Quick take: Abit's Fatal1ty X800 XL 512MB

— 8:00 AM on August 11, 2005

Ever since we did our article about uber-high-res gaming, I've wanted to test a 512MB graphics card at 2048x1536 to see how it would perform. That opportunity came along when Abit offered to send us its Fatal1ty X800 XL 512MB graphics card for review, and I've included a full set of benchmark results from this card in our GeForce 7800 GT review today.

The Fatal1ty X800 XL won't keep up with the likes of the GeForce 7800 GT, but it is a colorful product—quite literally. Have a look:

The card comes with a fancy copper cooler that's very, very quiet and an array of flashing red LEDs that's quite loud indeed. In fact, I've made a short video of the LEDs in action, so you can see how they look. Had we gotten this card a month sooner, it would have been Christmas in July! Not only that, but the LEDs actually oscillate at a higher frequency (read: blink faster) when the card is overclocked. That right there will no doubt win you some street cred at the LAN party.

I think.

Speaking of overclocking, the Fatal1ty X800 XL takes an unusual approach. Sticking out of the back of the PCI slot cover, just above the VGA connector (that's right, the card has only one DVI output) is a switch. This switch toggles between two BIOSes, one of which runs the card at stock Radeon X800 XL speeds (400MHz core/490MHz memory) and the other at overclocked (420/550MHz) speeds. Besides invoking a more frantic light show, pushing this button will raise the Fatal1ty X800 XL 512MB's 3DMark05 score from 4915 to 5220. That's still short of the 6381 posted by the Radeon X850 XT PE, and nowhere near the GeForce 7800 GT's 7202, but it's not bad for "free."

The overclock-switch does have its downsides. After booting up with the new BIOS, the system will recognize the Fatal1ty X800 XL as a different card, prompting a driver reinstallation. After an installation for each BIOS, though, you should be free to switch between 'em at will. Also, it appears that this card won't support ATI's Overdrive auto-overclocking function, perhaps a casualty of the overclock-switch's presence.

You're not likely to miss Overdrive once you get a load of Abit's OCGuru utility, which offers more control over a video card's vitals than anything I've seen yet. Exposed are all of the things you'd want to access for some real overclocking fun, including core and memory voltages, fan speed thresholds, and temperature-based alert and shutdown options. You only get two options for core and memory voltage: "high" and "low." The "high" core voltage, for instance, is 1.39V, while the default is 1.30V. That's still more control than you'll get with most video cards, so I'm not going to complain. This is the kind of tweakability I'd like to see in more video cards, so Abit gets credit for taking the steps it has.

As for the Fatal1ty X800 XL's 512MB of video memory, it does seem to help in certain cases. This card beats out the Radeon X850 XT Platinum Edition at 2048x1536 in Far Cry, for instance. But scenarios that really use that extra video memory are the exception rather than the rule, it seems, based on our initial review of the X800 XL 512MB and the performance of this card in the 7800 GT review.

As the new GeForce 7800 cards clear a swath through the high end of the market, ATI and its board partners may slash prices on their current offerings. That opens up the possibility that we could see cards like this one selling at fire-sale prices, at which point you might want to consider picking one up.

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