While MSI is perhaps best known for their award-winning NVIDIA-based graphics cards (particularly their GeForce4 and GeForce FX cards which featured TOP cooling and their groundbreaking Nbox game bundle), they’ve also been producing ATI graphics cards for roughly two years now, starting with the Radeon 9800 XT/9600 XT launch. MSI strives to provide as many of the features found in their NVIDIA-based graphics cards as they can into their ATI-based cards with an emphasis on cooling and the card’s game bundle. Their RX800XL-VT2D256E Radeon X800 XL board for instance was second only to Gigabyte’s completely silent RX80L256V SilentPipe card in noise output in our Radeon X800 XL roundup earlier this year. The RX800XL-VT2D256E is the quietest X800 XL card with a fan that we’ve tested to date.
For the Radeon X1800 XT 512MB, MSI plays it more conservatively, sticking completely with ATI’s reference board design, right down to the card’s dual-slot copper cooling. MSI most likely opted to stick with ATI’s reference design in order to bring their card to market as quickly as possible. Their RX1800XT-VT2D512E is one of the first Radeon X1800 XT 512MB boards on the market.
In addition to the reference board design, MSI sticks with ATI’s reference clock speeds on the RX1800 XT VT2D512E. This means that the graphics core on the card runs at 625MHz, while the board’s memory is clocked at 750MHz (1.5GHz effective). As a result, the board performs just like the Built By ATI Radeon X1800 XT 512MB we previewed a few months ago. In fact, we wouldn’t be surprised if MSI’s board was built on the same production line as the ATI card. Graphics card manufacturers frequently do this on their first generation boards to hit retail as quickly as possible, they’ll then follow these first-gen boards up with second generation cards that are often outfitted with more unique features, such as custom cooling. It does after all, take time to adequately test and then manufacture a custom solution.
Basically, this means that you shouldn’t be concerned that the MSI card isn’t “Built By ATI”. Its got all the same features and functionality as the ATI card, including two dual-link DVI connectors, making it perfect for hooking up two high-end Apple 30” Cinema displays (in comparison, GeForce 7800 GTX only has one dual-link DVI connecotr). ATI OVERDRIVE support is provided as well.
Software and accessories
Where the MSI RX1800XT-VT2D512E goes beyond ATI’s own Radeon X1800 XT card is in the software bundle. MSI includes a copy of the game Colin McRae Rally 05, which is by far the best rally-racing game on the PC right now, if not the most entertaining PC racing game in general. MSI actually goes beyond the basics, not only providing the a copy of the game on DVD-ROM, but also the retail box and full manual. Most game bundles just come with the installation disc(s), skipping the packaging and the game’s manual to save space.
The board also ships with a copy of CyberLink’s StarDVD Family, which includes StarCinema, Star2Go, and StarProducer, as well as two DVI adapters, a VIVO (video-in/video-out) cable, component video cable for the hooking the card up to an HDTV, power adapter, and S-Video and composite video cables.
In comparison, ATI’s own X1800 XT card comes with no software bundle outside of a driver CD. So you’re essentially getting more for your money with the MSI card.