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Palit Revolution 700 Deluxe 2GB GDDR5 Video Card Review

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SKYMTL

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Palit Revolution 700 Deluxe 2GB GDDR5 Video Card Review



Manufacturer Product Page: Palit Multimedia Inc.
Product Number: AE5487XSF0545-PM9348
TechWiki Info: Palit Revolution 700 Deluxe 2GB
Availability: Unknown
Warranty: 2-Years
Price: Unknown. $650+?


By now we all know that the race for the ultra high end performance crown has another competitor with the Nvidia GTX 295 but ATI’s HD 4870 X2 is still an excellent competitor in nearly every application. With this and ATI’s recent price reductions to their ultra high-end card in mind, we are reviewing yet another HD 4870 X2 here today: the Palit Revolution 700 Deluxe. This isn’t your normal run-of-the-mill HD 4870 X2; it is a badass, triple slot monster that has a massive cooler coupled with near-stock clocks.

ATI’s dual GPU card has had a bit of a tough time as of late with the GTX 295 encroaching upon its territory and in many cases beating it quite handily. As mentioned earlier, this has necessitated a price cut but no one expected the cut to be as dramatic as it has been. Where the HD 4870 X2 used to be retailing for $500 USD, it is now sitting pretty around the $399 price bracket. The same can be said for the card’s price here in Canada; that same shiny black card has nosedived from $600 and up to a somewhat more reasonable $500. That leaves the GTX 295 in the precarious position of retailing for significantly more than the card it was supposed to be competing against. All in all, this is an extremely smart move on ATI’s part and it shows that they built enough of a buffer zone into their pricing to allow for any reactionary price changes should Nvidia decide to release a highly competitive product. Remember, Nvidia did the same thing when they were leading the pack so it is interesting to see this regime change coming from the other direction this time.

Let’s get back to the card we have on hand here. From the PCB to the cooling, the Revolution R700 Deluxe has been completely designed from the ground up by Palit to offer customers the best HD 4870 X2 available on the market today. Interestingly enough, even though the Revolution can be considered Palit’s flagship ATI product, they have decided to keep near-reference clocks for some reason. On the other hand, this is one product that is extremely hard to find these days even though when it was released you could special order it from a few select retailers. Add to that the fact that Palit’s warranty isn’t exactly the best in the business at a mere two years and some of you may already be looking elsewhere. However, you have to remember that the enthusiast consumer the Revolution 700 is aimed at will probably be changing their graphics card far before the warranty expires anyways.

Will consumers be willing to live with the somewhat short warranty and higher price of this card if it means better performance, cooling and most of all a smaller acoustical profile? Well, we will just have to see how Palit’s new card performs before we jump to any hasty conclusions.


 
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SKYMTL

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The New ATI Lineup / Palit Revolution Specs.

The New ATI Lineup



As the ATI lineup takes better shape, it becomes apparent that like Nvidia before them they are trying to have something for everyone. This market saturation brought Nvidia shouts of disdain from both the community and resellers as their lineup was far too confusing for the average consumer but ATI has taken a fundamentally different approach. Instead of releasing cards across two different series at the same time (like the boys in green did with the 8 and 9-series), Team Red has now almost completely discontinued the 3xxx-series in favor of the 4-series architecture. However, there are still 3-series cards on the market at various price points and this causes an unfortunate overlay with the new 4-series. We wouldn’t be surprised to see some 3-series cards like the HD3870 stick around for a little while longer to not only clear out stocks but also retain an ATI presence in the sub-$200 price brackets price bracket.

At this point the beastly X2 cards take the top spots even though the HD 4850 X2 has not seen the light of day other than a few cards from Sapphire trickling into the retail channels. The HD 4870 X2 still carries the title of the most powerful graphics card on the fact of the planet and has a price to match but even that high MSRP has been slowly falling. Meanwhile, the HD 4870 currently occupies the upper portion of the highly lucrative and popular $200 to $300 price bracket along with the HD 4850.

The HD 4830 has also been added as direct competition for the 9800 GT on Nvidia's side and it indeed does quite well at that. It is basically a cut-down version of the HD 4850 which means performance is definitely there in spades while pricing and availability remain excellent

Rounding out this lineup we have the HD 4600-series cards which were introduced to go after the more budget-conscious portion of the market while still offering great performance against the competition. Even though both are geared to compete against the 9500 GT and 9400 GT respectively, they literally stop the Nvidia cards in every test possible.


Palit Revolution Specs.



