Crucial is well known for their excellent and competitively low priced PC memory sticks, but as some of you may know, they also sell graphics cards based on the ATI graphic chipsets that have been released. While many users are switching over to PCI-Express based motherboards, a massive user base still remains for AGP based boards, so it's refreshing to still see cards are going to be released in AGP format, albeit less and less over the next year. With the introduction of the X850 ATI has shown their support for the PCI-Express format. The card we have on review today is the Crucial ATI X850 XT 256mb PCI Express based card.The Crucial RADEON X850 XT sets the newest standard in graphics performance and visual realism. With 16 parallel pixel pipelines, faster frame rates, higher clock speeds, power-throttling, expanded monitor support, and breakthrough image quality, the X850 XT card provides performance, multitasking, and stability. The crown jewel of the Crucial graphics card lineup, the X850 XT is as good as it gets for hard core gaming enthusiasts! Top-of-the-line PCI Express card designed for the Serious Gamer/3-D Modeling user category.
Operating System Support
First thing to note here is the lack of any demos or any sign of a bundled game, and while I don't personally have a problem with manufacturers shipping products without games, I would prefer they do when the product is quite expensive. This is one of the very few bad points I could find about the Crucial card.
For this review we're using 3 different PC's each running 1GB Crucial Ballistics Memory, 180 GB Western Digital Hard Drives 7200RPM, 8mb Cache, SoundBlaster Audigy 2 and Windows XP SP2. The only difference in each pc is the processors, we're running 3000+, 3800+ and 4000+, reason for this is to spread out the benchmarks across the kind of PC's our readers are using right now. Each benchmark was ran 3 times.
The software we are using is as follows:
Installation is a breeze as always with graphics cards. The Crucial based X850 XT is yet another reference board number, if you peel off the sticker from the card you have what is exactly the same as all of the ATI X850 reference designs, it's a shame that Crucial hasn't decided to make any changes to thinks like the heatsink or the fan on the card.
Doom 3 has become one of the more used benchmarks for graphics cards since its recent release, it shows off the great power that the graphics engine has, although the gameplay leaves a little to be desired. Once more ID has used OpenGL in the game, this is where ATI lacks a bit of power, although most gamers won't really notice it, those that want the increased FPS will.
Doom 3 1280x1024 High Detail
Doom 3 1600x1200 High Detail
Farcry is easily one of the best titles released this year, and that is saying something when you consider it has been up against the likes of Doom 3 and Half Life 2. Graphically in my personal view this is the 2nd best looking game out right now, just one behind Half Life 2, not only that but Farcry is so good looking on an ATI card you'll be well happy with the results.
Farcry 1280x1024 Ultra Detail - Athlon 64 4000+ X850
Farcry 1280x1024 Ultra Detail - Athlon 64 4000+ X800
Farcry 1280x1024 Ultra Detail - Athlon 64 3800+ X800
Half Life 2 was one of the most sought after titles ever released when it came out last month and I am glad to say I don't think anyone was disappointed with the game. The graphical performance is as good as I hoped it would be, there are some areas in the game where it does slow down, but not enough to distract from the excellent gameplay on show here. Half Life 2 is probably the best looking title out right now, and with the excellent graphic effects and some great physics on show, it has to be the title you buy to show off a spanking new PC.
Half Life 2 1280x1024 6x Anisotropic 4xAA
Half Life 2 1680x1050 6x Anisotropic 4xAA
X2: The Threat is a great space simulator with a heck of a lot of depth to it, but not only that - it also has some fantastic graphics to boot. The Crucial X850 card handles this game really well even when there is a lot of action on the screen at one time.
X2: The Threat Patch 4, With Shadows Enabled at 1280x1024x32
While I don't think much of 3D Mark as a benchmarking tool, nearly ever site that reviews graphics cards seems to included it. As you can see the Crucial X800 card does extremely well in the tests.
3D Mark 2005 at 1024x768x32 - 3D Mark Overall Score
ATI has slowly but surely taken over Nvidia's reign with their last two card releases and I don't think that anyone can argue that they deserve it. With the release of the X850 GPU they once again moved ahead of the pack in a vast array of games compared to the latest Nvidia Chip and the lack of Pixel Shader version 3 hasn't made the difference that Nvidia stated it would do.
There are many reasons we liked the X850 XT as the card performs really well and is quite a big upgrade over previous generations of ATI products. It's really fast too even compared to the GeForce 6 range. The card can be overclocked quite easily too which is a big plus for a lot of users. The in-game image quality was excellent and thanks to the excellent Drivers that ATI have been releasing over the last few months the card is really really stable to use.
I ran a number of overclocking tests with the crucial card and I was able to get to around 540MHz on the core and 1180 on the memory for a still stable and usable system. In games like Far Cry I got around 4/5 frames per second more, in a game like Doom 3 it didn't tend to make much difference and it was sometimes unstable. Noise levels were fine throughout, the crucial card uses the same X850 layout as many other ATI x850 Reference cards do, so it manages to keep cool and quiet well. But as I mentioned earlier, if Crucial had added a new fan design then maybe overclocking the card could have gone a little further than it does currently.
3D Mark 2005 at 1024x768x32 - 3D Mark Overall Score (Overclocked)
The X850 is an excellent graphics card for those of us who have the latest motherboards with PCI-Express included. While I'm still finding it hard to accept the fact that graphics cards now take up two slots inside a computer due to fan sizes and such like, I have to accept how far things have gone in the graphics world over the last few years. While NVidia now have a slender lead over the ATI cards, the X850 is a very good alternative. The drivers are superb, colours are clear and the performance in everything released up until now is excellent. I've been playing games on my Apple Display in 1650x1080 without slow down so high resolutions are really well supported. Once again though the Crucial package disappointed me with the lack of any included games or demos, so i'll again state that when you pay out a lot of money for a graphics card you should expect something a little extra to show it off with, but you don't get that here. Again the X850 can be expensive, but if you want a fantastic graphics card, go for the ATI x850
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