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Appeared on: Tuesday, January 24, 2006
Club3D X1800XT


1. Introduction

Club3D has been one of the leading VGA card manufacturers in Europe. Apart from the production of the widely known ATi and NVidia based graphics cards, they have recently set up a collaboration with S3 and XGI, introducing some alternative solutions into the market.

This time round, we received one of the latest additions to Club3D's product list, a 512MB ATI X1800XT. In short, the X1800XT is the highest performing ATI card to date, and is targeted at dedicated gamers and computer enthusiasts.

- Packaging/Bundle

The card as usual, shipped in the stylish black package that has become the hallmark of Club3D. Apart from the card itself, inside the package we found the following:

Let's move on with the full card details.


2. Features
Main Features
GPU ATI Radeon X1800XT - R520
Memory Brand/Model Samsung K4J52324QC-BJ12
Memory Type 512MB 256-bit GDDR3
Engine Clock Speed 600MHz
Memory Clock Speed 1.4GHz
Memory Bandwidth 48Gb/s
Pixel Shader Processors 16
Vertex Shader Processors 8
Fill Rate 10000Mp/s
Pixel Shader Support 3.0
Output 2 x DVI-I, 1 VIDEO
Bus PCI-E 16X
Process 90nm

The Club3D X1800XT is based on the new and long-awaited R520 core from ATI. It features 512MB of 1.2ns Samsung memory, which is the largest amount and fastest memory that can be currently found in a graphics card.

The R520 is a 16 Pixel shader processor chip, featuring 8 vertex shader processors, 16 texture address units, 16 texture units and 16 Render Back-End Units.

ATI rebuilt the R520 from scratch to bring to the core more features than previous products. First of all, the R520 along with all the X1000 series is based on a 90nm process technology to fit all the transistors on the new circuit. The pixel shader engine is now controlled by an "Ultra-threaded dispatcher", which dynamically assigns pixel shader operations to 4 individual quads of shader cores. Unlike the previous versions, the new ATI shader cores are now able to handle Shader Model 3.0 instructions just like all NVidia GPUs could since the GeForce 6 series.

Another X1000 innovation is the new memory controller architecture. To make things simple, instead of clients requesting for data directly from the memory controller, all communications is now made using tokens that roam around a ring surrounding the memory controller. Whenever a client needs to issue a request or the controller needs to send data, it alters one of the tokens. Although this technology is really borrowed from networking, it is very interesting to see it applied to graphics cards.

Click to enlarge

Finally, another nice change the R520 brought, regards cache memory. Instead of mapping each partition of the cache memory to specific partitions of the graphics memory, the cache can now hold data from any part of the memory without any restrictions.

Click to enlarge


3. A Closer Look

The Club3D X1800XT is based on the ATI 109-A52031-20 PCB with redesigned power supply circuits for better stability. Compared to the previous 109-A52031-10 PCB, it means that if the card is flashed with a new BIOS, it would allow higher voltages which would allow high clock frequencies. However, when this information arrived at our labs, it was a little too late to test the card as the card had already been returned.

Click to enlarge
At first glance the X1800XT looks a lot like an X850XT

Click to enlarge
The rear of the Club3D X1800XT

A metallic cover heatsink is something new

8 covers cool and protect the memory components underneath the heatsink


Click to enlarge

Removing the heatsink reveals the R520 chipset.


The memory used by the Club3D X1800XT is the Samsung K4J52324QC-BJ12.


Click to enlarge

The heart of the X1800XT


4. Test System

For our review we used the following parts:

Processor: AMD64 3500+ NewCastle (939 socket)
Case: Antec 1080AMG
Motherboard: MSI
Memory: 2x512MB Corsair XMS TWINX1024-3200XL Memory
Hard Disk Drive: WD800JD 80GB 7200RPM
DVD Burner: Pioneer DVR-A08XLA
Power Supply: EzCool 550Watt
OS: Microsoft WindowsXP Pro SP2
DirectX: v9.0c

Test system

Benchmarking Software
3DMark05,03,01
Codecreatures Benchmark Pro
AquaMark3 v3.0
ATITool
Farcry v1.3
HL2
Quake 4
Need for Speed Most Wanted
Ground Control II
F.E.A.R.


5. 3DMark2005

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 Club3D X1800XT starts off impressively with the highest score in GT3 and second highest in GT2 behind the overclocked 7800GTX.

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.

