This review is drawing near to its end. We have tested 27 graphics cards in more than 30 popular applications and have got quite a heap of information on our hands. The main message that can be extracted is rather simple: modern top-end graphics cards allow playing newest games with comfort at maximum possible graphics quality settings, but you can still enjoy the game on a $199 device if you drop just a couple of those settings down a little.
For you to see the overall picture better, we grouped the data into joint diagrams. Since the performance of many games is limited by the speed of the central processor in 1024x768 resolution, we only included 1280x1024 and 1600x1200 resolutions into these final diagrams, both in the “pure speed” mode and in the “eye candy” mode (4x anti-aliasing and the max possible anisotropic filtering).
Now let’s see which of the tested graphics cards is the best performer in its category, and which is the best buy. First go the devices with the AGP interface as they are still more widespread in market.
AGP Graphics Cards
It’s not really easy to find the winner among the three contenders, ATI RADEON X800 XT Platinum Edition, ATI RADEON X800 XT and NVIDIA GeForce 6800 Ultra.
The NVIDIA GeForce 6800 Ultra often surpasses the RADEON X800 XT/XT Platinum Edition in the “pure speed” mode, especially in games that don’t have complex math1ematical computations and in games that use the OpenGL API. This graphics card feels best of all in such games as Call of Duty and Doom 3 as well as in the popular flight simulators IL-2 and Lock On. It is somewhat worse in programs that make a wide use of complex pixel shaders, to which category Half-Life 2 and Far Cry belong. In such games the GeForce 6800 Ultra loses to its competitors as ATI’s cards work at higher frequencies and also perform more efficiently that complex math1ematics involved in shader-based special effects.
Mark, though, that the gap between the topmost solutions from ATI and NVIDIA isn’t dramatic and the GeForce 6800 Ultra can satisfy the needs of any user.
Shader Model 3.0, implemented in each GeForce 6 card, hasn’t yet become a weighty argument in their favor. So far only Far Cry features shaders of the third version, but it also supports Shader Model 2.0b supported by ATI’s RADEONs. On the other hand, many game developers are already adapting their programs for Shader Model 3.0, so the owner of a GeForce 6 may have a certain bonus in upcoming applications.
On the downside is the design of the GeForce 6800 Ultra: the reference card is rather noisy and requires a very-high-quality power supply. Some manufacturers solve the noise problem by mounting low-noise cooling systems of their own design on these cards.
The ATI RADEON X800 XT Platinum Edition is superior to the GeForce 6800 Ultra everywhere where high pixel shader performance is a must and inferior where complex geometry or shadows must be processed. OpenGL applications aren’t the RADEON’s ground, either. There seem to be bright perspectives before the RADEON X800 family since games with complex shaders are numerous already and their number is only going to increase in the future.
The RADEON X800 XT Platinum Edition is also perfect in modes with enabled full-screen anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering thanks to its efficient memory controller and HyperZ HD technology. You can see that the RADEON X800 Platinum Edition outperforms the GeForce 6800 Ultra in a majority applications in the “eye candy” mode, save for Doom 3 and a couple of other games.
The ATI RADEON X800 XT only differs from the Platinum Edition in slightly lower frequencies (500/1000MHz against 520/1120MHz). The card performs at the same level with the GeForce 6800 Ultra, but costs less. It makes it a more appealing purchase, of course, if you can find one in your local shop.
RADEON X800 graphics cards are small and don’t need two additional power connectors, but their standard cooling system isn’t very efficient, although practically noiseless. They do not support Shader Model 3.0, which is unimportant today, but may become a serious drawback in the future as there are more games that use shaders of that version.
Again, it’s hard to give recommendations about the best buy in this category. The RADEON X800 XT Platinum Edition and the RADEON X800 XT may be a little faster than the GeForce 6800 Ultra, but the latter still wins some games like Doom 3. So, it’s your choice, and it depends on your particular needs, while we can only offer you information about the performance of these cards in as many games as we can.