Performance proved to be a bit of a mixed bag, with some definite driver issues in evidence. Far Cry showed some anomalies, where anti-aliasing refused to work at 1,600 x 1,200 but anisotropic filtering worked fine. Conversely, at 1,280 x 1,024 FSAA worked fine, but turning on AF had no effect whatsoever. Likewise, running both Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness and Unreal Tournament 2004, turning on AF had no effect to the frame rate. I have however been assured by ATI that these driver issues have already been addressed, so retail boards should not see any problems.
Comparing the X700 XT results directly to the GeForce 6600 GT showed that things are pretty much 50/50 right now, although the newer games with the more demanding engines seem to favour the GeForce 6600. Under Doom3 the 6600 GT raced ahead of the X700 XT, but this is to be expected as nVidia has always been ahead when it comes to OpenGL. However, Far Cry also proved to be much faster on the 6600 GT, with a score of 58.6fps compared with 43.5fps on the X700 XT at 1,024 x 768 with no FSAA or AF. Pushing things up to 1,600 x 1,200 still saw the 6600 GT 10 frames ahead of the X700 XT with scores of 37.5fps and 27fps respectively.
The X700 XT levelled the playing field in Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness, but it didnâ€™t really pull ahead. But running Unreal Tournament 2004, showed a definite advantage using the X700 XT over the 6600 GT, and with a game thatâ€™s as fast and frenetic as UT, every bit of performance counts.
Both 3DMark 2001 SE and 3DMark03 proved faster on the X700 XT than the 6600 GT. But with 3DMark 2005 just around the corner (hopefully), it will be interesting to see which chipset comes out on top running the new benchmark.
The last two tests â€“ Halo and AquaMark3 â€“ again split things straight down the middle, with the 6600 GT coming out ahead in Halo, and the X700 XT edging ahead in AquaMark3.
Estimated pricing for the X700 XT is $199, which, unsurprisingly, is exactly the same estimated US price that nVidia announced for the GeForce 6600 GT. So, it looks like the mid-range is going to be a hard fought market, with the consumer set to be the real winner. Of course the GeForce 6600 GT does have the advantage of supporting SLi, which could prove to be a major boon for anyone looking for high-performance on a tight budget.
The other major factor will be the, eventual, release of Half-Life 2. Depending on how Half-Life 2 performs on both nVidia and ATI hardware could prove to be a major influence for consumer buying decisions in the mid-range.
Ultimately though, the mid-range graphics market is looking pretty good for the consumer, with both ATI and nVidia offering very impressive products. Which one is better could well come down to what games you play, and whether games developers choose to take advantage of 3Dc or Shader Model 3.0 in the near future.
Like the GeForce 6600 GT, the X700 XT sets out to prove that you donâ€™t need to take out a second mortgage to get decent graphics on your PC. For now at least, it seems like the GeForce 6600 GT has the edge, with faster Doom3 performance and the prospect of SLi, but things may well change when Half-Life 2 arrives. All that said, the X700 XT provides solid 3D performance at an affordable price point.