According to 3DMark05, the Club3D X1800XT shows that it lacks nothing in performance compared to the 7800GTX but still can't reach the overclocked 7800GTX from Asus.


6. 3DMark2003

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.

In GT4, the X1800XT made a bold stand against the Asus N7800GTX TOP. However, it didn't perform as well in the the rest of the DX7, DX8 games tests. Even though this isn't so important in today's gaming, it will still affect the final 3DMark03 score.

- 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 X1800XT finished second last, just above the 7800GT.


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.

The X1800XT received extremely low but stable scores in the DX8 Codecreatures benchmark tests.

-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.

The X1800XT ranked last with more than 1200 points separating it from the Geforce 7 cards.


8. Aquamark - 3DMark01

Since the majority of today's applications and games are compatible with DirectX 9, the need for benchmark applications that use DX 9 has arisen. The benchmark uses the 3D engine (Krass engine) from 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.

particle
vertex
massive

The scene is still the same. ASUS and XFX in the first two positions. The most recent generation chipsets are much more powerful than the older 6800 and X850.

- 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.

Aquamark and 3DMark2001 bring yet another disappointment for the X1800XT. Although these tests should not be used to judge a card in 2006, it would be nice if the scores were a little closer as the Club 3D X1800XT is a good deal behind.


9. F.E.A.R.

You aren't a soldier. You are a weapon. A paramilitary force infiltrates a multi billion dollar aerospace compound taking hostages, but issuing no demands.

The government responds by sending in its best special operations teams, only to have them obliterated. Live footage of the massacre is cut short by an unexpected wave of destruction that leaves military leaders stunned and in disbelief.

First Encounter Assault Recon (F.E.A.R.) is one of the new-generation FPS. The graphics are really stunning, the plot behind the whole shooting successfully keeps it interesting and even the A.I. seems to work out well.

F.E.A.R. offers a lot to the First Person Shooter world. The graphics are very clear with excellent textures, great new effects that will stress your graphics card and ragdoll physics that are waiting to be exploited as you progress through the game.

- Benchmark Settings

F.E.A.R. allows you test the video settings on a mini-benchmark involving a lot of weapon firing, explosions and several other effects. After the benchmark is run, you are presented with a screen showing your minimum, average and maximum framerates and also percentages of how often the framerate was below 25fps, between 25 and 40, and finally above 40. For presentation reasons, we're just sticking to the minimum and average framerates.

The resolutions we used are 800x600, 1024x768, 1280x1024 and 1600x1200. We measured performance with high and highest details.

Studying the minimum and average framerates for F.E.A.R., shows that the X1800XT's low scores in earlier benchmarks were not an indication of bad performance in real games. The card manages to deliver fps equal to that of the 7800GTX and better than the 7800GT although it drops in performance as the resolution increases.

Enabling the highest possible settings in F.E.A.R., the X1800XT suddenly rises to the top! The performance is simply excellent and the card delivers consistently higher framerates than all the other cards. It seems it is much less affected by heavy rendering than any GeForce 7 card.


10. Need For Speed - Most Wanted

Wake up to the smell of burnt asphalt as the thrill of illicit street racing permeates the air.

Combining illicit street racing and tuner customization with the intensity of strategic police pursuit that surpasses any Hollywood-style chase scene, Need for Speed Most Wanted will be on every gamer's 'must-have' list this holiday season. Out-race rivals, evade cops and exploit hundreds of miles of open road as gamers make their way up the Blacklist.

To become the most wanted racer, players must build up their street cred and Rap Sheet with gripping, white knuckle, head-to-head races with the top drivers on the streets, as well as pull daring, evasive moves to out-run and out-fox the cops that patrol the open road. Players can manage their heat or utilize a number of strategic tactics to keep the cops off their tails as they leave their rivals behind to suck their exhaust fumes.

- Benchmark Settings

NFS Most Wanted includes no default benchmark. To measure the card's performance, we've chosen to record the framerate at the start of a circuit race with end-game cars. The starting point tends to be one of the most graphically demanding parts because of the smoke cloud created by the spinning wheels, added to the rest of the game's visual effects. If a card can pass this step with an acceptable framerate, it is guaranteed that it will face no problem with the rest of the game.

The resolutions we used are 800x600, 1024x768, 1280x1024 and 1600x1200. We measured performance at the lowest and highest possible settings.

Need For Speed : Most Wanted with low settings is really no trouble for any of the cards. However, even at 1600x1200 where the GT and GTX cards show a minor performance drop, the X1800XT and 7800GTX TOP continue to produce high framerates.

