I guess the big question here is whether ATIâ€™s next generation graphics solution was worth the wait, and whether itâ€™s better or worse than what nVidia has to offer. Both questions are very hard to answer, because, as always things arenâ€™t really that black and white. Iâ€™m quite impressed with the numbers that the X1800 cards have put out considering the fact that the number of pipelines hasnâ€™t increased from the outgoing parts, but it's not as if the X1800 has left the 7800 for dead.
It doesnâ€™t seem like thereâ€™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 wouldnâ€™t expect them to cause any anomalies like this. Of course itâ€™s all a bit moot, since youâ€™re not getting a playable frame rate on either card at 2,048 x 1,536 â€“ although that changes with an SLi setup, and will hopefully change with an X1800 CrossFire configuration too.
But if you canâ€™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 Â£323 inc. VAT and an X1800 XT for about Â£411 inc. VAT. Now compare that from the same retailer you can buy a GeForce 7800 GT for Â£252 inc. VAT and a 7800 GTX for Â£329 and itâ€™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 Iâ€™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 â€“ 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.