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Appeared on: Tuesday, January 18, 2005
HIS X700 Pro IceQ TURBO


1. Introduction

HIS X700 Pro IceQ TURBO - Page 01

The battle between NVidia and ATI for the best high-end GPU is all but decided with the X800XT producing the best, overall performance. Now both manufacturers gather their strength for the new, upcoming and more interesting war. Both manufacturers have recently released their new chipsets with their target set on domination of the mainstream market.

NVidia came up with a downgraded version of the 6800 chipset, named the 6600, whereas ATi is represented by its X700 chipset. Both technologies are very promising and according to pre-release benchmarks, seem to offer a lot of power for much less money than the more expensive, previous generation cards.

This time, we'll be taking a close look at the HIS X700 Pro IceQ TURBO edition.

On the following table, you will find a summary of the major differences between the various versions of x700 based cards :

  X700 X700 Pro X700 XT
core clock (MHz) 400 420 475
mem. clock (MHz) 300 432 525
on board memory (MB) 128 256 128/256
aprox. price (USD) $150 $200 $200/$250

- Packaging - Bundle

The card ships in an icy-blue themed box symbolizing the card's unique (for the X700 series) arctic cooling. Two large emblems on the front are there to reassure us as to the excellence of the cooling power (-11C) and silent operation (<20dB) of the HIS X700 Pro IceQ.

There are 2 versions of the HIS X700 Pro that the user should know about before making a purchase. A VIVO edition and a Dual DVI edition. The only difference between them is, as the name implies, that the latter offers two DVI output connectors instead of one, and one VGA.

The card ships with a complete set of both utilities and games included inside the package. The full software bundle is listed below:

Software Bundle:
- Counter Strike : Condition Zero
- PowerDVD
- VideoStudio 7 SE
- 3D-Album / PicturePro
- iTurbo Overclocking Tools
- HIS Excalibur - Bonus DVD (Game & Application demos)
- HIS Excalibur - Driver CD


2. A closer look

02 - A closer look

Main Features
GPU ATi X700 - R410
Memory Type 256MB 128-bit GDDR3
Memory Speed 432MHz
Core Speed 420MHz
Memory Bandwidth

13.8 GB/sec

Pixel Pipelines 8
Vertex Pipelines 6
DX Support 9.0
OpenGL Support 1.5
Output VGA/ DVI-I / D-Sub
Bus PCI Express 16x (requires 2 expansion slots to fit)
Processing technology 0.11 micron

Just like the X300 series where ATi incorporated a narrower process technology, the X700 GPUs are also built using the 0.11 micron process. That theoretically reduces thermal aggregation throughout the core and leaves more room for overclocking.

The artic cooling solution is larger than the card itself!

The X700 we received from HIS, features 256MB of 2.0ns GDDR3 covered by small heatsinks to prevent overheating, as the fan only covers the ATi core.

A view at the back side of the card

The GPU fansink is very impressive but a little bit over the top as it is too huge and overhangs onto a second PCI slot when fitted on the motherboard.

The fan is made from UV sensitive material which offers a fascinating glow when the card is exposed to a UV light source.

This is how the card will look under a UV light.

3. Test System

Test System - Page 03

Processor: Intel P4 3.0 GHz
Case: Antec 1080AMG
Motherboard: Asus P5GD2-E Premium
Memory: 2x512MB OCZ PC-4200 Memory
Hard Disk Drive: WD800JD 80GB 7200RPM
CD-RW: LiteOn LTR-52246S
Power Supply: Levicom 500Watt
OS: Microsoft WindowsXP Pro SP2
DirectX: v9.0c

Benchmarking Software
3DMark05,03,01
Codecreatures Benchmark Pro v1.0
AquaMark3 v3.0
Farcry v1.3
CounterStrike Source Beta
Doom 3
Medal of Honour Pacific Assault Demo
Thief 3
Ground Control II

In the following tests, we'll be comparing the X700 card with an X600XT from Asus and an X800XT PE from Connect3d. The reason for this choice is to find out if the X700 can fill the huge gap that exists between these two cards.


4. 3DMark05

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, making the most out of Microsoft's DirectX 9. The previous version, 3DMark03, provided a nice testbench for this 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 on the market can only score around 5000 3DMarks, whereas the worst card that meets the program's 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 futuristic first-person shooter game with all the high details that such a game entails. The dynamic shadows, highly detailed environment and advanced lighting techniques, ensure that under normal circumstances, no recent card can run it with decent frame rates.

