ATI is getting a bit of a reputation for concentrating far too much on its high-end cards and leaving the mid-range cards almost as an afterthought. With the benefit of hindsight many consider the X700 to have been a poor card, while on the AGP front the 9800 Pro, a previous generation product, was the official competitor to the 6600 GT.
This time around, ATI has taken the X1800 XL, hobbled it a little and re-labelled it as the X1800 GTO.
Looks familiar? The X1800 GTO has 12 pixel pipelines, 12 pixel output engines and eight vertex shaders. The only difference between this and the X1800 XL is that four of the pixel pipelines have been disabled. This is good news, as it may be possible to flash the BIOS and enable the extra pipelines (unless ATI feels like spending extra money cutting circuits).
The core runs at 500MHz, the same as the XL, while the memory runs at 495MHz (990MHz effective), which is 10MHz slower than an XL. There is a 256MB frame buffer, but a superior 256-bit memory interface.
On paper, the X1800 GTO is a superior card to the 7600 GT, with support for FSAA and full precision HDR (not that we see that many games supporting this) and more pixel output engines and vertex shaders. However, it is a considerably larger card and uses up a lot more power, requiring an external connector. Itâ€™s also annoyingly noisy â€“ during testing the fan changed from quiet to noisy every 15 seconds or so. A consistent noise is very easily blocked out, but rapid changes in pitch are much more noticeable.
Although at the moment the X1800 GTO isnâ€™t officially supported in CrossFire mode, ATI will be releasing a new driver allowing two cards to run in software CrossFire â€“ i.e. without the need for a master card. Preliminary results Iâ€™ve seen look promising, taking full advantage of RD580â€™s 32 lanes. which was a previous generation product.