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More on the Expansion of ATI’s Graphics Products Range

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As these tables show, RADEON X800 XT Platinum Edition (PE), X800 PRO and X800 SE, based on R420 and R423 cores, are going to sink into oblivion. The phantom-like RV410-based RADEON X700 XT is going the same destination, too. They are to be replaced, or are being replaced already, with more progressive GPUs on R480/R481 cores: RADEON X850 XT PE, X850 XT, X850 PRO, X800 XL and X800. At comparable prices, the newcomers have better technical characteristics than R420/R423 and RV410-based solutions. Since the latest update of the product range AGP 8x cards have been added to the roadmap – in December 2004 ATI Technologies had ignored AGP systems.

We have already posted on our site a review of the R480 core and the top-end graphics card based on it, the RADEON X850 XT Platinum Edition in our article called ATI RADEON X850 Platinum Edition: Good Things Go Better. Today we’re going to have a look at a more affordable product, the R430 core. This chip, like all new silicon from the Canadians, natively supports PCI Express, so it will only support AGP systems via the ATI Rialto converter, but it is not actually the most interesting fact. Although the R430 is architecturally nearly identical to the R423, it is manufactured with 0.11-micron tech process and is in fact the first high-performance 16-pipelined GPU to use such a thin manufacturing technology. Here, however, low-k dielectric material is not employed, and this probably explains the rather low default frequency the new GPU. On the other hand, the thin tech process and the low clock rate should lead to low power consumption, i.e. to simpler and smaller graphics cards with simple and quiet cooling systems and without additional power connectors.

The R480 chip hardly differs from the R423, but is made with 0.13-micron low-k tech process and features a better frequency potential. This should add popularity to products of this class from ATI’s partners. This again confirms the point that ATI’s product strategy implies releasing products specifically for narrow market strata.

GeForce 6800 GT Meets a Worthy Rival

Until the release of the R430 core and the R430-based RADEON X800 XL graphics card there had been a most curious situation in the market of top-end graphics hardware: while the RADEON X800 XT PE was very successfully competing with the GeForce 6800 Ultra, the GeForce 6800 GT was a supreme ruler a step lower. It had been supposed to meet some competition from the RADEON X800 PRO, but this latter used to be slower in a number of games and applications, having only 12 pixel pipelines against the GeForce 6800 GT’s 16 pipelines. Thus, NVIDIA was at an advantage, as it could offer an overall faster 16-pipelined graphics card for about the same money as the RADEON X800 PRO.

The release of the RADEON X800 XL should change this situation: the recommended price of this card is $299, and its technical characteristics promise performance comparable to that of the GeForce 6800 GT or even better. The new graphics card from ATI Technologies is a direct rival to the above-mentioned product from NVIDIA in terms of technical characteristics, but costs $100 less.

We shouldn’t also forget that all modern graphics cards from ATI have a highly efficient graphics memory subsystem and thus feel much more confident with enabled full-screen antialiasing and anisotropic filtering than NVIDIA’s alternatives. We’ll learn shortly how better the RADEON X800 XL is in such hard modes in contrast to the GeForce 6800 GT. Now it’s time to take a closer look at the new product from ATI and discover the advantages brought by the 0.11-micron tech process.

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