ATI's 0.11 Micron Chip on the Run: ATI RADEON X800 XL Review

Late last year ATI Technologies introduced a breed of RADEON X8 graphics processors designed to add performance and lower the costs of manufacturing. Virtually all of the introduced processors managed to achieve their goals on the level of ATI and now they start to emerge in retail. Today we take a look at ATI's RADEON X800 XL and estimate its performance in popular games of today.

by Alexey Stepin
03/21/2005 | 09:14 AM

If you’re watching closely what’s happening in the market of graphics processors and technologies, you should have already become acquainted with the product marketing strategy of the Canadian-based ATI Technologies. They create a new graphics processor and first release several graphics cards based on this GPU for several sectors of the market.

Then they issue an independent GPU for each sector. This was the case with the R300 processor which was at first used in rather inexpensive RADEON 9500 and 9500 PRO cards as well as in high-performance RADEON 9700 and 9700 PRO.

Later, however, they began to use the 4-pipelined RV350/R360 chip for mainstream and the R350/360 chip for top-end solutions. Besides that, ATI is known to introduce various innovations in junior GPU models first to make sure that the innovation does bring a positive effect and to use it then in senior GPUs.

The last splitting of ATI’s line of graphics cards occurred at the announcement of the RADEON X850 GPU (R480). There was another announcement then – the introduction of the R430 chip which retained the official name of RADEON X800.

According to the company’s new plans, the RADEON X850 chip will be used in graphics cards of ultra high-end and high-end classes, while the performance-mainstream niche (where products are priced from $200 to $350) will get the new RADEON X800 (the RADEON X700 series moving down to the low-end sector).

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.

ATI RADEON X800 XL: Closer Look

The card we received for our tests was an engineering sample, so there’s no talking about accessories: we’ve got a card in an antistatic bag. Here it is:

 

The PCB of this card is a perfect replica of the RADEON X850 XT Platinum Edition (see our article called ATI RADEON X850 Platinum Edition: Good Things Go Better for details). You can count the differences in the design of these two cards by the fingers of one hand: the RADEON X800 XL has one D-Sub and one DVI-I output rather than two DVI-I connectors as the RADEON X850 XT PE has. Then, the X800 XL doesn’t have an additional power connector and a Rage Theater chip that provides the VIVO functionality. So, the use of 0.11-micron tech process made it possible for ATI to create a relatively inexpensive PCI Express card that doesn’t require external power and feeds only on the 75 watts catered by the PCI Express slot. We also see the same small and flat cooler here as on the RADEON X800 XT Platinum Edition – it was previously criticized for low efficiency (for more details see our article called ATI RADEON X800: R420 Totally Exposed).

Here, however, there’s no ground for criticism since this graphics card dissipates less heat than the RADEON X800 XT Platinum Edition, so this simple and compact cooling system should be quite sufficient. Moreover, unlike the cooler from the GeForce 6800 GT, ATI’s reference cooler is almost perfectly silent most of the time due to its low-speed 70mm fan. The memory chips are not cooled, though. Among top-end graphics cards from ATI it is only the RADEON X850 XT and XT Platinum Edition that cool their memory. The GDDR3 chips we see here come from Samsung and have an access time of 2.0 nanoseconds, i.e. they are rated for 500 (1000DDR) MHz frequency. This is exactly the frequency the memory of this card is actually clocked at.

The most interesting thing – the die of the ATI R430 graphics processor – is hidden under the cooler. We dismounted it to make the next snapshot:

The new core looks different from the older one: it’s smaller thanks to the thinner tech process and its total area has dwindled, and there has appeared the PCI Express logo on the chip. The surface of the die is mirror-like rather than matte as before. Judging by the marking, this sample of the R430 was made on the 46-th week (the middle of November) of the last year. In full accordance with its specification, the RADEON X800 XL GPU works at 400MHz frequency.

Noise, Overclocking, 2D Quality

Cooling systems ATI Technologies deploys on its products are deservedly considered among the quietest, although maybe not among the most efficient ones. The RADEON X800 XL comes with such a cooler, and it is really very quiet. In fact you could only hear a soft whisper of the fan during the first few seconds on turning the computer on. After that the fan would reduce its speed and increase it only when the GPU temperature was above some certain threshold value. Unfortunately, the fan on our sample of the card produced a quiet but quite audible clicking, quite untypical for reference coolers from ATI. We must have had a defective cooler, as we hadn’t heard this sound before with any of RADEON X800-based cards we’d tested in our labs.

