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Sapphire X800 Pro Video Card

/ Aug 3rd, 2004 No Comments

During E3 2004, I was able to meet up with the team from Sapphire and discuss several things about the video card industry. I have to say, I was wholly impressed with Sapphire’s PR staff, and their philosophy on the gaming market. Sapphire is a company that cares about the gamer – recognizing that this demographic is the driving force in their industry. They also want to represent their product as a “premium” video board at a price gamers can afford while bundling items that people will actually use and enjoy.

The new X800 Pro board from Sapphire is part of the new generation of ATI chipset boards that offer faster clock speeds, more processing power, and more video flexibility between gaming and application use. Sapphire has put together their board to hit the hot market that’s buzzing on this exciting new chipset.

Card
Vertex
Pipelines
Core Speed
Memory
Speed
Memory
Bandwidth
Fill Rate
ATI AIW 9600 XT
2
525 Mhz
650 Mhz
9.60 GB/s
2100 MTexels/s
GeForce FX 5700 Ultra
2
475 MHz
450 MHz
14.40 GB/s
1900 MTexels/s
ATI AIW 9800 Pro
4
380 MHz
680 MHz
21.76 GB/s
3040 MTexels/s
Sapphire X800 Pro
12
475 MHz
500 MHz
(GDDR3)
32.0 GB/s
5700 MTexels/s

The opening MSRP on the card should be around $399, which is what the ATI 9800 Pro and the GFFX 5700 Ultra run for … so for the price you are getting a much, much faster card for gaming performance!

The 256MB of on-board GDDR3 memory is awesome … I know they’ll be critics out there wondering if this much is necessary. Perhaps if you’re playing “Scrabble” on-line it isn’t, but after seeing the games at E3 that will be released later this year, this amount of memory is a necessity and not just a luxury for gamers.

card benchmark & testing

We used the same system we tested other video cards on for this review…

Test System Specifications:
– AMD 2500+XP Processor
– GigaByte GA-7NNXP nForce2 Motherboard
– 512 MB PC2700 Dual Channel DDR RAM
– Windows XP Home
– DirectX 9.0b

We used the following for games using the popular FRAPS Utility which allows you to grab the framerate for ANY game you play, record the framerate as you play, and export it to a text file. Using this, we captured the frame rates using three different video cards with these three very popular titles (all were set in 1280×1024 mode):

– Far Cry : One of the more advanced games on the market, Ubisoft has made a great game to benchmark cards on.

– Grand Theft Auto III : A very popular title that allows you to easily remove any and all frame rate limits

– Unreal Tournament 2004 : The very popular FPS game.

We also used the popular Futurmark “3DMark03″ utility to see how well the card performed.

3D Mark 2003 – DX9 Benchmarking

3DMark 03 is the latest installment in the popular 3DMark series. 3DMark03 measures modern PCs’ 3D graphics performance. The numbers…

Sapphire X800 PRO SCORE: 8117 Marks

Sapphire X800 Pro Review

WHOA! Although this benchmark has its fair share of critics, there’s no denying that the difference between the Sapphire X800 Pro card and the rivals it shares at the *same* price point. The difference between the Sapphire X800 Pro and it’s closest competitor (the 9800 Pro) is a whopping 64.78%.

Grand Theft Auto III

GTA3 supports turning off the framerate and vsynch limits, as some games won’t allow more than 75.

I found it very strange that the X800 Pro didn’t top everybody out, but for whatever reason the 9800 Pro did edge out this card in GTA3 performance.

Unreal tournament 2004

Here’s a very popular First Person Shooter that shows a great real world example of how the card performs.

Sapphire’s X800 Pro card does lead the way against the entire competition.

far cry (1280×1024 resolution, all max)

This is one of the more exciting titles out right now that really puts video cards to the test. This is perhaps the best “real world” test that we put the card through. The numbers ….

As you can see the Saphhire X800 Pro performed above and beyond the top video cards of today. This is the test, in the game most recently released, that we saw the most difference in performance.

installation

The video card is quite easily the easiest thing to install in your computer. Uninstall the OLD drivers first (some people forget this step), turn off your computer, take out the old card, put in the new card. Don’t forget to insert a power plug to make sure the card gets the juice it needs.

Turn on the system, insert the CD which has the latest Catalyst drivers (right here) and install them. After that – you’re ready to go!

impressions of performance

There’s one thing I noticed about the card that isn’t in any of the spec sheets – for some reason my monitor is brighter than ever. I thought this had to do with some weird refresh rate setting, but everything was running at the normal 85H level, and installing the card on another system produced the same vibrant and bright results.

The gaming performance of the Sapphire X800 Pro, as you can see from the results above, was impressive as there’s a noticeable jump from existing cards on the market – some of which are at or higher in price than this card. Everyone is looking to save a buck these days, and if you’re looking for a card that absolutely will give you a great “bang for your buck” then I think this card fits the bill. The GDDR3 and amount of Vertex Pipelines is so impressive … and I definitely want to say that none of the features on this card (including the impressive clock speed of the VPU) is overkill. The games being released later in 2004 and especially in 2005 will *require* these kinds of specifications. With the Sapphire X800 Pro video card, you are sure to be in good gaming hands for the big titles that are on their way to store shelves.

The bundle included is particularly impressive with the addition of the two very popular titles Price of Persia and Pandora’s Tomorrow. If you missed either of these titles when they were originally released, getting them in this bundle is an awesome value.

Conclusions

There’s not much bad to say about this card at all – the only thing I was disappointed in was that the Redline Tweak Utility for overclocking purposes wasn’t compatible with the X800 Pro. I have a strong suspicious belief that Sapphire will be releasing an updated version for X800 Pro owners.

The performance of the card was top notch – I couldn’t believe the impressive distance this card had on a consistent level against the “former fastest card we had,” the ATI 9800 Pro. It just seemed that there was a 30%-60% gain on all games’ benchmarks in both simulated and real-life tests … undoubtedly this is a video card for a performance driven consumer.

The coolness of the card is extremely high … the “alien” design on the box as well as the card itself is pretty neat, and the bundle included should definitely make your gamer friends extremely jealous. The price point of $399 is used to what we’re seeing these days for a new line of video cards, but considering that 9800 Pros (for now) and other cards are going for this price point this MSRP seems more than fair for people to pay.

The Sapphire X800 Pro is a rock-solid performance driven card that should have gamers drooling with envy to buy. With huge performance gains against cards in the same price point, it seems that this is the card of choice for serious gamers wanting the performance necessary out of their video cards for the high-level games of 2004 and 2005. Overall, this is a fantastic product that comes extremely recommended for purchase.

OVERALL SCORE: 96%

Editor's Choice Award

Sean W. Gibson

Sean W. Gibson

Founder, Featured Contributor at Gaming Illustrated
Sean Gibson has been the owner and Executive Editor of Gaming Illustrated for over eleven years. His roles include acting as CEO and President of Gaming Illustrated, LLC and also includes being a reviewer, previewer and interviewer. Sean's opinions on this site do not reflect those of his full-time employer.
Sean W. Gibson
Sean W. Gibson

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