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Product : Radeon X1800 XT
Company : ATI Technologies
Author : Ryan "MrB" Ku and Mark "Ratchet" Thorne
Editor : Eric "Ichneumon" Amidon
Date : October 13th, 2005

Conclusion

There is plenty of new technology in the X1000 architecture that we talked about, but there’s still quite a bit more that we feel will require focus in future articles. All X1000 cards feature ATi’s new display engine and video processing technology AVIVO, allowing it to provide a more robust and flexible output feature-set. AVIVO allows the X1800 to output to two dual DVI connectors and in the video arena accelerate encode, decode, and playback H.264 and VC-1 codecs.

Second, the entire X1000 series supports CrossFire technology. The 2nd generation of CrossFire improves the Compositing Engine on the Radeon X1800 and X1600 CrossFire edition boards by accelerating the blending step of the process used for the Super AA modes. Also the improvement of the DVI interlink (from single to dual-DVI) eliminates the resolution restraint found on the first generation CrossFire line.  Interestingly enough the X1300 will support CrossFire without the DVI interlink by only using the PCI-Express bus and software management.

After examining the results you can definitely tell it’s not a NV30 scenario. The X1800 performs a little bit above the 7800 in a few games and a bit below in others but the difference is quite marginal both ways. It’s interesting to note another commonality between the past and present and the switch over. The NV30 had higher clock speeds to try to compete with the R300. This time around it’s the R520 using the high clock speeds in comparison to the G70.

I am impressed with what the X1800 has to offer. If it was released on schedule the scores it produced would have created far more excitement but with the 7800 being out for a few months the results are not as bright. A testament to a great design in the 7800 series.

The difficulty faced with evaluating the X1800 is that no games out there truly stress its pixel shading power. ATi designed the X1000 architecture to shine in games that make use of complex Shader Model 3.0 shaders. When next-generation games do come out sporting those features then it would look like the X1800 has a heads over heel advantage over the 7800 based on the Shadermark 2.1 result.  Because of this I would recommend the X1800 over 7800 if you keep your cards for a reasonable amount of time before upgrading.

There is also a lot of headroom for improvement.  As this really is a new architecture for ATi the drivers are in their infancy. With the programmable memory controller architecture the driver team has a new method of increasing performance along with the prior ways they eked out more fps.

Another advantage the X1800 has is the ability to run HDR with AA together. We didn’t talk about this anywhere in the preview as we were unable to test it out but Chaebat from CryTek spoke heavily of its virtues at the ATi conference. Before HDR he wasn’t a big fan of AA but after HDR he noticed an immediate need for AA on FarCry and become a fan, his attitude turned 180 degrees. Why? Because aliasing becomes more visible with HDR rendering, particularly in high contrast regions. Another strength of the X1800.

Now for the bad news.

We would be remiss if we did not mention probably the most significant topic regarding the X1800 and ATI in general; Availability. ATI has stated that X1800 cards will be available on November 5th (which makes this launch of the paper variety), but when you consider their track record for delivering the goods on time as of late (one word: abysmal), then you have to worry a little about that projected date. You can bet that we and everyone else in this industry will be keeping a very close eye out come early November.

Also of concern right now is the price. With an MSRP of $549 the 512MB X1800XT is $50 below that at which the 7800 GTX was introduced, but because the GTX has been out for so long now you can find them online for around $470. If recent trends are any indication then there's a good chance that the X1800 won't be below or even at the $549 MSRP point but, in all likelihood, even more expensive.

Finally of ultimate concern to ATI and their new flagship card is, as always, their nemesis NVIDIA. It is not unlike the boys from Santa Clara to attempt to throw a big green wrench into ATI's plans and, if all the indications are accurate, we'll possibly be seeing that wrench flying out of California in the form of a 512MB 7800 GTX sometime fairly soon.


Verdict

Plus

  • Fast
  • Shader Model 3.0 comes to ATI
  • Excellent feature set
  • Excellent IQ
  • HDR+AA
  • Dual-link Dual-DVI
  • 90nm
  • Loads of potential

Minus

  • Big and heavy
  • Gets very hot
  • No immediate availability
  • More expensive than the 7800 GTX





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