On the first test, the X700Pro did much better than its predecessor the X600XT but failed to reach the heights of the X800XT and settled nicely somewhere in between.

Game Test 2 - Firefly Forest

A forest is filled with magic fireflies at 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 only short range, 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.

 

Once again the X700Pro offers performance at around half that of the X800XT.

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 airship's "last resort" afterburners.

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 appear deep down in the water. The air in this scene also uses a volumetric fog, making distant cliffs in the canyon appear far away.

 

The third and final test of 3dmark05 wasn't at all surprising. The X700Pro stands at a respectable level above the X600XT.

Final Score

 3DMarks on 3DMark05 are now calculated with the following formula:

(Game Test 1 * Game Test 2 * Game Test 3)^0.33 * 250

This is basically the geometric mean of the total frames in each game multiplied by 250, which means that all game tests are on an equal par.
Let's see the result for the X700 Pro IceQ:

You'd expect the best card from the X600 series to be almost equal to the X700. However, the X700 proved to be twice as powerful as the X600XT but also half as powerful as the king of the hill, the X800XT PE.


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 its VGA card measuring does not require any CPU power. So the resulting fps are a good reference of a VGA card's rendering performance. For testing the performance of each card, we used the 4 game benchmarks from 3DMark.

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 a first person shooter game. 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.

 

 

We believe the 3DMark03 test accurately reflects the current games' performance with the cards. The X700 Pro seems to generate satisfactory framerates in the DX8, DX9 game tests, with the average fps being above 40. Of course, the X800XT PE once again distinguishes itself by offering twice the performance on all tests except for GT1, which by the way, time has proven it to be obsolete anyway.

- 3DMark Official score

If you test your machine with 3DMark, you can post the results at 3DMark's online results page. For more information visit futuremark.com.

Yes, the rumors were true after all. The X700 Pro beats all previous generation graphics cards which still cost around $300 and couldn't do any better than 6500 3dmarks at regular clock speeds. The Pro version of the X700, at the affordable price of $200, brings better performance for much less money.


6. Codecreatures
06 - 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 it 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 pixels resolutions.

 

 

The X700 Pro IceQ was able to run the benchmark smoothly with a constant framerate at above 30fps.

-Codecreatures number

The codecreatures number is the resulting score of the total benchmarking process and is basically the geometric mean of the three framerates multiplied by 100.


7. Half life 2

07 - 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.

 

 

The difference between the X600XT and X700 Pro is not so obvious at 800x600 resolution. This is because the resulting framerate for the X700 Pro is limited by the CPU power of our P4 3.0Ghz when the X800XT PE, being AGP, was tested on our AMD FX-55.

When setting Anisotropic Filtering to 8x and AntiAliasing to 4x, the performance of both the X600 and the X700 drops appropriately. Even though the difference between them decreased, the X700 Pro managed to keep a framerate above 25fps at 1600x1200 resolution.


8. Doom 3

08 - 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 had the following results:

ATi cards have always had difficulties rendering Doom 3. Unfortunately, the X700 is no exception to this rule and gaming above 1024x768 is not enjoyable. So far, the only ATi cards able to run the game satisfactorily are the X800 series.

Enabling the quality setting is disastrous for the X700 and even playing under 800x600 becomes annoying.


9. Far Cry

09 - 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 latest patch (1.2) was used for our tests which updates the game's graphics engine to use the Shader model 3.0. Unfortunately, this is supported by the 6800 series only.

The resolutions we run the demo at are the following: 800x600,1024x768, 1280x1024 and 1600x1200. The first test was executed with Anti Aliasing (AA) and Anisotropic Filtering (AF) features off. In the second test we leveled up AA to 4x and AF to 8x.

In far cry, the most suitable resolution for the HIS X700 Pro seems to be at 1280x1024.

Turning on the quality options, the performance drop with most games is quite noticeable. Not so with the X700 which kept the framerate above 25fps at 1280x1024. However, if you feel the need for higher quality graphics and decent performance, then 1024x768 seems like the best resolution to enjoy the game.


10. Medal of Honour Pacific Assault

10 - 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 Click to enlargemust 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 performance of this game we used fraps and played around for a minute in the first stage of the demo.

