Product: X800 GTO²
Company: Sapphire
Authour: Mark "Ratchet" Thorne
Date: February 6th, 2006
The Card

Compared to ATI’s new flagship X1900XTX, the X800 GTO² is small and sleek. It uses a standard single-slot cooling unit that is fairly silent and does a decent enough job at keeping the card cool, core and memory included.

On the front, or end, or whatever you want to call the place where the connections are located is a pair of DVI ports. Good for those of you with a couple LCD panels you need to run side-by-side. Stuck between these DVI ports is an S-Video jack that doubles as a Video-In/Video-Out connector.

VIVO functionality is provided by a Rage Theater chip located on the back of the card. Also on back of the card are four more memory modules hidden beneath a cooling plate that is attached with screws through the PCB and into the component side cooler, helping hold everything together.

The component side is dominated by the single-slot cooler which covers almost the entire surface of the card. It’s aluminum, with a copper base onto which are soldered aluminum fins, and is designed so that the fan sits off to the side and blows air through the fins instead of down into them. Hidden underneath the cooler there is, of course, the R480 GPU which powers the GTO².

With the cooler removed you can see that the R480 sits in its place of prominence sort of near the center of the card surrounded on two sides by the other four memory modules. The modules themselves are Samsung model K4J55323QF, rated for 1.6ns, or 600MHz. On the back edge of the card is the PEG power connector which helps provide the extra juice needed to make this GTO mod friendly.

X800 GTO²
X800 GTO²
Single Slot Cooler
Single Slot Cooler
Back
Back
Nekkid
Nekkid
ATI's R480 Core
ATI's R480 Core
Samsung 1.6ns Module
Samsung 1.6ns Module
Rage Theater
Rage Theater
Dual DVI with VIVO
Dual DVI with VIVO

Sapphire Select

Sapphire has always managed to impress us with their retail bundles by including great games such as Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, two highly praised titles games from UbiSoft which were standard fare in Sapphire’s retail box for quite a while. While that bundle still outclasses most others I’ve seen, both of those games are getting pretty old now and probably won’t sway many potential customers.

Thankfully Sapphire has recently updated the lineup using an innovative new approach to game bundles known as Sapphire Select. With the X800GTO² retail bundle, I’ve been given my first look at this new initiative so I thought it would be a good idea to go over how it works and what it offers.

The idea behind Sapphire Select is pretty simple. On a single DVD there are four full games of which you select two of your choice. While the game list will probably (and hopefully) change fairly frequently, the list as it stands now is as follows:

  • Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30
  • Prince of Persia: Warrior Within
  • Richard Burns Rally
  • Tony Hawk’s Underground 2


Not exactly cutting edge anymore, but they are all still good quality games and worth checking out. At the very least Sapphire has to be given points for offering something for everyone.


Each of the games can be played for 60 minutes to give you a feel for it and help you decide if you want it to be one of the two you select. After the 60 minutes are up and you still want to play more, you can upgrade to the full unlocked version by simply clicking the “Buy Now” button. In my case I chose Tony Hawk’s Underground 2 (simply because I already own the other three games) and will use that as an example on how the thing works.

When you click “Buy Now” a new window pops up and asks you for your credit card information. That was a little disconcerting until I noticed the “Have a coupon? Click here” link. While it doesn’t say anywhere in the Sapphire documentation where to find a coupon code, it didn’t take a lot of brainpower to realize that the two sequences of random letters and numbers found on the Sapphire Select DVD case were what I needed here.


Clicking that link popped up another small window where I was told to enter the coupon code. It didn’t specify which code I should use, so I simply entered the first of the two and hit Send (attempting to reuse the same code to unlock another game presented me with an error message telling me that the “maximum number of uses for couple already been reached”). After a few seconds I was greeted with a “Congratulations!” screen, which asked me to enter my email address to receive important download instructions.


Being stuck on dialup teaches you a hell of a lot of patience, but when it takes about 10 hours to download a 100MB file, it certainly doesn’t make me look forward to having to download anything sizable. It was at this point, when being told to enter my email address so that I could receive important download instructions, that I became a little worried that a massive download was about to start and that I would have to make a sad note here that Sapphire Select is only for the broadband blessed (which I’m guessing is about 98% of you guys reading this). Fortunately for me and my modem this was not the case. Tony Hawk’s Underground 2 didn’t actually require any downloading to activate, and all I received via email were helpful instructions and an activation code (separate from the coupon code) should I wish to reinstall the game on a different machine.

Excluding a few intermittent problems trying to connect to the Trymedia server (the company behind this technology) to unlock the game, the whole process went remarkably well and only took a few minutes. Clicking on the Tony Hawk icon on the desktop instantly launches the game as if it were any other, no internet connection required and no annoying pop-ups or notifications.

There are a few caveats however. The first, and probably the biggest issue some people will have, is that you can only activate the game five times  (think Windows XP activation). After the fifth time you have to pay to get it reactivated again. Since activation is required when you install the game, reinstall it, significantly change your hardware, or simply want to install it on another machine, it’s entirely possible that you can run out of those five activations long before you lose interest in the game.

Another issue, though not so potentially annoying as the activation limit, is that you can’t use normal patches and updates, you must use ones certified and provided by Trymedia. This is related to the activation feature in a way since the game files had to be changed for the system to work. Installing a regular patch will revert the game to the regular retail version where you need the CD to play, and obviously without any game CD you would be out of luck and then have to reinstall (and reactivate) the game.

Caveats aside, I think Sapphire has a winning option here. Let’s just hope that they can keep the game list up to date.

Trixx

For those of you that have owned Sapphire cards in the past you might remember an overclocking and tweaking tool that they used to include called Redline. While Redline was an extremely powerful tool, more powerful than most other tweakers available at the time, it was showing its age and needed complex updates to support the newest generation of graphics cards. Like their game bundle, it needed to be updated.

This is where Trixx comes in. It’s not as powerful as Redline was, not by a long shot, but it does offer overclocking, hardware monitoring and automatic game profiles.

The overclocking section is setup pretty easily. There are five options to choose from:

  • Standard: stock clock settings
  • Performance: Maximum detected values. This works sort of like ATI’s Overdrive where it attempts to automatically find the highest, safest overclock settings for the card. Fan speed is automatically adjusted as needed.
  • Silent: This setting actually underclocks the core and memory speeds by 30% and setst the fan to 20% for silent operation. Personally, I couldn’t tell a difference in noise between Silent and Stock.
  • Extreme: Sets the fan to 100% and the clocks to the maximum detected during the Performance test.
  • Custom: Gives you manual control of the clock settings and fan speed.

From my testing I found that automatic overclocking using the Performance test did a pretty good job at finding the maximum overclock for the card. The final results usually varied, but on average it would stop at around 480MHz for the core (80MHz over stock) and about 590MHz for the memory (90MHz over stock). This is a bit lower than the maximum overclock that I managed to achieve with ATI Tool and a mix of automatic and manual overclocking, but is still respectable for a manufacturer supplied tool that’s probably trying to keep things safe.








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