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Although top-end graphics cards make up but a very small percentage in the total sales volume, they do play an important role. They can be regarded as symbols of technological superiority of the developing companies who can create such advanced solutions with unmatched qualities. It is not strange then that this market sector is the field of never-ending and fierce competition between ATI Technologies and NVIDIA Corporation which results in new products that push the 3D graphics quality bar ever higher and do not let the progress in the 3D hardware field stop or even slow down.

We think it won’t be an exaggeration if we called this year a year of NVIDIA. The company not only created the fastest GeForce 7800 GTX which ruled solely in the consumer 3D graphics realm for almost a quarter of a year, but also managed to ensure mass shipments of such graphics cards. A little later NVIDIA reinforced its standing in the top-end sector by complementing the G70-based product line with the very successful GeForce 7800 GT model.

The total power of the G70’s 24 pixel processors seemed unbeatable, but ATI Technologies was hastily preparing its R520 chip to change the unfavorable situation. After a few redesigns the new GPU was able to work at an extremely high frequency of 625MHz. On October 5, 2005, ATI made its reply to NVIDIA by announcing a whole series of new-generation graphics processors under the common name RADEON X1000. Two graphics cards, RADEON X1800 XL and RADEON X1800 XT 512MB, were introduced that were based on the senior GPU model codenamed R520 (for details see our article called ATI RADEON X1800 XT and XL Performance: Crushing NVIDIA's 7800?).

The “XT”-marked card seemed a real monster. As if it was not enough to clock its GPU at 625MHz, the card had 512 megabytes of onboard memory clocked at an unprecedented frequency of 750 (1500) MHz. Although the R520 had fewer pixel processors than the G70 (16 against 24), its ultrahigh frequencies and new architecture brought the RADEON X1800 XT 512MB a victory over the NVIDIA GeForce 7800 GTX. It was not a crushing or decisive victory, yet the RADEON X1800 XT 512MB could now deservedly wear the crown of King of 3D, while NVIDIA lost its technological superiority.

NVIDIA’s response was not to be long waited for, however. Today, the company adds a new model to its GeForce 7800 GTX series. It is GeForce 7800 GTX 512, with 512 megabytes of graphics memory, 550MHz GPU frequency and 850 (1700) MHz memory frequency. The new product’s recommended price is $649. Its main purpose is to prove NVIDIA’s technological leadership rather than to earn money for the company.

But does the new card fulfill its purpose? You will have our answer at the end of the review when we will sum up the results of the gaming tests. Right now let’s examine the new device more closely.

 
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