 

The difference between the X700 pro and the X600 XT starts at only 11fps at 800x600 but as we increased the resolution, the latter couldn't keep up and performed only half as well as the HIS card.

Click to enlarge


11. Thief 3

11 - Thief 3

Instead of Deus Ex, from now on we'll be testing our cards using Thief 3. It is 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 do 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.

 

 

 

In a game such as Thief 3, with a very demanding graphics engine, only high end cards can make it through the consecutive resolution increments without dropping their performance to awful levels. The HIS X700 Pro performed well with the first two resolutions but lacks the power to handle any higher resolution.

Even from the outset, enabling AA and AF is devastating for the card. Its performance drops by 50% and progressively decreases when increasing the resolution, to reach the incredibly low 6fps at 1600x1200.


12. Colin McRae 05

12 - 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. All the eye candy, such as the sun reflection in the virtual camera are still the same as the older CM versions but motion blur has been added when your car hits something hard which will happen most often if you're new to the racing simulation world.

To measure performance on the game, we used fraps to get the average fps of the whole 8th stage of UK which is actually the only stage you get to play on the demo.

At 800x600, you can see the HIS X700 pro is being limited by our CPU at around 110fps. Increasing the resolution, performance drops accordingly but gameplay remains excellent and smooth.

Running the game with 8x anisotropic filtering and 4x AntiAliasing, still leaves plenty of room for increasing the resolution. Be it so, 1280x1024 seems to be the perfect choice between performance and quality.


13. Ground Control II

13 - Ground Control II

Ground 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 and resource-collecting 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 battle 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 benchmark testing, 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 using fraps.

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!

The X700 handled the Ground Control II graphics engine without much trouble. The lowest framerate we got was 40fps when running the game at 1600x1200.

However turning on AA and AF is a disaster. The fps dropped more than 60%, which makes enabling quality options a four letter word for this game.


14. Overclocking

14 - Overclocking

No matter your graphics card, there comes a time in your computer's life when it can no longer cope with the latest technological demands the ever so popular games impose. 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 most of the times the boost is far from noticeable, overclocking remains the last resort when you can't afford to buy a brand new VGA card.

The default speeds for the HIS X700 Pro are 425MHz for the core and 432MHz for the memory clock. In order to overclock the card, we used the HIS iTurbo software which offers overclocking at safe settings with the simple click of a button.

The HIS X700 Pro iTurbo running at default settings is an incredibly silent solution as promised by HIS. As you can see below, the default fan speed is set at 67% of its maximum speed.

 

Pressing the iTurbo button, the core clock is automatically set to 459Mhz and the memory clock to 958MHz. Fan speed is set to 100% of its speed potential but even at that speed, the noise eminating from the fan is almost undistinguable.

Unfortunately, the resulting clock speeds did not reach those of an X700XT. Let's see how much performance boost we can get when we press the iTurbo button.

In Doom 3, where the extra boost is mostly needed, the framerates only increased by 2 or 3 fps, which unfortunately is far from noticeable. However, in Far Cry and Half Life 2, the performance gain varies from 3 to 7fps depending on the resolution.


15. Conclusion

15 - Conclusion

The X700 might not have the power of the X800 chipset but it is still a great step beyond the expensive, yet second-rate X600. The card can render most games with nice framerates and in most cases, can deliver more frames than the CPU of the average computer user can handle. However, in a few games such as Doom 3 and Thief 3 : Deadly shadows, the performance was not acceptable.

The card's price is only $200. Its performance exceeds that of a 9800XT and costs $100 less. Surely, the card's value for money is great compared to other cards we've tested so far. However, in order to be certain which card between the X700 Pro and 6600GT is the best buy, we'll just have to wait a bit until our following review..

Regarding overclocking, we expected the card to reach the XT's clock speeds. Instead, HIS decided it would be wiser for the iTurbo button to overclock the card into a hybrid between a Pro and an XT. As a result, the performance boost we got was nothing extraordinary, but still satisfactory.

Apart from the driver and HIS utilities cd, the card's bundle includes a full version of Counter Strike : Condition Zero and two more applications : VideoStudio 7 SE and 3D-Album. Even though the game is a little outdated now with Half Life Source on the store shelves, the bundle will satisfy most buyers.

Pros:
-Great Value for money

Cons:
-Lack of great overall performance

Performance:
Value for money:
Overclocking:
Bundle:


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