PowerColor Bravo X700

May 27th, 2005 | By

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PowerColor Bravo X700


Date
: 05/27/05 – 01:02:21 PM

Author
:

Category
: Video Cards


Page 1 : Index

Manufacturer
: PowerColor

Price
: $145 (Newegg)

It has been several months since we last looked at any video cards; the last one we reviewed was HIS's X700Pro IceQ Turbo VIVO PCI-E. Today, I present our first look at PowerColor's Bravo X700.

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PowerColor came to existence in 1999 and the brand primarily sells in USA, Canada and Latin America. PowerColor prides itself in producing components with a high performance output at a competitive price. Utilizing their own ISO 9001 certified production factory, the R&D department is always working hard to bring you the absolute best.


Page 2 : Package

Packed inside a cardboard box, the retail packaging was shipped to me along with a model comparison sheet and an inflatable alien with the PowerColor logo printed on.

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The packaging is relative simple and shows all the key information you will need to know when purchasing a new video card. Clearly visible is the video card with the aluminum heatsinks used to passively cool the memory and GPU.

The back of the packaging has some additional information:

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such as the specifications…

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and expected performance results.

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The sides of the box show the system requirements and components provided by Power Color.

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Once we open up the package, we see that the video card is protected on all sides but the top. Perhaps a complete enclosure of the video card in the thick Styrofoam would be more reassuring in protecting the video card in case it was manhandled by your retailer or shipper.

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Once we pull out the video card, we can clearly see what components are bundled with the card. In the shots below, we have the manual, a bunch of CDs, a variety of cables, two DVI to D-Sub converters and the small 60 mm fan.

To shave costs on the video card, PowerColor has provided a rather simple software bundle. They call this the "Pro Pack" and it includes Hitman: Contracts discs 1 and 2, CyberLink DVD Solution and an ATi drivers disc.

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The manual includes everything you need to know for installing your video card, installing the drivers and troubleshooting any issues you may have.

The second bundle included in the package are the cables and converters: two DVI to D-Sub converters, S-Video, Composite, S-Video to Composite converter and HDTV connector.

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With all the accessories out of the way, we can now focus on the video card.


Page 3 : PowerColor Bravo X700

We'll start by taking a general look at the video card. We can see that two aluminum heatsinks with two heatpipes are used to cool the GPU and the memory.

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At the corner of the video card, we see that the card does not require any additional power connectors.

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At the end of the card, it becomes clear that the cooling system is composed of four heatsinks held down by spring loaded screws. These screws are good in that you will always be applying the correct amount of force.

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Here's a close up of the screw holding the heatsinks together:

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If we flip the card over to the underside, we see four screws that secure the two heatsinks together, four screws for an additional fan and two bolts that are used to clamp the heatsinks and heatpipes against the memory and GPU.

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Here's what the spring loaded bolt used to clamp everything together looks like:

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We'll now take everything apart so we can get a better view of just the card, the GPU and the memory. In order to complete this mission, we'll have to use a Philips screw driver. The screws are held down fairly tightly and it'll require some elbow grease to get them undone.

Once we get off the top heatsink, we see that PowerColor added a thin layer of thermal grease to improve the contact between the heatpipes and the heatsinks.

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If we remove the two bolts clamping everything together, we can slide the the cooling system off.

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With everything off, we can finally take a look at just the card.

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The last thing to cover in this section is the input and output offered on the X700.

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With two DVI connectors, you won't have any problem running your latest digital monitors. The connector in the middle is for the video out features. Now it's on to the specifications.


Page 4 : Specifications

With the heatsink off, we can use a little bit of rubbing alcohol and clean off the core.

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X700
215LCAAKA12F
N11072.00
0438AA
TAIWAN
The above quote outlines the information printed on to the GPU.

