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Sapphire X800 XL Review


Delivered Potential?


by Josh Walrath

            In the middle of December, 2004 we saw a series of previews from many sites around the web that covered the X800 and X800 XL releases.  At that time ATI made some dramatic announcements with these products that left many gamers and enthusiasts speechless.  ATI basically said that these products would be on the shelf by the beginning of January, and that their prices would knock the proverbial socks off of the market.  The X800 128 MB card would retail for $199 and the X 800 XL 256 MB card would go for a stunning $299.  Unfortunately for users wanting to upgrade their computers in January with these parts, there was no joy in Mudville.

The X800 XL in all its glory.  A simple board with a nice cooling option.  Not a simple performer though!

            January and most of February went by with very little product being delivered to retailers, and what was released was much higher priced than expected.  Most often the X800 was seen as a 256 MB part and priced around $300, and the X800 XL was typically at $375 (when it was actually available).  Things improved dramatically around the end of February, with stock of X800 and X800 XL cards being widely available, but still at a significant premium.  Now, this is not true for all stores, as places like CompUSA, Fry’s, and Best Buy had these products in stock off and on for the manufacturer suggested retail price ($249 for the 256 MB X800 and $299 for the X800 XL).

            Now, as of today (March 21, 2005), two major distributors that I consulted with list a very different story from what should be.  One distributor has the X800 XL for $359.  This is the “wholesale” price.  This means that the manufacturer is selling this part to this distributor for well above MSRP.  This distributor, which only sells to resellers, does not mark up their products all that much from what they buy it directly from Sapphire for.  The other distributor, this one being Tech Data (which is a biggie), only lists the Asus X800 XL part as being in stock, and it goes for a whopping $430.  The next X800 XL listing they have is a built by ATI that goes for $330 (not in stock though).  Remember, these are distributor costs and availability.

            Things are starting to look a lot better online though, as many retailers are now showing stock of X800 XL’s from a variety of manufactures that actually go for MSRP, or slightly above.  There is even a couple of Gigabyte based X800 XL boards that are going for as low as $272.  Needless to say, the past few months for the X800 XL and X800 series have been bumpy.  It is good that ATI is finally delivering on their promise for X800 and X800 XL cards at the price.  Still, it should be mentioned that the inability to deliver these parts for the past 3 months has been a big black eye for ATI and its partners.

A better look at the copper cooler, as well as the lack of an external power plug.  Note as well that the cooler does not actually touch the memory BGAs.

            The past is the past though, and we are living for today.  ATI has made moves internally to avoid these types of blunders, and the grapevine has been abuzz of these changes.  Hopefully ATI (and NVIDIA for that matter) will take this to heart and only preview hardware that will be available in decent quantities within two weeks of release, and actually retail around their MSRP.  Both ATI and NVIDIA have been guilty of releasing products and not having them available for months, but we can always hope that they will learn the wickedness of their ways and change.  I’m not holding my breath though, as the 3D market is awfully competitive for these companies.


Next: X800 XL Technology


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