PowerColor – X850XT Platinum Edition review

very fast PCI Express graphics card
Photo of PowerColor – X850XT Platinum Edition
£359

Retail graphic cards based around the fastest available GPUs (Graphics Processing Units) are notoriously difficult to find, so any addition to the channel is always good news. PowerColor’s latest card, the X850XT Platinum Edition, is, as you might guess from the name, built around ATI’s current flagship processor; the Radeon X850XT Platinum Edition.

The Radeon X850XT Platinum Edition is a direct replacement for the Radeon X800XT Platinum Edition, with only small increases in core and memory clock speeds compared to its predecessor. What are new, however, are the PCI-Express interface and a whopping two-slot cooling solution which brings flashbacks of the early nVidia two-slot solutions and the huge amount of noise associated with them.

At the heart of the X850XT Platinum Edition is the R480 core, which has sixteen pixel pipelines and six vertex shaders, just as the previous R423 core of the X800XT Platinum Edition. But moving from a 0.13 to a 0.11 micron process for the latest chip has allowed ATI to include its latest thinking on power conservation and thermal solutions, although it’s hard to tell as the card runs hot as it is.

All this heat has to go somewhere and so ATI has taken the step of introducing a two-slot cooling solution, its first, for the X850XT Platinum Edition. The large copper heatsink sits under a plastic shroud as does the large fan. This fan spins quickly and although it makes quite a din when first booted up, it soon settles down to a quiet hum. The fan draws air over the heatsink and dumps it out of the back of the case.

PowerColor’s X850XT Platinum Edition follows the reference design and comes with 256MB of DDR3 memory running through a 256-bit bus, clocked at 590MHz DDR (1.18GHz effective) which is just 15MHz faster than the X800XT. The core is clocked at 540MHz (20MHz faster than the X800XT Platinum Edition).

These high end cards are all about performance, especially at high resolutions, and the PowerColor doesn’t disappoint. When tested at a resolution of 1,024 x 768 pixels it gave a 3DMark 03 score of 13,135 and a 3DMark 05 score of 6,056. But more important to the real world is its performance in one of the most popular games around at the moment; FarCry. At 1,024 x 768 it gave a score of 81.6fps, which you may not think was high but the test was run with all the game’s detail settings at maximum.

Even at a resolution of 1,600 x 1,200 pixels with 4x FSAA (Full Scene Anti Aliasing) and 4x ASF (Aniscopic Filtering) and maximum detail, it still turned out a score of 36.7fps, which is a playable frame rate for the game under most conditions.

Along with all the usual cables and adapters, PowerColor includes a copy of Ubisoft’s Pacific Fighters game and the CyberLink DVD Solution package which is made up of CyberLink’s most popular titles; PowerDVD, PowerDirector SE Plus, MediaShow SE, PowerProducer DVD and Power2Go.

Company: PowerColor

Contact: +1 626 336 6845


Verdict
This is a high-end card with stunning performance and a price tag to match. If you want to play the latest games at full levels of detail, then PowerColor's X850XT Platinum Edition is a good choice.