If we all had $500+ to spend on video cards, then the only cards manufactures would need to produce would be the high end line. Ultimately, we all can’t have the best and having the best price to performance ratio is important, especially in the mid range area. So with that in mind, ATI has another mid range offering and we have one from the top partner of ATI in the Sapphire X800 GTO2 Limited Edition. Is it the card to get if you’re looking to save on cash yet get great gaming performance?
Let’s first talk about the PCI-E card based on stock values. First of all, the engine is clocked at 400MHz while the memory is clocked at 490MHz. The sample also features 256MB of 1.6ns GDDR3 memory. It has 12 pipelines but this can be changed. We’ll talk a little more about this later on.
Physically, the card has a large fan and heatsink setup covering the core and ram. The Sapphire branding can be seen on the HSF. Something’s that not normal on GTO cards is the six pin power connector on the top right. Normally, higher end cards feature the extra power connector but this mid-range card also has one as well. Turning over the card, you’ll see an aluminum heat spreader.
On the bracket, two DVI connectors allow for connections to two LCD monitors. VIVO functionality is also available on this card. The included pig tail features SVGA and composite in and out connections. You can also plug the card into an HDTV set with the component pig tail.
The exciting part of this product is the fact that the card is unlocked. You can tap into the four disabled pipelines with a simple BIOS update and overclock the card as well. So for the price of a mid range card ($199 at this writing), there’s a possibility to actually get performance that is found in cards that are more expensive. With the higher rated memory, extra power connector, and large cooling solution the GTO2 is built to run faster than advertised. The BIOS can be downloaded here.
With the Sapphire TriXX overclocking tool and the new BIOS, we were able to push the card to a core clock speed of 490.5MHz and a memory speed of 574.75MHz. That’s a 19% increase in core clock speed and a 15% increase in memory speed. Combine that with the four extra pipelines from the BIOS and you got some good performance boost out of the card theoretically. Compared to an X800 XT, you are within 9.5MHz with regards to the core and you actually supersede the memory speed by a whopping 74.75MHz. You’re are at the specifications of a card that’s $100 more than this one. With that in mind we’ll be testing the card against itself to see how much of a performance increase you do get.
The Sapphire X800 GTO2 Limited Edition comes with the Sapphire Select DVD. With this you can sample the games currently available with the option to unlock two games free. If you would like to purchase the other games on the DVD, you can get them at a discount as well. The titles on the DVD on future products and I think it’s a nice way for consumers to only unlock the ones that they will play the most. Given the choice to the consumer is always good and Sapphire has to be commended in taking this approach with bundled games.
The test setup we have consists of:
- AMD64 3800+
- 512MB PC3200 RAM
- ECS KA1 MVP Crossfire motherboard
- Windows XP w/ Service Pack 2
- Maxtor 120 GIG 7200RPM HDD
We’ll test the card on the stock speeds as well as a BIOS that unlocks the rest of the pipelines. In addition, we’ll be using Sapphire’s TriXX overclocking utility to push the card to the highest levels it can go.
Battlefield 2 is DICE's great military shooter that contains both great ground combat as well as vehicles thrown into the mix. The follow up to Battlefield 1942, Battlefield 2 offers great cooperative game play and great graphics. The benchmark used was the default demo that's built in the game.
iD Software's DOOM 3 offers great visuals and great detail. John Carmack's follow up to a classic series takes the game to a new level with a re-imagination of classic monsters such as the Imp and Pinky demon. For the test, we ran the benchmark at maximum detail and used a demo that was included in the game.
Far Cry is Crytek's shooter that's set mainly outdoors. The lush foliage and long draw distance really set this first person shooter apart from many that were coming out a few years ago. All details were set at maximum for the benchmark.
Call of Duty 2 is a sequel to one of my favorite shooters of all time. Infinity Ward has really pushed the PC hardware with the new engine that powers the game. The incredible smoke effects and detailed models makes Call of Duty 2 a visually impressive game. Benchmarks were done with all settings set to maximum and forcing DirectX 9. A custom recorded demo that we recorded was used to benchmark the game.
If there's one game that really suprised me it was F.E.A.R. The Monolith horror shooter features some of the most impressive graphics on the PC. There are plenty of physics and particle effects and the models are really detailed. We used the built in performance test and all the settings were set to maximum.
As you can see from the results between the stock speeds and the free BIOS update, the performance increase gives the Sapphire X800 GTO2 Limited Edition a nice price to performance ratio. Without any changes to the hardware or any difficult modifications, you can get a nice boost performance across the board. It’s hard not to say good things about free performance and it’s even better that Sapphire allows you to do so without any reservations.
The Sapphire X800 GTO2 Limited Edition offers buyers a great little gem. While the stock speeds are good for a mid-range card, the fact that you can push it even further without any repercussions makes this card an even better value. For enthusiasts on a budget and those that love to overclock any piece of hardware, the Sapphire X800 GTO2 Limited Edition offers stable and solid performance at higher clock speeds provided through the BIOS update. Sapphire’s always trying to push cards using different methods and this is one that I’m glad to see is available to consumers easily.
More On:X800 GTO2
I really like it when a company gives you more than what you paid for and this card is it. Overclock it to your hearts content as this is what the card is made for. Sapphire continues to produce great ATI cards.