Way back at CES in January, I had the pleasure of meeting with Sapphire in the swanky Venetian hotel in Las Vegas. While there, they gave me a little peek at their Blizzard Radeon X1900 XTX card. You might remember my little E3 wrap up a year ago and how I talked about Sapphire’s really interesting liquid cooling solution. ATI still has a page up about Sapphire’s unique solution. Sadly, this product never came into fruition, but Sapphire did come back with a new “Blizzard” cooling product and that’s what we have today.
The Blizzard Radeon X1900 XTX is, at heart, an overclocked and quietly water cooled Radeon X1900 XTX based on the RV580 chipset. Yes the card is overclocked out of the box so you’ll get a slightly better performance out of this card than a regular ATI X1900 XTX card. The specifications include 675MHz for the core and 1600MHz for the memory. That's an increase of 25MHz for the GPU and 50MHz for the memory over a regular X1900 XTX. With those two increases, we should see some nice performance increase. 512MB of ram is also on this card, which is standard for the X1900 XTX line. Basically, what you have with the regular X1900 XTX, it’s on here with the increase in clock speed and memory speed.
With all the power this card has, you’ll be able to enable advanced features such as HDR or high dynamic range. HDR adjusts the brightness of light according to how you are looking at a lighted object. So if you’re staring straight into a very bright light, you’ll see a very bright and over exposed light source. It’s being used in many Xbox 360 games and many next generation PC games. You’ll be able to run some games using both HDR and anti-aliasing enabled, which was a problem earlier on. This will be game dependent as some will need to be updated to take advantage of it. In fact, a patch for ATI cards to allow both HDR and anti-aliasing for The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion was just released and this would be a great card to take advantage of two image improvement features on a very hardware taxing game.
Now, the major selling point of this card is the quiet water cooling solution. As you can see, the GPU has a nice little water block on it with two tubes. The cooling system is similar to Thermaltake’s Tide Water cooling unit and it’s what keeps the GPU nicely cooled and running. A small difference from the Tide Water system is that Thermaltake's radiator unit takes up two slots where as Sapphire's takes up one. Water is circulated via a minipump to the radiator unit housing a fan and then cycled back to the GPU. What’s nice about this setup is that the heat is transferred outside the rear of the computer rather than circulating inside the case. This should help cool down the inside of your computer as well. While the pictures show this card taking up three slots, the final production model will do away with the double bracket on the card. The hoses are long enough to allow for the installation of the main cooling unit far away. The cooling setup feels pretty solid from the test unit provided even though this is a pre-production model. Hoses are tightly attached and feel thick. The entire cooling solution is self contained and requires no maintenance. This should ease any concern for those that might be hesitant on the Blizzard setup.
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