Performance: Mainstream Graphics Cards
ATI’s mainstream graphics cards of the Radeon X800 generation fail in 3DMark06, but the new Radeon X1600 XT with its TMU-to-pixel processor ratio of 1/3 looks quite competitive against the GeForce 6800 GS. The idea of ATI Technologies to increase the number of pixel processors and improve their performance finds approval in the new benchmark from Futuremark. Considering that 3DMark is always oriented at next-generation games, and we already can see the tendency to use more arithmetically complex pixel shaders in games, increasing the number of pixel processors seems to be the optimal strategy to build new GPUs today. Back to the results of the tests, the Radeon X800 XL managed to outperform the GeForce 6800 which was hamstringed by its low GPU and memory frequencies.
The GeForce 6800 looks poor in the SM2.0 graphical tests, but these tests become the winning ground for the GeForce 6800 GS that leaves the 16-pipelined Radeon X800 XL behind. The Radeon X1600 XT is nearly as fast as the Radeon X800 XL. It doesn’t have a very high fill rate and it doesn’t work fast in the framework of Shader Model 2.0, while complex version 3.0 shaders are missing in the first two graphics tests of 3DMark06.
The Radeon X800 cards have to leave the race as they don’t support SM3.0. The GeForce 6800 definitely plays in a lower league than the three remaining products (GeForce 6800 GS, GeForce 6800 GT and Radeon X1600) which struggle desperately to win this test. The Radeon X1600 XT comes out on top as it was specifically designed for pixel shader-heavy applications. It is followed quite closely by the GeForce 6800 GS, which scores a mere 38 points less. The GeForce 6800 GT is slower due to the low frequency of the GPU. After all, the NV40 chip will be 2 years old in the next April and the NV45 differs from it only in having a HSI bridge integrated into the die packaging.
Taken independently, the results of the first SM2.0 test look quite right: the GeForce 6800 GS and 6800 GT are in the lead, but the Radeon X800 XL closes the gap in higher resolutions due to the more efficient memory controller. The Radeon X1600 XT isn’t any slower than the Radeon X800 XL: its architecture may not be the most suitable for this particular test scene, but it does have high GPU and memory frequencies to make up for that. Lower in the standings table is the Radeon X800 GTO. The GeForce 6800 can’t pass the test in 1600x1200 resolution even with disabled FSAA – 128 megabytes of memory is insufficient for that.
Like their high-end mates, Nvidia’s mainstream graphics cards can’t pass the test in 1600x1200 resolution at the “eye candy” settings, and the GeForce 6800 even refuses to do so in 1024x768. Anyway, the GeForce 6800 GS is still in the lead in lower resolutions.