The supposition about the low overclockability of the new core due to the lack of low-k technology came true as the GPU could only speed up to 445MHz. At 450MHz GPU, the image in 3DMark would be all artifacts. The maximum memory frequency was 550 (1100DDR) MHz – quite satisfactory for 2.0ns chips.

The quality of 2D image as outputted by this card was beyond criticism: like the overwhelming majority of modern graphics cards, the RADEON X800 XL produced a sharp picture in all resolutions, up to 1800x1440@75Hz.

OVERDRIVE 3: Feature-Rich, but Lacking Reliability

At one time with the announcement of the new graphics processors ATI unveiled the new version of its dynamic overclocking technology called OVERDRIVE 3, which can now vary the frequency of the memory as well as of the GPU. Besides that, the user can now manually adjust the frequencies, and there’s also an auto-overclock feature similar to the one implemented in NVIDIA’s ForceWare.

Unfortunately, not all cards in ATI’s GPUs support OVERDRIVE. At least, this technology didn’t work with our sample of the RADEON X800 XL and Catalyst 5.2 – the appropriate tab was simply missing in the Catalyst Control Center. We are not sure about the reason –some necessary logics was perhaps missing on the card, or its BIOS didn’t support OVERDRIVE, or maybe the support of OVERDRIVE for the RADEON X800 XL is disabled in the current version of the Catalyst driver.

The auto-overclock feature worked with the RADEON X850 XT Platinum Edition, but selected so high clock rated that the card would show artifacts even in 2D modes. When this feature was turned on with the PowerColor X850 XT, the monitor would shut down and the system would hang up. Alas, ATI’s auto-overclock feature is yet far from perfect and is subject to blame.

Testbed and Methods

We performed our tests on a testbed configured like follows:

Since a GeForce 6800 for PCI Express was not available, we tested it on another testbed, which is marked with an asterisk (*) in the diagrams:

Software:

For the comparison’s sake we included the following cards into this review:

PCI Express hardware

AGP hardware

The Catalyst A.I. option was set to “Standard”, and the Mipmap Detail Level option to “Quality”. We also enabled the ForceWare optimizations save for the Anisotropic mip filter optimization. The image settings were set to the Quality mode. We disabled VSync in the drivers for all the participating cards.

We turned on full-screen antialiasing and anisotropic filtering from the game’s own menu. Otherwise we forced the necessary mode from the driver. The maximum graphics quality settings were selected in each game, the same for graphics cards on ATI’s and NVIDIA’s GPUs. We used the GeForce 6600 GT SLI configuration in the Multi-GPU Rendering mode which enables the multi-GPU mode in games for which this mode is not officially supported by ForceWare.

We reshuffled our games and benchmarks for this test session, throwing away old titles and adding new ones:

First Person 3D Shooters:

Third Person 3D Shooters:

Simulators:

Strategies:

Semi-Synthetic Benchmarks:

Synthetic Benchmarks:

Performance in First Person 3D Shooters

Doom III

The ATI RADEON X800 XL is no match for the GeForce 6800 and 6800 GT in Doom III, but that’s normal. We know that NVIDIA’s GeForce6 cards feel better in this game than ATI’s products due to their architectural specifics and to the more perfect OpenGL driver.

Meanwhile, there’s a big performance gap between the RADEON X800 XT and the RADEON X800 XL: the speed in the “pure speed” mode depends mostly on the frequency of the GPU, and it is 100MHz lower with the XL model. The gap amounts to 15% in 1600x1200.

In the “eye candy” mode, i.e. with enabled full-screen antialiasing and anisotropic filtering, the performance of the graphics memory subsystem comes to the fore. The RADEON X800 XT and X800 XL are peers in the respect since they both clock their memory at 500 (1000DDR) MHz. The gap between the RADEON X800 XT and the X800 XL is no more than 10% here.

The GPU load is smaller on the d3dm4 map as there are no monsters on it. That’s why there’s a smaller difference between the two ATI RADEONs than in the previous case. The NVIDIA GeForce 6800 and 6800 GT are still beyond the RADEONs’ reach.

