Summary: How does a Radeon 2900 XT from Diamond Multimedia with as much memory as some computers have perform? Clickety-click!
At 12” long, the card would have been bigger than anything else on the market, including the GeForce 8800 GTX, and as such it would have had a hard time fitting in some cases. As a result, the card was intended to be sold by system builders only, who would be able to properly house the card in a case that was large enough to accommodate it.
Ultimately though system builders passed on the 12” card – it was just too big and ran too hot, despite its unique cooling. Instead they opted to wait for ATI’s 9” version. The 9” card runs at the same speeds as the 12” card, only it ships with the same PCB and cooling found on the Radeon HD 2900 XT 512MB. Basically you get all the benefits found in the original 12” card, only in the smaller form factor of ATI’s existing 9” card.
We recently got our hands on one of these hot little items manufactured by Diamond Multimedia, the Diamond Viper Radeon HD 2900 XT 1GB.
Diamond is currently the exclusive manufacturer of these 1GB cards, so you won’t find these cards from board partners like PowerColor and Sapphire, in fact, you won’t even find these cards being produced by AMD: this is Diamond’s baby at the moment.
Diamond has been shipping these cards to the following system builders since mid-June:
Biohazard Computer Systems, Inc.
Falcon North West
Up to this point, the Diamond Viper Radeon HD 2900 XT 1GB was only available from these aforementioned system vendors – you couldn’t buy one at an online outlet like Newegg or Zipzoomfly. But due to a surge in demand, Diamond has decided to offer it in retail form and e-tailers should begin carrying the card online later this week. Officially the card will carry an MSRP of $549, making it around $150 more than the Radeon HD 2900 XT 512MB and placing it solidly in GeForce 8800 GTX territory.
The question is, how does the card perform with the addition of 1GB of 1.0GHz GDDR4 memory? That’s what we’re here today to figure out. Let’s take a look at how the Diamond Viper Radeon HD 2900 XT 1GB stacks up to its competitors:
Not only does Diamond’s Viper Radeon HD 2900 XT 1GB sport more memory than your typical Radeon HD 2900 XT card, as we outlined earlier, it’s packing 1.0GHz (2.0GHz effective) memory. As a result, the memory subsystem is capable of delivering up to 128GB/sec of peak bandwidth to the graphics core. That’s an impressive figure that no other GPU on the market can match, but this number can be a little deceiving. We’ll discuss this in more depth on the next page.
2.0GHz GDDR4 Memory
On paper, the 2.0GHz GDDR4 memory used on Diamond’s Viper Radeon HD 2900 XT 1GB is without equal in the desktop graphics market, nothing else really comes close to matching it for peak memory bandwidth. But as we discovered with the Radeon X1950 XTX, GDDR4 memory runs at much higher latencies than GDDR3, this hampers performance.
Reference board design
Physically Diamond uses the exact same reference board design for their Viper Radeon HD 2900 XT card. You’d be very hard-pressed to spot any differences between either card. Diamond merely slaps their sticker on the card’s fan, and ships the 1GB card out the door.
Moving to the front of the card you’ll see the card’s two dual-link DVI connections supporting HDCP. Diamond also includes an HDMI adapter, allowing you to pipe audio and video signals to an HDMI-equipped HDTV if you so desire. At the rear of the card lie the 6-pin and 8-pin PCIe power connections. If you recall, you must run power to the second 8-pin power connector, but fortunately it’s backward-compatible with today’s 6-pin PCIe cables.
An 8-pin PCIe power cable is only required if you wish to overclock the graphics card.
Speaking of overclocking, we were able to push our Diamond cards to speeds of 856MHz core/1151MHz memory without any problems. At speeds higher than that, our copy of PowerStrip 3.76 beta would automatically restore the clocks back to 856/1151MHz. Apparently this is the limit of how far you can push the cards at this present time with this software.
