It’s noteworthy that ATI created a 512MB reference design for its Radeon X800 XL GPU but left the market to partners such as Sapphire. It suggests that ATI thinks the market for these boards is pretty small. We agree.
The first thing you notice about the Hybrid X800 XL is that Sapphire slapped a huge, two-slot fan on the board. The fan provides effective cooling, which ambitious overclockers will find appealing; however, Sapphire leaves it up to the user to discover the board’s outer limits: The board ships with memory clocked at 398MHz and the GPU clocked at 493MHz, just like ATI’s reference design.
The X800 XL is a 16-pipe part with a 256-bit memory interface. It would be tough to justify a $450 price tag by simply doubling the graphics memory, so Sapphire equipped the board with dual DVI connections as well as ATI’s Rage Theater chip (for analog video
in and out).
Given the tiny benchmark performance delta between ATI’s X800 XL card with 256MB of memory and Sapphire’s X800 XL Hybrid with 512MB of graphics memory, is this board worth the extra $150? We’re tempted to say yes, but because ATI and nVidia are on the cusp of shipping an entirely new generation of GPUs, we recommend that all but the most desperate upgraders wave off.
-- Michael Brown
KING KONG: Future games will run better on a larger frame buffer; dual DVI rocks!
BUBBLES THE CHIMP: The X800 XL is a mere mid-range chip.