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This story was printed from CdrInfo.com,
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Appeared on: Friday, July 08, 2005
Connect3D X800


1. Introduction

Connect3D is a manufacturer of graphics cards for the PC industry and a long time certified partner of ATI. From the Radeon 7000 to the latest X850 cards, Connect3D has always been present with competitive prices, top-notch products and excellent support.

The X800 is ATi's answer to NVidia's very successful 6600GT. We've already examined how the AGP versions of the cards compete against each other and now it's time to look at the PCI-Express X800 and 6600GT. We'll compare Connect3D's X800 performance against that of the Extreme N6600GT from Asus and an X700 PRO from HIS.

- Packaging/Bundle

If you're looking for a card with fancy packaging that's accompanied by a lot of software, Connect3D is not the vendor you should turn to. Instead, it offers a cheaper, minimal version of the X800 without any software bundles in a package that's just made to contain the card and not decorate your room.

Of course, inside the package you'll still find a CD containing the card's drivers, a printed "Getting started" guide to help you install the card and the following usual accessories:

- VGA to DVI adaptor
- S-Video cable
- Composite cable
- HDTV cable


2. Features
Main Features
GPU ATi Radeon X800 - R430
Memory Brand/Model Samsung K4J55323QF-GC20 (2.0ns)
Memory Type 256 MB 256-bit GDDR3
Engine Clock Speed 390MHz
Memory Clock Speed 350MHz (700MHz effective)
Memory Bandwidth 22.4 GB/sec
Pixel Pipelines 12
Vertex Pipelines 6
Fill rate 4.68 Giga pixels /sec
DX Support 9.0
OpenGL Support 1.5
Output VGA / DVI-I / D-Sub
Bus PCI-Express 16X
Processing technology 0.11 micron

This time, the PCI-Express-native R430 that's fueling the X800 is directly connected to the PCI-Express bus without the use of the RIALTO bridge to convert the signals.

The R430 offers 12 pixel pipelines to the X800 vanilla, just like the X800 PRO but unlike the X800XL and X800XT's 16 pipeline architecture. 6 Vertex pipelines are still there for vertex processing as with all X800's.

The Connect3D X800 features 256MB of GDDR3 and a great 256-bit wide memory interface to support it.

A summary of the differences between the various X800 flavours can be seen in the following table.

 
X800
X800 Pro
X800 XL
X800 XT
Core(MHz) 390 475 400 540
Memory(MHz) 350(700) 450(900) 490(980) 590(1180)
Pipelines 12 12 16 16
Fill Rate (Gpixels/s) 4.68 5.7 6.4 8.6
Memory Bandwidth(GB/s) 22.4 28.8 31.4 37.8
Approx. Retail Price $250 $300 $350 $500

SMARTSHADER! HD
Full hardware acceleration of Microsoft® DirectX® 9.0 programmable vertex and pixel shaders in hardware
DirectX 9.0 Vertex Shaders
- Vertex programs up to 65,280 instructions with flow control
- Single cycle trigonometric operations (SIN & COS)
DirectX 9.0 Extended Pixel Shaders
- Up to 1,536 instructions and 16 textures per rendering pass
- 32 temporary and constant registers
- Facing register for two-sided lighting
- 128-bit, 64-bit & 32-bit per pixel floating point color formats
- Multiple Render Target (MRT) support
Complete feature set supported in OpenGL®
via extensions

SMOOTHVISION! HD
2x/4x/6x Anti-Aliasing modes Sparse multi-sample algorithm with gamma correction, programmable sample patterns, and centroid sampling Lossless Color compression (up to 6:1) at all resolutions, including widescreen HDTV resolutions Temporal Anti-Aliasing 2x/4x/8x/16x Anisotropic Filtering modes
- Up to 128-tap texture filtering per AA sample
- Adaptive anisotropic filtering algorithm with bilinear (performance) and trilinear (quality) options

HYPER Z! HD
3-level Hierarchical Z-Buffer with Early Z Test
Lossless Z-Buffer Compression (up to 48:1)
Fast Z-Buffer Clear
Z cache optimized for real-time shadow rendering • Optimized for performance at high display resolutions, including widescreen HDTV resolutions

VIDEOSHADER! HD
Seamless integration of pixel shaders and video in real time
FULLSTREAM™ video de-blocking technology for Real, DivX, WMV9 and WMV10 formats
VIDEOSOAP™ noise removal filtering for captured video
MPEG1/2/4 decode and encode acceleration DXVA support Hardware Motion Compensation, iDCT, DCT and color space conversion
All-format DTV/HDTV decoding
Adaptive Per-Pixel De-Interlacing and Frame Rate Conversion (temporal filtering)


3. A closer look

Connect3D, following ATi's lead has stayed with the red stock PCB for the X800.