The RADEON X800 XL is the same 10% behind its senior mate in the “eye candy” mode. The GeForce 6800 GT is still superior in all the modes and resolutions, but the GeForce 6800 is behind the RADEON X800 XL.

Unreal Tournament 2004

The new graphics card performs excellently in Unreal Tournament 2004, although is behind the RADEON X800 XT – both are considerably faster than the GeForce 6800 GT. The problem with the current (66.93) version of ForceWare on the PCI Express platform is that the speed ceiling is set much lower for NVIDIA’s cards than for ATI’s. We should also note the fact that the GeForce 6800 boasts a higher performance on the VIA K8T800 PRO platform than its ATI rivals and its senior, the 6800 GT model, on the NVIDIA nForce4 SLI platform with the same processor.

There’s a smaller gap between the RADEON X800 XT and XL in the “eye candy” mode. Why? Our demo record on this level is full of panoramic views of the battlefield, so the texture load is high. The memory of both RADEONs X800 works at the same frequency, so there’s a negligible difference between these two solutions here.

It’s generally the same on the Metallurgy level: the speed of the RADEON X800 XL nearly equals that of the RADEON X700 XT, save for 1600x1200 resolution where the latter is impeded by its 128-bit memory bus.

Like on the Torlan map, there’s a minimal or no difference at all between the RADEON X800 XL and X800 XT in the “eye candy” mode. The GeForce 6800 GT behaves more correctly on this level and delivers the speed of the RADEON X800 XL.

The Chronicles of Riddick

Computer games based on movies are not generally very successful, but The Chronicles of Riddick suddenly break this rule. The game was originally released for Microsoft’s Xbox, but the PC version came out free from the traditional drawbacks of console projects. The Chronicles of Riddick has high-detail textures, and its lighting and geometry are top-notch, just like the whole aura of the game.

 

Outwardly similar to Doom 3, this game runs on its own Starbreeze Engine and uses OpenGL. Graphics cards with NVIDIA’s GeForce6 (NV4x) processors can enable soft stencil shadows, but this beauty comes at a significant performance hit, so we gave this mode up for benchmarking purposes.

The game can make good use of the peculiarities of NVIDIA’s graphics architecture with respect to rendering shadows, so the GeForce 6x00 card have higher speeds here than their counterparts from the ATI camp. The gap is dwindling in higher resolutions, but not to vanish completely. Note also that NVIDIA’s SLI technology works smoothly with The Chronicles and allow the two GeForce 6600 GT cards to deliver the performance of a single GeForce 6800 GT.

The GeForce 6800 GT is clearly superior even in the “eye candy” mode – it is 20% ahead of the RADEON X800 XT in 1600x1200! The RADEON X800 XL is 5% further behind the X800 XT. The SLI configuration of two GeForce 6600 cards doesn’t look so advantageous as in the “pure speed” mode, evidently feeling the lack of the graphics memory.

Far Cry

Starting from 1280x1024 resolution, the RADEON X800 XL shows its best, being only 1fps slower than the RADEON X800 XT. The gap is wider, but not more than 5fps, in 1600x1200. Both cards from ATI are far ahead of the GeForce 6800 and 6800 GT in high resolutions.

The new card looks excellent in the “eye candy” mode, too, although it is only 5fps faster than the GeForce 6800 GT, absolute speeds being about 50-75fps. The NVIDIA GeForce 6800 can’t fight here due to its relatively slow memory.

The Research map doesn’t have open areas – the action goes on indoors, in a cave lit by numerous light sources that require huge computational capacities. In spite of 100MHz of difference in the GPU frequency, the RADEON X800 XL isn’t far behind its senior mate. The GeForce 6800 and 6800 GT are slower than the ATI RADEON X800 cards, although they use the Shader Model 3.0 rendering path. In 1600x1200 they are very close to the RADEON X800 XL, though.

The RADEON X800 XL is almost abreast with the GeForce 6800 GT in the “eye candy” mode and is far ahead of the GeForce 6800, its neighbour in the price niche. Seems like the GeForce 6800 GT has really acquired a worthy rival.

Painkiller: Battle out of Hell

The sequel to Painkiller differs but slightly from the original game, yet it features new special effects, new maps and monsters. The benchmark mode has been changed, too. There are now monsters present in the test scene which brings it closer to the real game process.

