First things first. If you see one of these limited edition cards for sale, buy it, no questions asked; just part with the cash. The reasons for doing so will become clearer as we go along.
ATI’s X800 series of cards has been one of its most successful to date, with a whole host of cards, both PCI-E and AGP, bearing the X800 moniker. Out of the box, Sapphire’s X800 GTO2 looks just like any other Sapphire card based around a reference ATI X800 design; red PCB and standard cooler, albeit with a smart graphic on it which matches the box art.
But perhaps the biggest giveaway that all is not what it seems is the inclusion on the board of a PCI-E power connector; the standard X800 doesn’t have or need any additional power. The X800 GTO2 is, in fact, a classic example of why you should never judge a book by its cover.
This is because under the skin of the X800 GTO2 lurks an R480 core, not the standard R430 core of the X800. For those not in the know, the R480 is the core of the once king-of-the-heap X850XT.
The reasoning behind this is quite straightforward. As in any manufacturing process, sometimes GPU cores come off the line with some functions not working properly, or for some reason not able to run at their highest clock speeds. In the case of the R480 core in the X800 GTO2, it’s the pixel pipelines that are the problem. Instead of the normal 16, only 12 were found to be working, and that’s how many a standard X800 has, hence the X800 moniker for this card. Because of this, not only is the X800 GTO2 highly overclockable, but it can also be modded.
The fun really begins when you use the widely available (on the Web) BIOS tweak that enables the remaining four pixel pipelines, so now you have an X800 card with the pixel pipelines of an X850. But it doesn’t stop there; even using the standard cooler the card comes with, the X800 GTO2 is capable of some very serious and stable overclocking.
Out of the box the card comes with a 400MHz core clock, just a tad faster than the standard X800′s 390MHz. However the 256MB of Samsung 1.6ns GDDR3 memory has been given a hefty tweak and runs at 490MHz DDR (980MHz effective) as opposed to the X800′s 350MHz.
We were able to clock our example to 520MHz core and 577MHz memory, which is well on the way to the X850XT Platinum Edition, and some people have got their cards to run even faster. Remember, this is all done with the standard cooling. Modify the cooling and you may well get a card running some monumental speeds, all from a package that costs just over £160 (inc. VAT).
What does all this mean in performance terms? Well, straight out of the box the card gets a score of 4,795 in 3DMark 05 at a resolution of 1024 x 768, and a fps score of 69.76 in FarCry. Just by activating the remaining four pixel pipelines, the 3DMark score rises to 5,345 and, when overclocked to 520/577 (core/memory respectively), to 6,300. How’s that for a bargain?
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