The first SM3.0 graphical test is the most difficult of all. Besides version 3.0 shaders, it uses HDR, so the Radeon X1600 XT gets a chance to show its talent and it does so in all the resolutions. However, in 1600x1200 resolution the GeForce 6800 GS overtakes the Radeon X1600 XT – the difference of 0.1fps is within the measurement accuracy range. This is curious, but bears no harm to the reputation of the Radeon X1600 XT in our eyes because this graphics card is not meant for high resolutions and the GeForce 6800 GS too, for that matter. Don’t forget we’re talking about tomorrow’s games where both these cards will most likely deliver a more or less acceptable performance in low resolutions only.
In the last graphical test of 3DMark06 the main opponents in the mainstream sector perform in a similar way in low resolutions, but the GeForce 6800 GS breaks away from the Radeon X1600 XT starting from 1280x1024. And we have to repeat it once again: high resolutions will be unavailable in tomorrow’s games for owners of today’s mainstream graphics cards.
So, the mainstream sector doesn’t have an all-around leader as the top-end sector has. The GeForce 7800 GTX 512 is obviously the best among highest-performing solutions, but with mainstream products it all depends on the type and complexity of shaders employed. The SM2.0 tests prefer the GeForce 6800 GS almost always, even when FSAA is in use, while the more difficult SM3.0/HDR tests run generally faster on the Radeon X1600 XT, the embodiment of the concept “max performance at executing math1ematics-heavy pixel shaders”. In other words, the GeForce 6800 GS is the best choice for today’s games in which Shader Model 3.0, not to mention HDR, are but seldom employed, while the Radeon X1600 XT is somewhat more future-proof.