Cards from ATI and NVIDIA run this game at the same speed in low resolutions, being limited by the central processor of the system. But in 1280x1024 we can already see that the RADEON X800 XL/XT cards are faster than the GeForce 6800 GT, even though the gamer will see no difference at frame rates above 100fps. There’s practically no gap between the RADEON X800 XL and RADEON X800 XT.

GPU frequency seems to be of much value in this game: the high-frequency GeForce 6600 GT and RADEON X700 XT GPUs are sometimes faster than the GeForce 6800/6800 GT, especially in high resolutions. NVIDIA’s multi-GPU technology works incorrectly in this game – SLI leads to a performance hit.

The RADEON X800 XL boasts an even bigger advantage over the GeForce 6800 GT in the “eye candy” mode – it’s more than 40% in 1600x1200 resolution! In this resolution we also see that the X800 XL is slower than the X800 XT, while the GeForce 6600 GT SLI suddenly speeds up. We checked the latter fact out, but couldn’t find an explanation. It’s really a mystery why SLI technology decided to shows itself in Painkiller: Battle out of Hell in a single resolution and only with enabled full-screen antialiasing and anisotropic filtering.

Half-Life 2

The speed on the Canals maps of Half-Life 2 directly depends on the pixel shader performance of the graphics card, so it’s no wonder that the ATI RADEON X800 XT and XL win here. The difference between the two is negligible, not more than 5%.

The RADEON X800 XL is still excellent in the “eye candy” mode, delivering the performance of the GeForce 6800 GT in the hardest 1600x1200 resolution – but the RADEON delivers it without much noise and heat!

The speed of the game mostly depends on the CPU rather than graphics card performance on the d3_c17_12 map, but the RADEON X800 XL shows its best all the same, being second to the RADEON X800 XT only.

As might have been expected, the RADEON X800 XL feels at ease in the “eye candy” mode, even in highest resolutions. The gap between the new solution from ATI and the GeForce 6800 GT diminishes in high display modes, but the RADEON is still slightly ahead.

Performance in Third Person 3D Shooters

Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow

Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow is a pixel-shader-heavy game, so we might have predicted beforehand that the RADEON team would win. What’s more curious is the very small gap between the RADEON X800 XL and X800 XT – it’s only 5% in the highest resolution.

Prince of Persia: Warrior Within

The graphics of the new Prince of Persia are a real treat to your eyes. The game uses pixel shaders to create a number of special effects like motion blur, soft lighting etc. The textures have become more detailed, too. We test the cards in this game manually, with the FRAPS utility, so the results should be regarded as approximations.

At first the ATI RADEON X800 XL is ahead of the GeForce 6800, but behind the GeForce 6800 GT. However, as soon as 1280x1024 resolution this RADEON catches up with the 6800 GT. Unfortunately, the new Prince of Persia doesn’t correctly support full-screen antialiasing: if you enable it, some special effects just don’t work, greatly spoiling the impression from the game.

Performance in Simulators

IL-2 Sturmovik: Aces in the Sky

IL-2 isn’t a game the RADEON X800 XL can show its best qualities in. It uses the OpenGL API and has an evident liking towards NVIDIA’s cards. The GeForce 6800 GT is as much as 40% ahead in the highest resolution, and the SLI configuration of two GeForce 6600 GT is 50% ahead. The latter produces image artefacts, though, so you’ll hardly want to play it.

The performance gap between the GeForce 6800 GT and the RADEON X800 XL is bigger in the “eye candy” mode, although ATI cards are generally better at doing full-screen antialiasing and aniso-filtering.

Lock On: Modern Air Combat

Another flight sim, Lock On, also favors NVIDIA’s cards. The GeForce 6800 GT is about 20% faster than the RADEON X800 XL and 10% faster than the RADEON X800 XT.

There’s a negligible difference between the RADEON X800 XT and X800 XL since their memories work at the same frequency. They are both 10% slower than the GeForce 6800 GT and yield a speed similar to the GeForce 6600 GT. These results are not very accurate, though, because we benchmark this game manually.

Colin McRae Rally 05

The new version of the popular rally simulator Colin McRae Rally has better special effects, higher-resolution textures and car models, and features post-processing for more realism. The game doesn’t come with an integrated benchmark, so we again had to use FRAPS.

