Two products belong to this class:
- GeForce 6600 GT
- RADEON X700 PRO
We should also add a third product to this category – the newly announced ATI RADEON X800 GT graphics card. ATI’s new card has 8 pixel pipelines and 6 vertex processors and a 256-bit memory bus. This bus is wider than those employed in the RADEON X700 PRO and GeForce 6600 GT and should ensure the new product an advantage in high resolutions and/or with enabled full-screen antialiasing. The memory amount may vary from 128 to 512MB; the 256MB version will probably become the most common.
The market future of the RADEON X700 PRO thus becomes rather vague after the release of the RADEON X800 GT as the new solution has a potentially higher performance but fits into the same price category as the older one. The RADEON X700 PRO will probably get much cheaper soon or will just disappear from shops altogether. Anyway, the GeForce 6600 GT has got a serious opponent in its price niche.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t get a sample of the RADEON X800 GT in time for this roundup and if we compare the remaining two products, the GeForce 6600 GT is most of the time faster than the RADEON X700 PRO. This is easily explained by the difference in their clock rates: 500/1000MHz against 425/864MHz. (The RADEON X700 XT model was overall comparable to the GeForce 6600 GT, but that model remained a rare product because its production was stopped very soon.) The RADEON X700 PRO gets closer to the GeForce 6600 GT in FSAA + anisotropic filtering modes, but not to become a real threat to it. Note also that graphics cards of that class find the “eye candy” modes difficult and their speed is often below playable in 1600x1200 (we publish tests results for such resolutions mostly for the sake of comparison).
Of course, it doesn’t make much sense to buy a RADEON X700 PRO now that the RADEON X800 GT has appeared in the market. If we compare it only with the GeForce 6600 GT, NVIDIA’s solution is certainly preferable. So, while the RADEON X800 GT is unavailable, the GeForce 6600 GT is the best choice.