The front side of the card.(click for hi-res).

The card is equipped with 2 sets of 4 x K4J55323QF-GC20 GDDR3 (2.0 ns) from Samsung. Each module provides the card with 32MB, resulting in 256MB total.

One set is located at the front of the card and the other at the back. Note that none of the 2 sets gets cooled by the fan and there is no metal plate either, to help cool them.

The back side of the card (click for hi-res)

Unlike the rounded HSF we were used to seeing on all other X800 cards, the Connect3D utilises a relatively small rectangular fan positioned above the R430 GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) on the card.

Even though good looks are a minor priority for us, we were happy to see that the surface of the X800's fan is not just another piece of metal like Connect3D's X800XL but this time it pictures Ruby (ATi's X800 promo star).

As suspected, the relatively small fansink cannot cover the memories found on the front side.

As you can see, this fan works by cooling the fins located at its sides and therefore the processor found underneath.

Removing the HSF unveils the R430 core and surrounding circuits.

 

A zoomed-in picture of the GPU

 

The card's outputs as in most cases, consists of one standard VGA for CRT monitors, one DVI-I for TFT monitors and a Video output.


4. Test System

Processor: AMD 3500+
Case: Antec 1080AMG
Motherboard: Abit FATAL1TY AN8
Memory: 2x512MB OCZ PC-4200 Memory
Hard Disk Drive: WD800JD 80GB 7200RPM
CD-RW: LiteOn LTR-52246S
PowerSupply: Levicom 500Watt
Microsoft WindowsXP Pro SP2
DirectX v9.0c



Benchmarking Software
3DMark05,03,01
Codecreatures Benchmark Pro
AquaMark3 v3.0
ATiTool 0.0.23
Farcry v1.3
CounterStrike Source
Doom 3
Thief 3
Ground Control II
Colin McRae '05


5. 3DMark05

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 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

Click to enlargeBeing 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.

 

Game Test 2 - Firefly Forest

Click to enlargeA 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.

 

Game Test 3 - Canyon Flight

Click to enlargeA 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 actually is 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 really look far away.

 

The Connect3D starts the race with an impressive lead in all of the 3DMark05 game tests. With at least 2fps higher framerate in each game test, the card is guaranteed to have the highest final score.

Final Score

 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.

You can see the ~2fps lead translates into around 600 3DMarks higher than the second N6600GT and 1000 from the older X700 PRO.


6. 3DMark03

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.

As usual, ATi cards fall behind NVidia's same-class opponents in GT2 and GT3. In this case however, the X800 catches up in performance during the final game test, which also happens to be the only one based on DX9 code.

- 3DMark Official score

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

The Connect3D X800 managed to get the most 3dmarks in this benchmark also. The Asus Extreme N6600GT is just 300 3dmarks behind and the HIS X700 PRO is last with the lowest score, 1300 less than the X800.


7. 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 number

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

In Codecreatures, even though the standings do not change, the N6600GT seems to be much closer in performance to the X700 PRO that the X800. The X800 yields over 5200 Codecreature marks, which is the highest score we have ever seen from a budget oriented graphics card.


8. 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.

Aquamark Triscore

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

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.

The Connect3D dominates the charts once again in both Aquamark 3 and 3DMark01.


9. 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.

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 each time changed the resolution from 800x600 up to 1600x1200.

In Half Life 2 VST, our first game benchmark, performance is similar to what the synthetic benchmarks indicated. The X800 obviously offers the highest framerates, while the N6600GT comes up second just a little behind.

Enabling Anti-Aliasing and Anisotropic-Filtering, the Connect3D X800 maintains the lead and still manages to offer excellent fps under all resolutions.


10. 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:

With the first few resolutions in Doom3, the Extreme N6600GT card is burdened by the lack of CPU might, being unable to unleash its full power. When that bottleneck is no longer an issue, it's obvious the X800 cannot compete with it and gets easily outperformed.

Enabling 4xAA and 8xAF, the N6600GT receives a serious performance jolt, which gives the X800 the opportunity to narrow the difference further each time we increase the resolution.


11. 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 custom demo from the start of the Rebellion stage. We chose an indoor scene in order to avoid getting the CPU bound effect. This will result in 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 (1.3) was used for our tests which updates the game's graphics engine to use the 3.0 Shader model. This option is only supported for the 6800 series.

The resolutions we ran the demo under are the following: 800x600,1024x768, 1280x1024 and 1600x1200.

