the Pacific Theater of Operations. As Marine Private Tommy Conlin, you must survive the devastating attack on Pearl Harbor and then join the Allied crusade to defeat imperial Japan's bloody conquest of the Pacific. From the attack at Pearl Harbor to the pivotal battle against Japanese Forces at Tarawa Island, Medal of Honor Pacific Assault gives PC gamers a sense of the courage it took to endure and overcome the Japanese threat in WWII and fight for VICTORY in the Pacific.
To record the performance of this game, we used fraps and
played around for a minute in the first stage of the demo.
Unlike the X300, Powercolor's X600XT did much better in this
game providing sufficient framerates on the first two resolutions. Increasing
the resolution further dropped the results below 20.
As we couldn't set any AntiAliasing at this point, we will
just present the plain results until we get the full game version.
12. Thief 3
12 - Thief 3
of Deus Ex from now on we'll be testing our cards using Thief 3. It's based
on the same engine but it's much less GPU intensive and playable on more
VGA cards than Deus.
The game makes severe use of Pixel Shader 1.1 instructions, the bloom
effect and stencil shadows to achieve a wonderful result on your screen.
In the game, you play the part of Master Thief Garrett who is back to
rule out any evil forces using his unique stealth abilities. Deadly Shadows
shows what stealth gameplay is all about. This game really gives you the
feel of sneaking around and holding your breath when stuck in a sticky situation.
Since there is no official benchmark for the game, we'll perform our
tests using a GPU intensive scene from the tutorial-level which we believe
represents the average fps you'll get when playing the game.
If you're looking for a card to render Thief 3 with all details to the maximum
level, then this card is definitely not for you. Not unless you are willing
to sacrifice resolution.
Since Thief 3 is based on Deus Ex's engine, there is no support
for Anti-Aliasing, but instead uses Multisampling technology which is something
similar. Be it so, we set Multisampling to 4x and Anisotropic filtering to
8x through ATI's control panel.
Just like the X300, the drop is obviously large and unacceptable
13. Colin McRae 05
13 - Colin McRae 05
For all you racing fans out there, this test is for you and will represent the Racing game category in our benchmarks.
From the graphics point of view, the first thing you'll
notice in the game is the excellent amount of detail on your racing car.
High resolution textures on the car and lighting make it quite impressive.
the eye candy such as the sun reflection in the virtual camera is still
the same as with the older CM versions, but motion blur has been added
when your card hits something hard which will happen most often if you're
the racing simulation world.
To measure performance on the game we used fraps to get
the average fps of the whole UK 8th stage which is actually the only
stage you get to play on the demo.
Colin McRae 2005 brings the best out of the X600 and gaming
is excellent under all resolutions.
Even setting Anti-Aliasing to 4x and Anisotropic Filtering
to 8x won't prevent you from enjoying this rally simulator. Up to 1024x768,
you can play the game without any problems or difficulties other than crashing
your car on one of the many trees you'll encounter in the game. However,
increasing the resolution any further is discouraged as the average of 24
fps or less
in not acceptable, especially for games like this.
14. Ground Control II
14 - Ground Control II
Control 2 is an action-oriented game of tactics and warfare. As Captain Jacob
Angelus of the Northern Star Alliance, you will command squads of infantry,
artillery, and airpower against the might of the Empire of Terra. Base building
are replaced with unit control and combat tactics where your knowledge of
the battlefield maneuvers will make the difference in your fight against
a ruthless enemy. Position your troops on hilltops for better aim or inside
buildings and forests for protection as you'll need to use every inch of
terrain to your advantage. Call in air strikes or assault pods to bring the
behind enemy lines. Send out scouts to locate the enemy and use spotters
for your artillery with the 360° free-roaming camera. Experience the total
immersion of futuristic warfare as you lead your forces to victory!
For our benchmarks, we used the highest possible settings on the first mission
of the single player game and moved the camera around to get an average framerate
Ground Control II offers really impressive graphics without requiring much GPU power. Click on the picture above to view a screenshot from the game. Check out the excellent water effects!
Very good performance from the X600XT. It outperformed the X300 by 10 to 20
frames per second for each resolution, giving excellent framerates
even on the highest
Enabling 4xAA and 8xAF brought a decrease of more than 50% in
frames per second. The incredible amount of detail in the game seems to be
the main reason for this and not the card itself.
15 - Overclocking
No matter what your graphics card is, there comes a time in
your computer's life when it can no longer cope with the latest technology
the ever so popular games use. This is one of the main reasons for overclocking
your graphics card. Gamers are always looking forward to a little extra boost
in terms of framerate. Even though on most occasions the boost
is far from noticeable, overclocking remains the last resort when you can't
a brand new VGA card.
This is the case with Powercolor's X600. As we weren't satisfied
with the results from Doom 3, we were eager to push the clocks a bit higher
than normal, just in case gaming would get any better.
The X600's default timings were 500MHz for the core and 370 for
the memory modules. Without hesitation, we increased the core speed to 550.
We were disappointed to see that it couldn't handle 3D applications and the
computer froze for some time. Turning down the clock we managed to find a
stable speed at 535MHz and no matter for how long we let it loop 3DMark05,
it didn't overheat.
Increasing the memory clock is always the easiest part as no
freezing occurs and there is no need for rebooting your machine. As
we mentioned earlier, Powercolor's X600XT came equipped with a set of
made it easier to withstand the values we set. That way we got to set the memory
clock speed up to 435MHz successfully.
Game framerates changed accordingly:
No doubt we expected more, with the back of our minds still fresh from
our Powercolor X300 experience which proved to be the best overclocker we have
ever seen. However, keep
that the XT extension in the card's name means that it is already running at
a higher clock speed than the plain X600.
16 - Conclusion
If you are a Half Life 2 fan, don't want to spend too much money on a VGA
card and can't wait for the X700, then this card is probably for you. Far Cry
performance is also satisfactory but we can't say the same for Doom 3, Thief
Shadows or Medal of Honour Pacific Assault. With these games you'll either
have to settle for a lower resolution and/or turn some video settings off.
Keeping in mind the performance of the Powercolor X600 XT, it is difficult
to accept the fact that you have to spend approximately
$200 on the card. The X600 XT is targeted at the
mid-to-high end of the market. This means people that are willing to pay
some extra cash in order to play all the latest games.
The card's inability to render some of the games with sufficient framerates
is once again the main problem.
Concerning the card's overclocking capabilities, we can't say we are
impressed. The memory's quality is great but the already high clocked core
from seeing any noteworthy increase in performance.
As for the software bundle, we have already expressed our opinion in the
X300 review. The software, much to our surprise, was exactly the same. Hitman
might not be the game you were planning to buy but it's still better than any
other mediocre game some other cards might give you or even nothing at all.
-Low performance/price ratio
-Unsatisfactory overclocking skills
Value for money: