Sapphire have certainly been pushing their products of late, and why not? Good engineering, good price and being ATI’s closest partner has done well for them. Crossing the Labs this month is their latest trophy, the X1900XTX Blizzard (or the Toxic as it will be named by the time it hits retail channels) – a card that ships with water cooling instead of the usual howling HSF, thanks to partner Thermaltake.
The water cooling takes the form of a single perspex enshrouded copper unit, which plugs nicely into a PCI slot next to the card itself, which has a double slot bracket to accommodate this. If your motherboard isn’t laid out conveniently though don’t despair – the rubber tubing gives more than enough slack to put the cooler in another slot, however this brings the unfortunate side effect of making the card a tri-slot solution.
The single slot cooler design means that both the reservoir and radiator are part of the same package – not the optimal solution but certainly keeps everything contained and in one place. Memory chips have acquired their own heatsinks in place of the default cooler. Coolant is already supplied within the unit right off the shelf, however there is of course an opening as well so the tank can either be emptied or filled with your choice of liquid. Since the cooler is not electrically attached to the video card, an extra Molex plug is required to power the fan.
We would have hoped that water cooling would have silenced the vociferous X1900 series somewhat – unfortunately the unit is still quite loud thanks to a weedy fan, even with the included switch to alternate between ‘high’ (2500RPM) and ‘low’ (2000RPM) speeds. Of course since this is a custom solution, neither ATI’s drivers nor ATI Tool for that matter will affect the speed of the fan.
Overall however it is quieter than the stock ATI fan, which is a blessing.
The Toxic ships at 675/801, a small increase from the default 650/775 of the X1900XTX, but one that’s welcome nonetheless. At these speeds, the water cooling with the fan on high kept the temperature to 43°C idle and 65°C under load. Even at the lower speeds, the stock heatsink on the XTX gave us 57°C idle and 84°C load. Tweaking the fan to always be at 100% on the standard heatsink gave us 44°C and 67°C under idle and load respectively – close to the water cooling, but oh so not worth the extra headache from the consistent ear splitting whine.
The usual accessories are bundled in, being the breakout component, composite and s-video cables, as well as a pair of DVI dongles, and the requisite power adapter. PowerDVD6, PowerDirector 4 and Sapphire’s Select program for games takes up the software side. If you’re feeling particularly brand proud, there’s even a case badge in there.
If you want an X1900XTX in your machine but are concerned about the noise, then short of rigging up your own water cooling kit with a larger, quieter fan the Sapphire Toxic should fit the bill nicely.
This Review appeared in the June, 2006 issue of PC & Tech Authority Magazine