Unfortunately, even though this is Palit's flagship card for the time being, they don't seem to have had any kind of urgency to increase the clocks by that much. As you will see, it has a massive heatsink which looks to be ready to handle ungodly amounts of heat but the cores are clocked at bone-stock speeds and the memory gets a 50Mhz (200Mhz QDR) bump. This will probably increase performance by small amounts and not offer anything in the way of actual gameplay benefits. Disappointing to say the least.
 
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SKYMTL

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The R700 Features

The R700 Features


It seems like in this brave new world of parallel processing capabilities of GPU cores, both ATI and Nvidia are racing to take advantage of the potential the modern graphics card has locked away within its confines. What we will soon see is a massive increase in the performance of certain applications like video transcoding, Folding and physics calculations. ATI has been on this bandwagon for some time now with their Folding @ home application which first came out for X19xx-series graphics cards, made the jump to the R600 / RV670 cores a few months ago and will soon be move over to the new HD4800 / HD4600-series as well. With their massive number of stream processors, the R700 cards should be able to handle any application thrown at them. Let’s take a look at what ATI has to offer with additional features.


DirectX 10.1


Even though DX10.1 is a minor update to the Vista-exclusive DX10, ATI feels that its implementation will benefit gamers quite a bit in today’s market. Let’s cut right to the chase: DX10.1 doesn’t offer us anything particularly new in terms of outlandishly new features but it does offer new paths for developers to simplify their code which in turn has the potential to increase performance in certain areas. At present, among the “big two” graphics processor manufacturers, ATI is the only one which supports DX10.1

Even though we run the risk of editorializing here we have to say that ATI’s acceptance of the DX10.1 API seems to be the right thing to do in today’s graphics card industry. After seeing first-hand the performance benefits it brings when applying AA to a DX10 environment in games like Assassin’s Creed we can only express disappointment and outright shock that other GPU manufacturers haven’t followed ATI’s lead. Consumers have been left high and dry without any reason to purchase an OS with DX10 for the simple fact that the performance in impact of DX10 is does not justify minor graphical benefits. DX10.1 works to alleviate those performance hurdles by offering developers more options when producing their games. We can only hope that ATI’s present generation cards become widespread enough that more game developers will implement DX10.1 into their titles.


Crossfire X


Up until the HD2900-series was introduced, running more than one ATI card was a clumsy affair which included external cables and more headache than should have been necessary. Then they introduced their very own Crossfire bridge connector and it was all sunshine and roses since daisy chaining two, three or even four cards together became possible. This technology continues today with the HD4000-series cards and AMD has promised that users will get better drivers, quick driver revisions and better industry acceptance among game developers.


PowerPlay Technology


In ATI’s never-ending quest to offer us the most power savings possible they have introduced something called PowerPlay. This technology allows the Catalyst software to dynamically adjust voltages and core speeds depending on the application it is being used for. This results in less idle power consumption and power being distributed when and where you need it.


Havok Physics


When AMD and Havok announced their partnership to optimize the Havok physics engine to run on ATI hardware, many enthusiasts perked up and listened. Havok Physics has been implemented into a vast variety of games form every single genre the vast majority of the industry’s upcoming blockbuster titles (including Starcraft II) support it. This not only gives ATI’s physics push a massive installed user base but it also guarantees that there will be games with Havok released for years to come. With both ATI and Nvidia firmly entrenched in the war to bring physics processing to a wider market acceptance, we may look back at this point in time as the moment when the renaissance of in-game physics really began.
 

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Enhancing the Visual Experience

Enhancing the Visual Experience



ATI’s cards have been the staple of people building HTPCs for some time now with features like UVD, HDMI and high-end audio options. With the HD4000-series, AMD are taking things to the next level with some very interesting advances on their already-established technologies which will make these cards even more appealing to HTPC aficionados and regular consumers alike.

To do this they have set before themselves three primary goals: to provide multi-stream HD playback as supported in Blu-Ray 2.0 profiled movies, to improve the visual quality on HD monitors and to accomplish fast video transcoding by taking advantage of the processing power of the R770 core. Considering we have seen in the past how well features like UVD work, any enhancements to already-existing features is more than welcome in today’s quickly changing world of high definition. While we will be going over some of the features ATI has implemented it is just the tip of the iceberg of what is being offered to those of us who use our graphics cards to process HD signals.


UVD 2 – Dual Bitstream Playback


With Blu-Ray finally winning the high definition format wars, manufacturers have taken lightning-quick steps to step up support for the format. One of the many ways AMD is doing this is through full support of the Blu-Ray 1.1 profile and BD Live (profile 2.0). With UVD 2 the R700-series processors are able to decode two streams of high definition (H.264, VC-1 and MPEG-2) content in order to give the viewer the picture-in-picture options present in the 1.1 profile. This gives us the capability to watch a movie in large format while having something like an alternate scene or director’s commentary playing in the smaller picture in the corner of the screen.


