Mere days after we did our bit to help spread the rumours of a new upper-mid-range AMD graphics offering, we have one - albeit much earlier than expected and not in the form we had envisaged (...spot on then...ed). Dubbed the HD 2900 GT the new part is intended the bridge the gap between the 2600 XT and 2900 XT.
At base, the card is simply a crippled 2900 XT and the reductions are more than just a clock speed decrease. While the XT boats 320 stream processors, the GT will pack in a reduced 240. Likewise the GT's memory interface is a 256-bit affair, as opposed to the full 512-bit version on the XT.
Core clock speed is 600MHz and the GDDR3 memory runs at 800MHz, for a 1,600MHz effective speed, however, there are still 16 pixel output engines meaning that fill-rate should be comparable to the card's faster, better spec counterpart. All told one would expect the performance to be somewhere around two thirds that of the 2900 XT.
Power requirements are less as the combination of both a 6-pin and 8-pin PCI Express power connector present on the XT is now a single 8-pin connector. The heatsink arrangement is still the same dual-slot solution seen on the XT, although this similarity is probably to enable AMD to save on manufacturing costs by using the same PCB and cooler for both cards - as opposed to being a requirement of the GT.
The card also boats a built-in audio chip which allows 5.1 surround sound to be output over HDCP enabled HDMI using a converter from DVI. Obviously you lose the benefits of any dedicated sound card, but gain the benefits of the graphics card's video processing engine. And of course if you're just playing Oblivion then not losing a DVI connector to make way for an HDMI port is always of benefit to those with dual monitor setups.
If AMD can get the HD 2900 GT into the shops, or online, for around £160 then it would slot in well between the current mid and high range and could well become the card of choice for those gaming at 1,280 x 1,024 to whom we currently recommend the 8800 GTS 320MB.