If youâ€™re a gamer looking to upgrade your graphics card and currently in the envious position of having nearly Â£300 burning a hole in your pocket then this head to head review is for you. As of writing ATIâ€™s X1800 range is still not here to actually buy, though itâ€™s certainly more imminent than itâ€™s ever been. But even if you are prepared to wait a couple of weeks, youâ€™ll still be paying more than Â£300 for an X1800 XL, and from our initial results performance isnâ€™t really far enough of nVidia to justify the difference. Additionally, if youâ€™re set on going the nForce 4 SLI route then an nVidia GPU is the only choice.
The two cards weâ€™re looking at here are based on nVidia 7800 GT GPU. Although not as fast as a 7800 GTX, with only 20 pixel pipelines compared to 24 on the GTX, performance isnâ€™t too far off and as itâ€™s significantly cheaper than the GTX itâ€™s going to be the enthusiastâ€™s choice.
Taking them in alphabetical order weâ€™ll start with the AOpen. AOpen is the cheaper of the two cars and you can certainly tell that from the packaging, with a small box and cheap polystyrene. Ok, itâ€™s doesnâ€™t give you that expensive product feel that you might want after shelling out 250 quid but once itâ€™s in your machine will you care? A smaller box is more eco-friendly anyway.
Looking at the card itself itâ€™s clear no expense has been spent on the card either. Itâ€™s based on the reference design with the nVidia sticker on the fan replaced by an AOpen one. Again though, thatâ€™s not necessarily a bad thing and the nVidia logo over the heatsink is cool, if not quite on the level of what Asus has done with its card.
There are two DVI sockets, though only one is dual-link capable. Two DVI to D-Sub converters are supplied. ViVo capabilities are provided by a cable with all connectors hanging off it. Thereâ€™s composite, S-Video and Component output and composite and S-video input. Itâ€™s all there but the Asusâ€™ break-out box is a more elegant solution.
The software bundle consists of the games, Pitfall: the Lost Expedition and Second Sight (no, me neither) and VideoStudio 7 SE, which will make you look mournfully over the shoulders of VideoStudio 9 owners. A basic manual is also included.
The most significant feature about the AOpen though is that itâ€™s overclocked by default. The core runs at 430MHz and the memory at 1.1GHz, up from the 400/1000 of the by the standard specs. This helps it to outpace the Asus, by a chunky five frames per second in our game tests. Even with this increase the card though, the card isnâ€™t fast enough to play above 1,600 x 1,200 with features enabled â€“ thatâ€™s SLI territory.
Despite having standard looks the AOpen proves to have non-standard performance. Itâ€™s also around Â£25 cheaper than the Asus. If you arenâ€™t too concerned with the standard looks and donâ€™t need to regularly use ViVo then the AOpen is a fine choice. Itâ€™s party is only spoilt by the fact that I could find a BFG GeForce 7800 GT for around Â£30 cheaper, proving just how cut-throat the graphics business is these days.