IntroductionWhen I first looked at the Radeon X700 XT for its official launch day, there were a few niggling problems with what was essentially an untested engineering sample. ATI's launch process for new GPUs isn't usually so rushed, but they'll admit, if you poke them hard enough with the edge of a 6600 GT, that it was this time. Barely a handful of X700 boards made it out to online press, especially in Europe. The PRO version I had wasn't even supposed to make it to press, but was diverted to me so I could get a handle on its performance before XT arrived. As it happened, XT didn't arrive. With one board in the U.K. for reviewers to test, I had to test it in London and didn't have more than a few hours with it before someone else needed their turn. Not really the way I like to do things. Although the hotel was really nice.
So things were a bit rough and ready and definitely rushed. I remarked at the end of that first article, "My biggest concerns with RV410 lie not in performance or the feature set, but in availability and thermal performance. Examination of the two reference boards we had shows that RV410 isn't a cool wee beasty under load, when clocked at 475MHz. Even with a copper cooler, some likely thermally-related issues cropped up during testing and we're keen to get a further sample back in-house to eliminate some specific issues.".
Well ATI shipped me a new X700 XT, one which has had more thorough testing, just for the purpose of getting a better handle on the thermals and to reevaluate performance on a newer driver build. It also looks like they've listened to what reviewers said about the original XT boards that were sent out. The cooling solution on this later X700 XT is subtlely different to what we saw before.
Secondly, after examination of the results we got from testing the PRO, I've decided to publish those in this article for reference and posterity, prior to recieving a final PRO sample in coming weeks.
Thus this article serves two purposes. We'll take a look at the new XT, paying close attention to its thermal characteristics before looking at performance, and I'll also publish some numbers and thoughts from that initial look at the PRO. It was only 5MHz away on the core clock from matching ATI's final set clocks, so while its results are gleaned using an older driver build that ATI aren't especially happy with, it'll serve as a nice reference point for when we get a final PRO board to look at.
To save time, refer back to the original article if you want to know more about RV410, the GPU that powers Radeon X700. There's a core shot and spec table.
With that done, let's take a look at the new Radeon X700 XT reference board.