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Review: ATI Radeon X800 XT Mac Edition
By Mike
Published: 1/7/2005

Intro/Photos | 2D/Video Performance | 3D Performance | Game Performance | Control Panel

2D Image Quality/Performance Tests

2D Image Quality:
As regular readers know, I use a Sony FW900 24" CRT for most of my graphics card tests. The X800's image quality at higher resolutions was very good. In fact, it's the only graphics card I've used on a Mac that I'd consider using even at 2304x1440 (the max resolution listed with my FW900).

Resolutions/Refresh Rates:
Here's a list of resolutions with refresh rates listed for each using the Display Control Panel in 10.3.7 with the Sony FW900 CRT. (Note: the ATI ROM Xtender added several new resolutions and some higher refesh rates to some existing modes compared to the list I made before installing the ROM Xtender. The ROM Xtender also enabled fan speed control on the card which dramatically reduced typical fan noise.)

Mac X800 XT resolution list

Available resolutions/refresh will vary depending on your Monitor's capability. ATI lists the maximum refresh rates at the X800 XT Mac Edition specs page. (Higher refresh rates are listed there than supported by my FW900 display - up to 200Hz at some modes.)
The X800 XT as mentioned previously can drive a DVI, ADC or VGA displays and like most modern cards supports dual displays. VGA monitors require the use of an included DVI->VGA adapter. (If using two VGA displays an ADC->VGA adapter is required. If driving two DVI displays, an ADC->DVI adapter would be required. The X800 XT's has one DDL DVI port that supports the Apple 30in Cinema Display. (The Mac Nvidia 6800 Ultra and GT cards supports driving two 30in Cinema displays, although most folks can't afford two of those displays so I think for most users ATI made a good choice.) The ADC port is a plus for owners of legacy ADC displays (i.e. no DVI->ADC adapter w/PS required.)

DVD Playback/CPU Usage:
Historically I've always thought the ATI cards had better DVD image quality than Nvidia cards on the Mac, although I can't complain about the recent Nvidia cards in that respect. Since some OS X updates have caused artifacts in DVD playback I checked for this with the X800 XT in 10.3.7 and found none. Image quality looked very good (Raiders of the Lost Ark and the Matrix DVDs tested.) Granted many times you'll only be watching the movie so it doesn't matter what the CPU usage is, but running the terminal with "top -u" while playing these DVDs showed the X800 XT card typical usage in the 8-18% range.

Motion RAM Preview Tests:
I ran the Apple Motion RAM Preview tests described at the Motion Mark website (link removed as no longer online) using the "Fire-Mortise 2" template file Apple includes with Motion. The test was run 6 times (clearing RAM each time) with a reboot after 3 runs. The times recorded with a stopwatch were then averaged. Motion version was 1.0.1 (the latest to date.)

Motion RAM Preview tests

As I mentioned in the 6800 Ultra review, since Motion uses OpenGL for this I was hoping for a bit more differences in performance.
Since I was more than a week late in getting the X800 card and rushed to get this posted I didn't run the dual monitor tests I did for the 6800 Ultra review, although the performance wasn't significantly affected in those tests.

Appleworks 6.2 Scrolling Tests:
With the desktop set to 1900x1200, millions colors I used AppleWorks 6.2.9 to test scrolling times from top to bottom of a 100 page, multi-column newsletter. Avg times were within 1/2 second for all 3 cards, literally a wash considering the margin of error with a stopwatch. Therefore I didn't bother graphing the results. (For the record the times were 6800Ultra/10.9sec, X800XT 11.3 sec, 9800 Pro 11.4 sec. but the margin of error for starting/stopping a stopwatch twice is well within that difference.)
BTW - As I mentioned in the 6800 Ultra review, after the fan control firmware update, the PCI zone fan actually ramps up during this scroll test, even with the OEM 9800 Pro. (It didn't before the fan control firmware update.)

XBench 1.1.3 Graphics Tests
Although I'm not a big fan of it, since it's popular I used Xbench for simple tests of primitive graphics and user interface performance. Note the Xbench OpenGL score is based on a single (windowed) spinning squares test - not a very extensive test of a graphics card. (See the other pages of this article for better 3D/OpenGL tests.)

Xbench tests

I expected the X800 XT to score better in the UI and Quartz tests than it did. From the close scores, these benchmarks seem more CPU than video card bound, although there is some variance between the cards.

Although this tiny/simple benchmark is very old, I still get questions about it. "Let1Kwindowsbloom" opens/closes 1000 small windows and shows the total time to do so. With a 1920x1200 desktop the time for the 6800 was 15 seconds and 20 seconds for both the 9800 Pro and X800 XT. (This simple test was repeated 5 times, the results were consistent.)

As I've mentioned previously, before OS X became standard, I used to test video card scrolling performance in Photoshop with large images at high resolution and maximum zoom. However Photoshop under OS X makes using the arrow keys for scrolling performance tests basically useless. Scrolling with any card/system in OS X/PS7 or CS is 10 times (or more) slower than the same tests were in OS 9. (Some say this is a 'fine scrolling feature', but for me it's just frustration.) I didn't run the usual Word or Appleworks large doc scroll tests for this article (yet at least.)

X800 XT User Feedback Wanted:
The X800 XT should be shipping to retailers by mid-January. I welcome other X800 XT owner reports on using the card with applications, games, etc.. Please include system/OS/software/addon software/hardware details in reports. Thanks.

The next page has results of tests with 3D apps/Benchmarks.

Index of Mac X800 XT Review

Intro/Photos | 2D/Video Performance | 3D Performance | Game Performance | Control Panel

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