Software bundle and accessories
Like other Radeon HD 2900 XT cards, Diamond ships the Viper Radeon HD 2900 XT with a voucher for the now cancelled HL2 Black Box bundle, which includes a copy of Half-Life 2: Episode Two, Team Fortress 2, and Portal. Also inside the card’s packaging you’ll find two DVI adapters and an HDMI adapter. Diamond also includes a component video cable, VIVO cable, and CrossFire cable inside the card’s packaging as well.
Company of Heroes 1.7
In order to extract the most performance as possible from these cards under Windows Vista, we’re using the very latest beta drivers from both AMD and NVIDIA. The performance optimizations integrated into these beta drivers will eventually find their way into final drivers that will be posted online in the coming months (although 162.18 can be found today on nzone.com).
3DMark 06 – Direct3D
F.E.A.R. – Direct3D
Oblivion – Direct3D
Oblivion – Direct3D
Call of Duty 2 – Direct3D
Half-Life 2 Lost Coast – Direct3D
Company of Heroes – Direct3D
Quake 4 – OpenGL
STALKER – Direct3D
Far Cry – Direct3D
Oblivion – Direct3D
Far Cry – Direct3D
In these cases, the performance advantage can be somewhat substantial. In Oblivion for instance, HDR+AA performance improved by 12% or more in our testing with the Diamond Viper Radeon HD 2900 XT 1GB, while Far Cry HDR+AA didn’t see a double-digit increase until you cranked the screen resolution up to 2560x1600 (this probably shouldn’t be too unexpected as Far Cry is an older, less-intensive game engine). Half-Life 2 Lost Coast saw gains in the 5-9% range with the Diamond Viper Radeon HD 2900 XT 1GB.
Our newest DX10 benchmark, Company of Heroes DirectX 10, failed to take advantage of the additional memory provided by the Diamond Viper Radeon HD 2900 XT 1GB, nor did another new game that’s proven pretty demanding on graphics cards, STALKER. (Keep in mind that STALKER currently lacks proper HDR+AA support, so we’re left to test it solely without AA.) The Call of Juarez DX10 demo also showed negligible results in our testing, although remember that this game is still a work in progress; hopefully Techland can optimize their DX10 codepath, as right now performance just isn’t there in DX10.
Based on this data, it looks like you really won’t see any benefits from the 1GB of memory present on the Diamond Viper Radeon HD 2900 XT 1GB with today’s current crop of games unless you’re playing with HDR+AA. Of course as any hardcore gamer will tell you, the next generation of games should utilize HDR+AA extensively, so Diamond’s 1GB Viper card would be a better long-term purchase than the stock Radeon HD 2900 XT 512MB if this is important to you.
And what about the competition from NVIDIA? As a result of a recent blog post from Falcon Northwest CEO Kelt Reeves, there was some hope among ATI enthusiasts that the 1GB Radeon HD 2900 XT would put up an impressive showing against the GeForce 8800 GTX, but since the 1GB card performs so similarly to the Radeon HD 2900 XT 512MB, the performance leaderboard really hasn’t changed in our opinion: NVIDIA is still definitely on top overall. There are cases where CrossFire shines against SLI under Vista (Quake 4 being one prominent example), but this is more due to the inadequate state of NVIDIA’s Vista SLI driver than anything else. NVIDIA’s latest 162.18 beta ForceWare drivers are a huge improvement over previous drivers, but NVIDIA’s driver team still has a long way to go before their Vista driver is acceptable. AMD’s Vista drivers are by no means perfect either – we ran into scaling issues under CrossFire with CoH DX10 – but they’re still further along than NVIDIA at this point.
While we’ve got a pretty good idea of the performance potential of the Diamond Viper Radeon HD 2900 XT 1GB, we’re not quite finished testing the card yet. Besides HDR+AA, another environment that Diamond’s 1GB card should excel in is very high AA modes like AMD’s new custom filter AA modes (CFAA), Super AA, or 8xMSAA mode. In theory the Diamond Viper Radeon HD 2900 XT 1GB should be able to deliver better performance than a 512MB card in these situations, especially as you crank up the screen resolution. We’ll be eager to see if that ends up being true or not…
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