High Definition Audio & Video through HDMI & Displayport


HDMI is quickly becoming the standard of choice for high definition movie and audio aficionados. With the HD3800 series AMD supported 5.1 channel audio-out through the HDMI connector but with the HD4800-series, they have taken things one step further by offering full 7.1 channel output. This means the these new cards will have support for AC3, DTS, Dolby True-HD and DTS HD formats with a full 6.144 Mbps bit rate and 192KHz sample rate along with up to 24 bits/sample. Add to this native HDCP support and true 1080P output and what we have here is a true multimedia powerhouse.

Did we mention that the R700-series core has native support for Display Port as well? Well, it does but it is up to the board partner’s discretion whether or not they add the necessary output connector.


Enhanced DVD Upscaling & Dynamic Contrast


While there are plenty of us who will use HD signals through the HD4000-series of cards, whether we like it or not we will still be outputting lower definition signals to our wonderful new HDTV every now and then. In these cases, a standard 480i picture will look absolutely horrible if it is scaled up to fit on a high definition 1080P TV so ATI provides the Avivo HD upscaling option in their drivers. What this does is take the low resolution signal and clean it up so to speak so it looks better when displayed on a high definition screen.


Another interesting feature ATI has packed into their drivers is the Dynamic Contrast Adjustment. Personally, I more often than not adjust the contrast manually based on the application since the values from one game or movie to the next can vary a lot. ATI has taken the guesswork and thrown it out the window by providing a post-processing algorithm which will automatically (and smoothly) adjust the contrast ratio in real time.
 

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AVIVO HD: The Real Deal

AVIVO HD: The Real Deal


Even though we have reviewed quite a few ATI graphics cards which support AVIVO HD which uses their UVD2 (Unified Video Decoder) technology, we have never really touched upon its benefits. Since this card can caters to the HTPC crowd as much as it does towards the casual gamer crowd, we figured now would be as good a time as any to touch upon the benefits.

First of all, AVIVO HD offers hardware decoding of high definition video streams which will minimize load on your CPU and thus provide smoother playback. What many people have to remember is that the HD4670`s closest competitor (the Nvidia 9500GT) is based on Nvidia’s older technology and thus only supports Purevideo 2. This means that the 9500GT offers full H.264 decoding and AACS decryption but offloads decoding of VC-1 video streams to the CPU. Meanwhile, all of the cards in ATI’s lineup from the lowest HD3600-series all the way up to the HD4800-series support full VC-1 and H.264 hardware decoding. Just remember, you need software which supports hardware decoding such as Cyberlink’s PowerDVD.

Let’s take a look at what is offered in the Catalyst Control Center when it comes to AVIVO options


Click on images to enlarge

When you first enter the AVIVO portion of the CCC, you have a quick-select box which will give you various preset video settings so you won’t have to fiddle around with too many settings to get your desired color levels. However, for those of you with a finer taste for the perfect picture, ATI has more for you.

In the Basic Color section you have all of the, brightness, contrast, tint and saturation controls at your fingertips. There is also a Use Application Settings which will cause any game or software-specific color profiles to override the settings you choose in this section.


Click on images to enlarge

ATI also includes and area with finer color adjustments for skin tone and color vibrancy. Normally, we don’t dare touch these settings but since some movies tend to have different color parameters than others, they come in handy every now and then.

In the Basic Quality section, you are able to control the deinterlacing mode used in videos. While we normally recommend you keep this at its default value, when watching HD movies I personally set it to Vector Adaptive and Pulldown Dection.


Click on images to enlarge

The two final options you have here are Theatre Mode and All Settings. In Theatre Mode, you are able to scale the video output across multiple displays while the All Settings holds….well..all the settings from the previous sections without their accompanying thumbnail preview.
 

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Packaging and Accessories

Packaging and Accessories



The Palit Revolution 700 comes in a massive box when compared to the other packages we have seen in the past few months. Literally, it dwarfs nearly everything else out there by a fair margin and reminds us a lot of the old ASUS packages that crammed in everything from games to t-shirts to mountains of accessories.

Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately if you has a particularly abusive delivery guy) most of the interior of the box holds protective high density foam to protect against and shipping mishaps.