Without any Anti-Aliasing or Anisotropic Filtering, the X800 and N6600GT produced almost equal framerates. The lead that ATi cards once used to get in Far Cry benchmarks has now vanished.

However, what still remains is the NVidia performance drop when using Anti-Aliasing and Anisotropic Filtering. That way, the X800 climbs to the top once more.


12. Thief 3

Instead 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 by 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 in 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 that represents the average fps you'll get when playing the game.

Thief 3 is a torture test for graphics cards. All lower class cards fail to provide stable performance in this benchmark when selecting full details from the settings menu.

The X800 delivers very nice framerates in Thief 3 up to 1024x768. 36fps are simply excellent, and enough to enjoy the game the way it was meant to be played. Increasing the resolution further will require you to lower some details or else suffer in gameplay smoothness.

It seems that 800x600 is the maximum recommended resolution with the Connect3D X800. So far, we've seen only really high end cards perform moderately well with Multisampling and Anisotropic Filtering enabled. Perhaps playing the game at such settings will be easier when the 7800 and R520-cards become available.


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 detail of 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 card 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.

None of the three cards faced a problem rendering Colin McRae's graphics. All framerates are above or close to 50fps which is a great average.

Enabling 4x Anti-Aliasing and 8x Anisotropic Filtering, although improving the game's image quality, cannot be handled by all of the cards. The Connect3D X800 still maintains its great performance, even up to 1600x1200 but the N6600GT and X700 Pro cannot cope with that and fall below 30fps.


14. 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 air power 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.

For our benchmarks, we used the highest possible settings on the first mission of the single player game and moved around the camera to get an average frame rate 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 these excellent water effects!

 

Even in Ground Control II, Connect3D's X800 still holds the lead over the two other cards. The difference between it and the N6600GT varies around 8fps.

Setting AA to 4x and AF to 8x, both ATI cards lose more than half their previous performance and the N6600GT now stands on top. However, increasing the resolution slowly grinds away the difference which disappears at 1600x1200 where the X800 and N6600GT both deliver 18fps.


15. Overclocking

No matter your graphics card, 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 for 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.

Increasing the memory clock too much,
produces the so-called "artifacts".

The stock clock speeds for the core and memory were 390MHz and 350MHz respectively, as you can see in the ATiTool screenshot below. We mentioned before that the memory parts used by the Connect3D X800 are the 2.0ns K4J55323QF-GC20. The 350MHz frequency to which they are initially set is just too low, so overclocking the memory will be very easy.

First thing we do to overclock the card is to step-by-step increase the memory clock until we find the maximum stable setting that does not produce screen artifacts in either ATiTool test or games. Then, being sure of that frequency, we increase the core clock likewise. Our final settings can be seen in the following screenshot.

The factory frequencies for the Sapphire X800.

That is an extra 50MHz for the core and 200MHz for the memory which is very similar to what the Sapphire X800 could overclock to, only 10MHz lower memory speed increase.

Let's see the performance boost we got from the new clock settings:

The new framerates for the overclocked Connect3D X800 are exciting. In some cases we even got a 20fps boost and even Doom3, which tends to be much harder to improve the framerate, yielded 13fps under 1024x768.

Even if there's currently no way to unlock the 4 missing pipelines and turn this card into an XT, it's still an excellent overclocker and worth all the risks in messing with the clock settings.


16. Conclusion

Unquestionably, the Connect3D got better results even than the overclocked stock Asus N6600GT. Being an ATi card still gives the card the advantage of a low performance drop when running with AA and AF enabled. The difference from the older X700 pro is very obvious and the X800 seems and does belong to a new class of performers.

Overclocking the X800 is strongly suggested as the difference is very distinguishable, with the fps increase varying from 10 to 20fps. Even though the games in which the X800 will actually need this performance gain are still few, that will soon change and don't forget that the X800 comes with a mid-range price tag.

Listening to their users feedback, Connect3D has stripped out any bundled software from their cards in order to keep the costs as low as possible for the end user. On the other hand, you'll find a full set of accessories included with the card such as an HDTV cable, DVI-VGA adaptor, etc.

The Connect3D X800 sells for US$240 (VAT excl), which is just a bit higher than the 6600GT. However, considering the overclocking potential of the X800, there is no reason to opt for any other card over this one. At the moment, the Connect3D X800 offers the best price/performance ratio we have seen, totally worth our PCI-Express BEST BUY award.

Pros:
- Excellent overclocker
- Excellent price/performance

Cons:
- No bundled software

Performance:
Overclocking:
Bundle:
Value for money:


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