On its launch ATIâ€™s X800 XL was pitched by the Canadian company as its answer to nVidiaâ€™s GeForce 6800 GT. And just as the 6800 GT was for nVidia, the XL has proven to be a great success for ATI. Itâ€™s not hard to see why. With a full 16-pipeline architecture and 256-bit memory interface it offered all the features and most of the performance of its higher end siblings, but crucially, without the cost.
The XL took some time to appear after the launch of the X800 XT but the wait paid dividends for ATI as it took the time to move to a smaller 0.11 Micron manufacturing process. This was a straight optical shrink of the 0.13 Micron process without any added complexity, enabling ATI to simply get more chips from its wafers without much effort. The result? Reduced costs. One significant difference with the XL, was that it didnâ€™t employ the â€˜low-kâ€™ dielectric materials used to produce the higher clocked X800 XT on a 0.13 micron process. This was because at the lower clock speeds there was no need for the reduced crosstalk that â€˜low-kâ€™ delivers and to have that as well would have negated the costs savings that moving to a 0.11 micron brings.
The upshot of all this is that thanks to it being relatively inexpensive ATI has been able to release the XL at a far lower price than the 6800 GT it was going up against. Nearly six months later and thatâ€™s still very much the case. If youâ€™re in the market for a graphics card then for price of the average X800 XL the best youâ€™ll get from nVidia is a GeForce 6800 vanilla. Unlike the 6800 GT and the X800 XT this is â€˜onlyâ€™ a 12 pipeline graphics card, though it does feature a 256-bit memory interface.