Now that we know what we're dealing with, here are the specifications and features that PowerColor advertises:

Product Name: ATI Radeon X700 Bravo Edition
Part Number: R41AB-ND3D
Memory & Bus Width: 256MB DDR 2 128 bit
Core Speed: 400MHz
Memory Speed: 266MHz x2
Output: DVI x2 / TV Out / N/A / N/A / HDTV
Interface: PCIE
Pixel Pipelines: 8
Direct X Support: 9
TV Connector: S-Video

- 8 parallel pixel pipelines
- 6 programmable vertex shader pipelines
- 160 million transistors on 0.11 micron fabrication process
- 128-bit dual-channel GDDR2 memory interface
- PCI Express x16 lane native support

SMARTSHADER HD
- Support for MicrosoftR DirectXR 9.0 programmable vertex and pixel shaders in hardware
- DirectX 9.0 Vertex Shaders
- Vertex programs up to 65,280 instructions with flow control
- Single cycle trigonometric operations (SIN & COS)
- Direct X 9.0 Extended Pixel Shaders
- Up to 1,536 instructions and 16 textures per rendering pass
- 2nd generation F-buffer technology accelerates multi-pass pixel shader programs with unlimited instructions
- 32 temporary and constant registers
- Facing register for two-sided lighting
- 128-bit, 64-bit & 32-bit per pixel floating point color formats
- Multiple Render Target (MRT) support
- Complete feature set also supported in OpenGL via extensions

SMOOTHVISION HD
- 2x/4x/6x Anti-Aliasing modes
- Sparse multi-sample algorithm with gamma correction, programmable sample patterns, and centroid sampling
- Lossless Color Compression (up to 6:1)at all resolutions, including widescreen HDTV resolutions
- Temporal Anti-Aliasing
- 2x/4x/8x/16x Anisotropic Filtering modes
- Up to 128-tap texture filtering
- Adaptive algorithm with bilinear (performance) and trilinear (quality) options 3Dc
- High quality 4:1 Normal Map Compression
- Works with any two-channel data format

HYPER Z HD
- 3-level Hierarchical Z-Buffer with Early Z Test
- Lossless Z-Buffer Compression (up to 48:1)
- Fast Z-Buffer Clear
- Z Cache optimized for real-time shadow rendering
- Optimized for performance at high display resolutions, including widescreen HDTV resolutions

VIDEOSHADER HD
- Seamless integration of pixel shaders with video in real time
- FULLSTREAM video de-blocking technology for Real, DivX, and WMV9 formats
- VIDEOSOAP noise removal filtering for captured video
- MPEG1/2/4 decode and encode acceleration
- DXVA Support
- Hardware Motion Compensation, iDCT, DCT and color space conversion
- All-format DTV/HDTV decoding
- YPrPb component output for direct drive of HDTV displays
- Adaptive Per-Pixel De-Interlacing and Frame Rate Conversion (temporal filtering) additional features
- Dual integrated display controllers
- Dual integrated 10 bit per channel 400 MHz DACs
- Integrated 165 MHz TMDS transmitter (DVI 1.0 / HDMI compliant and HDCP ready)
- Integrated TV Output support up to 1024×768 resolution
- Windows Logo Program compliant
- CATALYST Software Suite

Here's a close up of the memory ICs:

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K4N56163QF-GC37
There are a total of 8 FBGA IC's located on the card: 4 on the top and 4 on the bottom. The specifications of these ICs have been taken from Samsung's website:

General Description

FOR 4M x 16Bit x 4 Bank gDDR2 SDRAM
The 256Mb gDDR2 SDRAM chip is organized as 4Mbit x 16 I/O x 4banks banks device.
This synchronous device achieve high speed graphic double-data-rate transfer rates of up to 1000Mb/sec/pin for general applications. The chip is designed to comply with the following key gDDR2 SDRAM features such as posted CAS with additive latency, write latency = read latency – 1, Off-Chip Driver(OCD) impedance adjustment and On Die Termination.
All of the control and address inputs are synchronized with a pair of externally supplied differential clocks. Inputs are latched at the cross point of differential clocks (CK rising and /CK falling). All I/Os are synchronized with a pair of bidirectional strobes (DQS and /DQS) in a source synchronous fashion. A thirteen bit address bus is used to convey row, column, and bank address information in a /RAS / /CAS multiplexing style.
For example, 256Mb(x16) device receive 13/9/2 addressing.
The 256Mb gDDR2 devices operate with a single 1.8V ± 0.1V power supply and 1.8V ± 0.1V VDDQ.
The 256Mb gDDR2 devices are available in 84ball FBGAs(x16).

