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The AMD HD 2900 XT is a very impressive piece of hardware that shows real innovation. Features like the tessellation engine will surely bring a huge benefit to real time rendering, and will no doubt become part of the DirectX 10 API at some point. Whether we’ll see any games making use of this feature before nVidia adopts it too remains to be seen, but AMD should definitely be congratulated for bringing cutting edge features to market.
It’s also good to see that AMD has finally made CrossFire a simple solution. Gone is the horrible Master Card and Slave Card model, so now you can just match any two cards from any vendor and run them in CrossFire using internal bridges, much like SLi you might say.
But I just can’t get my head around the fact that AMD/ATI has conceded the performance crown this time around. I’ve been covering the leapfrog game of graphics hardware for so long that it just seems natural for nVidia to launch a card, and then ATI to edge ahead with its launch a few months later. At the very least I thought that AMD/ATI would be looking to match the GeForce 8800 GTX, but it would appear not.
Of course AMD is putting a lot of faith in DirectX 10 performance, and once some DX10 games hit the market we’ll put both AMD and nVidia hardware through its paces again. Until then though, with today’s games at least, nVidia definitely commands the high ground.
And then there’s the issue of price. As I mentioned earlier, AMD told me that the graphics memory had been limited to 512MB in order to hit the desired price point. However, looking around the web, the cheapest Radeon HD 2900 XT I could find will set you back £270, while the cheapest 640MB GeForce 8800 GTS costs only £213! That’s a pretty significant price gap, especially for two cards that perform so similarly.
I like the Radeon HD 2900 XT, I really do. The underlying technology inherent in this card shows that the engineers at AMD are still working overtime to create efficient and effective 3D hardware, rather than just going for the brute force approach. However, when you consider that a GeForce 8800 GTS will cost you considerably less and give you very similar performance, it’s hard to recommend this latest Radeon. All I hope is that once the launch frenzy is over, the price will drop in line with nVidia’s part, and then the choice between the two will be far tougher.