Sapphire has always been strong in the past with offering advanced versions of the standard ATI lineup. One very popular brand is the "Ultimate" series.
This latest addition to this lineup is the Sapphire X800 XL Ultimate. It comes with Zalman's VF700 & Ramsinks preinstalled.
At first a PCI-Express version is available, an AGP version will follow soon.
The cooler is the full aluminum version which was chosen for cost and weight reasons. Temperature difference is only 7°C to the VF700 Al-Cu.
As always on the Ultimate Series, the PCB color is changed , the cooler's anodized blue matches this very well.
The board will cost about $30 more than the normal version, which is pretty good if you consider that the cooler alone retails for that price, plus you keep your warranty.
Also new is the Sapphire X800 XL AGP. The design uses ATI's Rialto Bridge chip to convert the GPU's PCI-Express signals to AGP.
While the chip does add latencies, Sapphire says they are very small and do not really affect performance.
As I'm told by different sources the bridge chip is VERY expensive for what it does. Sapphire's X800 XL AGP boards should retail for around $349, starting of April.
Equipped with ATI's new Theater550 TV chip, the Theatrix TV tuner card is now shipping. It is only available for PCI-Express.
Surely the most interesting news from Sapphire are, that they will add new products to their existing, and rather unknown, motherboard lineup.
The new products will be geared towards overclockers and will offer many exciting new features.
"Gruper" (without o), is the codename for the first new Socket 939 motherboard. As you can see from the images, the board has a very exclusive color. The ATI logo on the backside will most probably replaced by a Sapphire logo in the final product.
For chipset ATI'S RS480 Northbridge and ATI's SB450 Southbridge are used. SB450 is an improved version of the SB400 which improves USB 2.0 and gives Azalia Audio.
See the two small buttons near the corner? Those are used for Power, CMOS Reset and Reset (there will be three buttons in the final product). This is a great idea for the enthusiasts - Oh how many times did I use a screwdriver on the headers, until someone came up with an idea for this.
At the moment the board features 1x PCI-E x16, 2x PCI-E x1 and 2x PCI. 4 SATA II + 4x SATA ports are included as well as Gigabit Ethernet and 7.1 Channel Audio.
Please note that ALL of this could change in the future, since the design is not final. Some features might be dropped to stay near the target price of $150.
What I really like is the active cooling on the MOSFETs. 4 slots of Dual Channel DDR 333/400 are supported. The whole memory side of things has been taken special care of for overclockers. After testing it with all common memory modules, only one failed the test. As I heard from OCZ, many of their ideas went into the Gruper's memory design, I'm sure we can expect some solid and stable memory performance.
That's it for our Cebit 2005 reports. We hoped you enjoyed it.
Bye bye, Cebit. See you next year: March 9 - March 15 2006.