Features

1.8V ± 0.1V power supply for device operation
1.8V ± 0.1V power supply for I/O interface
4 Banks operation
Posted CAS
Programmable CAS Latency: 4, 5, 6 and 7
Programmable Additive Latency: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5
Write Latency (WL) = Read Latency (RL) -1
Burst Length : 4 and 8 (Interleave/nibble sequential)
Programmable Sequential/ Interleave Burst Mode
Bi-directional Differential Data-Strobe
(Single-ended data-strobe is an optional feature)
Off-chip Driver (OCD) Impedance Adjustment
On Die Termination
Refresh and Self Refresh
Average Refresh Period 7.8µs at lower then TCASE 85xC, 3.9µs at 85xC < TCASE = 95xC
84 ball FBGA

K4N56163QF-GC37
Max Frequency: 266MHz
Max Data Rate: 533Mbps/pin

Because these IC's are more or less completely covered by the heatsink, it'll be interesting to see how fast we can push the memory. I'm hoping for a fair bit more, but that's just optimism. We'll see how these puppies perform soon enough.

I decided to tape down my own thermal probe next to the core of the CPU to measure the temperature.

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This only means I'm going to have to take apart the heatsink to get my probe back.
With the thermal probe in place and a thin layer of Arctic Silver 3 to replace the stock paste, we're ready to put everything back together and fire up the card.

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Page 5 : Installation

Installing a video card isn't very hard. Our first step will be to mount the provided fan to the heatsink. Using a Philips screwdriver, this takes no more than 30 seconds.

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Now that that's done, the most important thing to remember is ensuring that you have the proper slot – PCI Express slot. It would be a shame to spend 160 dollars only to realize you're not equipped with the right motherboard. If you have a PCI-E slot, you're set to go! Take out your old card and slide in your new one. With the addition of the fan, the card will take up one extra slot.

For the installation, I'll be downloading and using ATi's Catalyst 5.5 drivers on a clean install of Windows XP Pro SP 2.


Page 6 : Overclocking

Well, what else do we do at Overclockers Online….overclock! We would be breaking some unwritten rule if we didn't try this on everything we got our hands on. The PowerColor Bravo X700 is not an exception and by using the lastest version of ATi Tool we can accomplish this mission!

Overclocking on the Bravo X700 wasn't all that much fun. By using the primarily passive cooling method, the heat build up is not easily removed. Once ATi Tool ran for half a day, I took the final results and knocked it down 5 Mhz to increase the stability. The end result was 488/562 (281*2); an 88 MHz increase on the core and just shy of 100 MHz on the memory. If PowerColor used some type of thermal paste or thermal tape on the memory IC's, we may have been able to squeeze a few extra MHz out of the memory. Regardless, these numbers don't mean anything without some benchmarks to back them up, so off we go to the tests!


Page 7 : Testing

To test out the Bravo X700 we ran it through a series of synthetic software and popular games, both new and old to determine how well the X700 performs. The games we'll be focusing in on includes Far Cry, Halo and Half-Life 2. The synthetic testing includes Futuremark's 3DMark 2003 and 3DMark 2005, in addition, we've added the X²: The Threat and Spec View Perf 8.1. This combination of software should give us a good gauge of how the card performs in all generations, particularly with the popular 3DMark 2003 and 3DMark 2005. With the exception of X², the benchmarks were run using Benchemall.