The higher the graphics details, the better the performance we get from the X1800XT compared to the other cards.


11. Quake 4

In a desperate war for Earth's survival, against an unrelenting alien enemy, the only way to defeat them is to become one of them. Armed with advanced weaponry and vehicles and aided by an elite squad of marines, you take the battle to the heart of the Strogg home planet and become Earth's only hope for victory.

Quake 4 is a First Person Shooter developed by Ravensoft, based on the Doom 3 engine and the graphics and gameplay certainly reflect that fact. For those who really hated the one-way corridors of Doom 3, new outdoor areas have been added to the game, however the feeling still remains the same as these areas are quite small-scale, contrary to what other games have to offer.

 

- Benchmark Settings

As Quake 4 includes no default benchmark, we decided to go with another publicly available demo to measure performance. The one we chose is a demo made by HWSpirit which involves a small outdoor scene followed by a long indoor combat. As preloading the stage once again failed miserably and the average framerate varied a lot the second time we ran the demo, we ran it twice every time and measured only the second run.

The resolutions we used are 800x600, 1024x768, 1280x1024 and 1600x1200. We measured performance with and without Anti-aliasing.

In Quake 4, the Club3D X1800XT continues the tradition producing lower framerates than the NVidia cards.

Enabling anti-aliasing narrows the gap between the cards. At 1600x1200, the overclocked 7800GTX from Asus yields the highest framerate, followed by the Club3D card and finally the AOpen and XFX.


12. 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, the figures don't look so good for the X1800XT. Although the framerates are too high to be of concern, it still ranked last.

Likewise, enabling Anti-Aliasing does not make it any better and all 7800 cards finish ahead of the X1800XT.


13. 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.

In Far Cry, the X1800XT delivers similar performance to the 7800GT, dropping off in performance as the resolution increases.

The XFX 7800GT seems to be more affected by Anti-Aliasing than the X1800XT which still finished way behind the AOpen and ASUS cards.


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!

Once again, the X1800XT just can't seem to keep pace with the Geforce cards.

With AA and AF enabled, the gap between the ATI and NVidia cards widens.


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 Club3D X1800XT were 600MHz for the core and 700MHz (1.4GHz effective) for the memory.

There are two ways to overclock the card. One is by manually selecting the frequencies through ATITool and one using the Catalyst Overdrive function. Of course, we simply had to try both.

After letting the Automated clock configuration run for a little while, the overclocking frequencies selected were 620MHz for the GPU and 750MHz for the memory.

Firing up ATITool, we loaded the card's default speeds and started tweaking them.

After quite a few rounds of trial and error (some resulted in crashes) we settled on 620/800 combination. The core was indeed unable to work properly at a higher speed, however the memory could operate at 800MHz just fine.

Let's see what difference that clock tweaking makes.

Judging by the small differences, overclocking the card is just not worth the trouble. The difference can barely be seen and actually, this card doesn't really need to be overclocked in the first place.


16. Conclusion

The Club3D X1800XT's performance was a bit confusing. It really excelled in some of the latest games and benchmarks, like 3DMark05, F.E.A.R. and Need for speed, yet it yielded very bad results in older games like Far cry, Half Life 2 and 3DMark03. Since we're not sure if this is due to premature drivers for the card, we stay reluctant in making any judgment concerning its performance just yet. However, if the latest games are all you care about, the card will surely not disappoint you. After all, it is a Hi-End graphics card.

Overclocking the X1800XT produced nothing exciting. Of course, we got a small boost in benchmark scores and framerates but nothing that could distinguish the card from the rest. Still, as we mentioned earlier, the Club3D X1800XT is designed on a "20" PCB which allows further overclocking after a BIOS flash. This was however not possible in the current review.

Club3D's bundle for the X1800XT is good. Colin McRae 2005 is a nice and relatively fresh game, but it's nothing that is going to stress this card and show you what it can really do. All cables and adaptors required to operate the card are inside the package and we didn't find anything missing.

The card costs around US$500 which is typical for a high end card. If you wish to get more than average performance, you have to dig a little deep into your pocket. For the record, the XFX 7800GTX costs approximately US$470, while the overclocked Asus N7800GTX TOP almost US$580.

Pros:
- Great performance in graphically-demanding games
- Low-noise cooling system

Cons:
- Unsatisfactory performance in older games

Performance:
Overclocking:
Bundle:
Value for money:


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