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ATI Radeon X1800 XT & XL

I guess the big question here is whether ATI’s next generation graphics solution was worth the wait, and whether it’s better or worse than what nVidia has to offer. Both questions are very hard to answer, because, as always things aren’t really that black and white. I’m quite impressed with the numbers that the X1800 cards have put out considering the fact that the number of pipelines hasn’t increased from the outgoing parts, but it's not as if the X1800 has left the 7800 for dead.

It doesn’t seem like there’s too much to separate what ATI and nVidia has to offer right now as long as you have a fast enough CPU to feed your graphics card. What is a little odd is how ATI seems to pull ahead at 1,600 x 1,200 and 1,920 x 1,440, but then lose that ground when the resolution is bumped to 2,048 x 1,536. Of course the ATI drivers are a very early revision, but I wouldn’t expect them to cause any anomalies like this. Of course it’s all a bit moot, since you’re not getting a playable frame rate on either card at 2,048 x 1,536 – although that changes with an SLi setup, and will hopefully change with an X1800 CrossFire configuration too.

But if you can’t separate ATI from nVidia when it comes to performance, you can when it comes to price. Looking on www.overclockers.co.uk you can order a Radeon X1800 XL for around £323 inc. VAT and an X1800 XT for about £411 inc. VAT. Now compare that from the same retailer you can buy a GeForce 7800 GT for £252 inc. VAT and a 7800 GTX for £329 and it’s clear that ATI is expecting you to pay a lot more for similar performance.

The GeForce 7800 series has been around for a while now and the price has dropped to reflect this, and I’m sure that the cost of the ATI cards will come down after the initial launch as well. That said, at this point in time if you want a high-end graphics card for gaming, the GeForce 7800 series definitely seems to offer the best price/performance ratio.

Of course there are some obvious reasons for the higher price of the ATI cards. The twin dual-link DVI connectors for a start, the video processing functionality with H.264 HD video decoding and even the 10-bit colour support for high-end, colour calibrated monitors. But ultimately you have to ask yourself how important these features are to you – for many they will be reason enough to dig deeper and go with ATI, but for those just wanting to play games, the extra cost may be hard to swallow.



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