As Tony has so nicely stated, results for a single application are not the end-all be-all of performance judgment. Regardless, here are the specifications used to test the system:

Intel P4 3.0E
Albatron PX915G4
2*512MB PDP Systems PC3200 XBLK
Western Digital 120GB 7200 RPM 8MB Cache
Lite-On SOHW-1213S
Antec TruePower 2.0
Antec TX1088AMG
Side panel removed
Windows XP Pro SP2 + Latest drivers & updates
Room Temperature: 22°C

Video Cards

PowerColor Bravo X700
(Catalyst 5.5)
Albatron PCX5750 (Forceware 71.63)

In testing out the video card, one very key important thing to me is acoustics. I am always seeking to improve my system by increasing performance while minimizing noise output. With the Bravo X700, the solution is completely silent without the fan. As soon as we power up the fan, there is a very minimal change in noise. Even after turning the CNPS-7000 to the absolute minimal RPM, it was still louder than the PowerColor Bravo X700. When compared to my hard drive, there's no competition; the WD is a noisy little sucker!

Looking at the temperatures, below is a graph of the performance.

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The passively cooled card ran at close to 70°C, and my stressing method was a combination of ATi Tool's artifact scanner and looping 3DMark 2005. The stock settings ran perfectly fine with just the heatsink, however without use of the fan, running the overclocked settings would produce errors. It appears 488/562 was too much and the settings would automatically default. Perhaps a beefier heatsink and more heatpipes would of solved the problem.


Page 8 : Performance (Synthetic)

FutureMark 3DMark 2003 and 3DMark 2005

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SPECviewperf 8.1

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X²: The Threat

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So far, things are looking pretty good for the Bravo X700; a significant increase over the much older PX5750 and a decent improvement with the overclocked settings.


Page 9 : Performance (Gaming)

Halo

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Far Cry

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Half-Life 2

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The Bravo X700 showed stellar performance in the 800*600 and 1024*768 resolution; only a few frames in difference. The change in going to 1280*1024 is a different story, with the exception of HL:2 where there was a very small drop as the game is very CPU intensive.


Page 10 : Antistropic-Filtering

Halo

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Far Cry

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Half-Life 2

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The ansiotropic filtering was capable of up to 16X on the Bravo X700. Turning this on would enable better texturing in game play. The cost of AF is quite minimal in the case of the Bravo X700, and almost worth enabling merely to get a better picture. The fuzzy line without AF may make the difference between life and death in a tactical game like CounterStrike where its always shoot to kill or be killed. :)


Page 11 : Anti-Aliasing

4X AA was enabled on the PCX5750 and 6X AA on the Bravo X700. I felt the need to run the X700 to the max since it is a much newer card than the 5750.

Halo

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Far Cry

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Half-Life 2

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With antialiasing enabled, there's a rather large performance decrease as picture quality increases. Despite only running at 4X, the 5750 is no competition as it is still beaten by the 6X AA X700. Many people should not consider enabling anti-aliasing for some of the newer games. With the exception of the 1280*1024 resolution in Half-Life 2, we see little change in Half-Life 2's performance, this is once again due to the CPU intensive needs of Half-Life 2.


Page 12 : Anti-Aliasing & Antrostropic-Filtering

Halo

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Far Cry

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Half-Life 2

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The performance difference between AA-AF and AA is only marginal, this is merely because AF doesn't degrade performance as much as AA.


Page 13 : Conclusion

So what does everything boil down to? The performance and the price of the Bravo X700 is good, but not breathtaking. If you wanted power and performance, it would have been better to get a Pro or XT card.
Where the Bravo X700 gets its market share is from those loving their silence. Utilizing the heatpipes and heatsinks, the silence would be golden in an HTPC machine. Seeing as the card is bundled with TV Out, HDTV support and paired with CyberLink and not a Half-Life 2 voucher coupon, this is what you'd want in playing your latest and greatest movies. However, at the lower resolutions, the Bravo X700 will be able to perform well for those who have an itch to play a game or two on a large HDTV.

When it comes to a PC, the dual digital outputs will be great for the executives who can't be bothered with a whining fan but also need to power dual digital LCDs. Either way, the PowerColor Bravo X700 is one card you don't want to overlook when it comes to finding a very versatile card at a midrange price.

Advantages

Silence is golden
Dual DVI

Disadvantages

More expensive than competitive X700's

Overclockers Online would like to thank PowerColor for supplying the Bravo X700 for review.

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