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ATI Radeon X1800 XT & XL

Looking at Far Cry shows that once again, when CPU limitation is evident the ATI card lags behind the nVidia product. However, once the CPU limitation is lifted – this time at the point of 1,280 x 1,024 with 4x FSAA on – the X1800 XL catches up and pulls ahead. But, when the resolution rises to 2,048 x 1,536 the 7800 GT grabs the lead once more.

After recording a new Half-Life 2 demo I ran it on both the X1800 XL and the 7800 GT. Strangely, this time even when CPU limited the X1800 XL managed to stay ahead of the 7800 GTX, although at 1,920 x 1,440 and 2,048 x 1,536 with 4x FSAA and 8x AF, the 7800 GT managed to sneak ahead, with anisotropic filtering having less impact on the nVidia hardware.



Of course when it came to Doom 3, the 7800 GT streaked ahead of the X1800 XL. So if id’s first person shooter is your favourite game, you’re probably going to stick with nVidia.

I would have liked to have done some testing with HDR, especially since the latest Valve update included HDR support, but unfortunately I just didn’t have the time. This is something that I will do in the coming days though, so check back for an update to this article.

***Update***

I fired up Day of Defeat: Source to get an idea of HDR performance. To be honest, I’m not entirely sold on HDR yet, but I can see that it will eventually become an integral part of immersive 3D environments. My problem with HDR is that it’s somewhat overblown in current games – you see a bright light, or look out of a window and you’re momentarily blinded until your eyes get used to the intensity. However, when you walk into a dark room from a bright sunlit area, it seems to have no effect at all – in my experience you end up being able to see pretty much nothing for a while when you walk into a darkened room from the bright sunlight!

Anyway, back to the issue at hand. I recorded a Day of Defeat demo, making sure that there was lots of opportunity for HDR to work its, somewhat dubious magic. I then ran the demo at the full list of resolutions, with no FSAA or AF, then with 4x FSAA, then with 4x FSAA and 8x AF. The results surprised me. I had expected the Radeon X1800 XL to leave the GeForce 7800 GT in its wake, but that didn’t prove to be the case. In fact, apart from the basic 1,024 x 768 tests, the 7800 GT proved to be consistently faster than the X1800 XL.

I think the most important result is 1,280 x 1,024 with 4x FSAA and 8x AF. This is probably the setting that most gamers will be looking to, unless they have stuck with a CRT or have loads of money. Here the X1800 XL managed an average frame rate of 64.9fps, while the GeForce 7800 GT turned in 75.1fps. Although both those scores are above the magic 60fps, they are average frame rates, so at times the rate will dip or rise. Since the X1800 XL average score is 64fps, you’re likely to be dropping below 60fps quite regularly, while the 7800 GT’s average score of 75fps means that you will be spending far more time above the 60fps level.

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