It is really unfortunate but it seems that Palit didn’t want to increase the price of this card too much and thus kept accessory selection to the bare minimum. All you get is a single HDMI to DVI adaptor and a single 6-pin to 8-pin dongle. Other than that there is a driver CD with ancient Catalyst 8.8 drivers and an ages old ATI installation booklet that doesn’t even show the installation setup for Windows Vista. Heck, it doesn’t even show how to properly install your old drivers in order to avoid performance and stability issues.
 
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A Closer Look at the Palit Revolution 700

A Closer Look at the Palit Revolution 700



Even though the Palit Revolution stays within the same form factor length-wiseas many of the other high-end cards out there, it is the height where things differ quite a bit. There is also the addition of a completely custom heatsink design coupled with a pair of 80mm fans. The effect is dramatic to be sure but there will be someinherent issues with Crossfire on some motherboards considering the height of the heatsink.


The heatsink design of this card is unique to say the least and even though we will be getting a little further into that in the next section, you can see above that there areareas cut out of the shroud in order to let the air escape through the sides. We are also able to glance at the inner workings of the heatsink fins which seem to indicate that all of the heat producedby this card will be dumped into the inside of your case.


Continuing our tour around the Revolution, we come to the power connectors of which there is a single8-pin and lone 6-pin. These are rotated 90 degrees from what we are used to seeing on R700-based cards and as such is definitely an excellent choice by Palit since it gives easier access to the power connectors.

There is also a 4-pin fan header so we are hoping that both fans on this card are temperature or at least load controlled considering the last time (link) we saw a dual fan design from Palit, it was horribly loud.


As you can see, the backplate of the Deluxe is ridiculously huge in order to accommodate the oversized heatsink and its accompanying fans. Palit made sure to account for nearly every connector currentlyon the market by including outputs for DVI, VGA, HDMI and even DisplayPort. It does make one wonder why a DVI to HDMI dongle was part of the accessories considering it is a bit redundant with the HDMI connector already natively attached to the card.
 

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A Closer Look at the Palit Revolution 700 cont.

A Closer Look at the Revolution cont



We may all remember the Palit HD 4870 Sonic which had a pair of fans (one 80mm and one 70mm) but only one was temperature controlled. That resulted in a hell of a loud card considering the smaller of its two fans operated at full speed, 24/7 and drove us up a wall.

On the other hand, the two fans on the Revolution are supposed to be completely temperature controlled which is definitely a break with Palit’s recent traditions. Both blow down onto an internal heatsink but since the airflow isn’t directed in any way, the hot exhaust air will not be exhausted out the back. Rather, due to openings on either side of the heatsink, most of the heat gets blown into your case.


Personally, I think the backplate is the crowning achievement of the Palit Revolution since it is made of 2mm think high-grade aluminum which conducts the heat away from the back-mounted memory modules. You can actually feel the quality of this thing and that says a lot.


When compared to your normal bread and butter HD 4870 X2, you would be forgiven if you mistook the Revolution 700 for a different card altogether. While it may be the same 10.5” length, that is where the similarities stop as the Palit card is not only higher but also carries that signature dual fan heatsink.
 
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Test System & Setup

Test System & Setup

System Used

Processor: Intel Core 2 Quad Extreme QX9770 @ 3.852Ghz
Memory: G.Skill 2x 2GB DDR2-1000 @ 1052Mhz DDR
Motherboard: ASUS P5E Deluxe X48
Disk Drive: Pioneer DVD Writer
Hard Drive: Hitachi Deskstar 320GB SATAII
Fans: 2X Yate Loon 120mm @ 1200RPM
Power Supply: Corsair HX1000W
Monitor: Samsung 305T 30” widescreen LCD
OS: Windows Vista Ultimate x64 SP1


Graphics Cards:

Palit Revolution 700 Deluxe
EVGA GTX 285 SSC
EVGA GTX 295 (stock)
Palit HD 4870 X2 (stock)
Sapphire HD 4870 1GB (stock)
Palit HD 4870 512MB (stock)
EVGA GTX 280 (stock)
EVGA GTX 260 Core 216 Superclocked



Drivers:

Nvidia 181.20 (GTX 295 / GTX 285)
Nvidia 180.48 WHQL
ATI 8.12 WHQL


Applications Used:

3DMark Vantage
Call of Duty: World at War
Crysis: Warhead
X3: Terran Conflict
Dead Space
Left 4 Dead
Far Cry 2
Fallout 3
Need for Speed Undercover


*Notes:

- All games tested have been patched to their latest version

- The OS has had all the latest hotfixes and updates installed

- All scores you see are the averages after 4 benchmark runs

All game-specific methodologies are explained above the graphs for each game
 
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