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Specifications, bugs, drivers and the review

ATI R680: the Rage Fury MAXX 2?
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Without going so far as to call it the faithful heir to the Rage Fury MAXX, we’ve come across some bugs while using the (beta) drivers. First of all, they often refused to install, stating that we needed to be logged in as administrators (which, of course, we were). The message disappeared after a reboot. Three games have also presented problems. For Test Drive Unlimited and STALKER, changing to another resolution (whatever the resolution) would cause the screen to blink as if it were refreshing at 30 MHz. The problem disappeared as fast as it came, simply by changing the resolution again. As for World In Conflict, the blinking was stronger and irreversible and would be limited to the games’ map. The other games didn’t suffer from any problems. Finally, it appeared that 2D rendering in Windows XP occasionally became partially or very blurred.

Those bugs really remind us of those encountered during our CrossFire test, but also of the GeForce 7950GX2 review… They’re also the reason why the HD 3870 X2 embargo was delayed (it was originally supposed to be lifted last wednesday). AMD wanted to release new drivers at the last minute, the 123a. These drivers didn’t solve any bugs and haven’t changed the performance. A few occasional drops where noticed, the most significant ones appearing once antialiasing was activated (in Oblivion or Age Of Empires III). There was no change in picture quality. Thus, we stuck with the 108a drivers for all the cards, as they’ve been the best in our experience.

The review

As with our previous articles, every card has been tested in real life conditions, games being played during well defined sequences, with Fraps taking care of recording the number of images per second.

Resolutions have evolved though. Those of LCD screens have priority, and given the performances of those cards we’ve measured in 1680*1050 (24") and 1920*1200 (26, 27"). In a dedicated page, we’ll also evaluate some cards in 2560*1600 (30”).

R680 configR680 test setup

We’ve also included a hardware Crossfire based on a Radeon HD 3870 (775/1125 MHz) and a Radeon HD 3850 512 MB overclocked to 730 / 880 MHz as we lacked a second Radeon HD 3870. This second card is only 6% slower than an HD 3870 and shows a 22% slower bandwidth, which doesn’t hinder it too much as we’ll see later on.

The test setup also changes:

  • Asus P5E3 Deluxe (X38)
  • Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6850 (Quad-core 3 GHz)
  • Crucial 2 x 1 GB DDR3 1333 MHz 9-9-9
  • Western Digital WD5000AAKS
  • Hitachi T7K250
  • DVD Player Asus 12x
  • Coolermaster RealPower Pro 850W
    • Catalyst 8.1 beta (8-451-2-080108a) - All Radeons’
    • Catalyst 8.2 beta 2 (8-451-2-080123a)
    • ForceWare 169.28 beta - all GeForces’
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