Colin McRae Rally05 has more complex pixel shaders, so we shouldn’t be surprised at the victory of the R4xx architecture. The RADEON X800 XL is head above the GeForce 6800 and 6800 GT in this game, especially in low resolutions.

The newly-made rival of the GeForce 6800 GT performs excellently in the “eye candy” mode, too, outperforming the NVIDIA card by 15% in 1600x1200 resolution. The gap is even wider in lower resolutions.

Performance in Strategies

Warhammer 40.000: Dawn of War

The RADEON X800 XL shows teeth to the GeForce 6800 GT in this game, too. They are roughly equal, but the RADEON is about 10% faster in 1600x1200. The RADEON X800 XT is the same 10% faster than the new R430-based RADEON.

The “eye candy” mode produces rather weird results: ATI’s RADEON X800 cards are usually faster with enabled full-screen antialiasing and anisotropic filtering than their GeForce6 counterparts due to their more efficient memory subsystem, but this time the GeForce 6800 GT wins all the resolutions.

Perimeter

To our surprise, the RADEON X800 XL isn’t very successful in Perimeter, although ATI’s RADEON X800 cards usually win this test through their high pixel shader performance. The more expensive RADEON X800 XT is the only competitor to the GeForce 6800 GT, while the RADEON X800 XL beats the GeForce 6800.

Strangely enough, nothing changed when we enabled full-screen antialiasing and anisotropic filtering. The GeForce 6800 GT is among the leaders still. We rechecked these results, but NVIDIA’s card was always the winner of this test.

Performance in Semi-Synthetic Benchmarks

Final Fantasy XI Official Benchmark 3

We have the same problem with the PCI Express platform as in Unreal Tournament 2004 and Half-Life 2: all NVIDIA cards, except the GeForce 6800 AGP, have a depressingly low speed. The ATI cards perform well, and the RADEON X800 XL is less than 200 points behind the top model. The gap between the X800 XL and the GeForce 6800 isn’t too big, though.

Aquamark3

Aquamark3 isn’t very complex as concerns pixel shaders, but is hard from the geometrical point of view. The scenes of this test have a high overdraw coefficient. The RADEON X800 XL is, however, good here, ahead of the GeForce 6800 and 6800 GT, although not more than 10%. The GeForce 6600 GT SLI configuration wins here.

The new card from ATI Technologies is less successful with enabled FSAA and aniso-filtering, but it is less than 10% slower than the GeForce 6800 GT.

Performance in Synthetic Benchmarks

Futuremark 3DMark03

The RADEON X800 XL is 868 points behind the GeForce 6800 GT in the overall score, but that’s not too much. Let’s see where this result comes from.

NVIDIA’s cards quite expectedly win the first test – it is free from pixel shaders and uses only DirectX 7 functions. The GeForce 6800 GT is 10-15% percent faster than the RADEON X800 XL.

With enabled full-screen antialiasing and aniso-filtering the RADEON X800 XL overtakes the GeForce 6800 GT.

The second test (and the third one, too) prefers NVIDIA’s cards: the GeForce 6800 GT goes neck and neck with the RADEON X800 XT, the RADEON X800 XL following them about 10% behind.

The RADEON X800 XT and XL have nearly the same frame rates in the “eye candy” mode, but they are both find themselves behind the GeForce 6800 GT. The more advanced memory controller of ATI’s cards helps to improve the situation in higher resolutions.

The overall situation in the third test is like in the second one: the RADEON X800 XT contends with the GeForce 6800 GT, and the RADEON X800 XL being 7-10% behind them. The absolute leader is the GeForce 6600 GT SLI.

Again it’s the same as in the second test with enabled full-screen antialiasing and aniso-filtering.

The fourth test abounds in complex pixel shaders, and the RADEON X800 XL shows its best here, outperforming all GeForces, save for the SLI configuration of two GeForce 6600 GT an the RADEON X800 XT whose GPU works at a higher frequency.

The SLI configuration feels the lack of the graphics memory in the “eye candy” mode, and the RADEON X800 XL is faster than it in 1280x1024 already. The new RADEON is only slower than the senior RADEON here. Overall, the total score of the RADEON X800 XL looks true to life: cards with the NV4x architecture work better in three tests out of four.

Futuremark 3DMark05

The new 3DMark is somewhat better balanced than the older one. It makes a wider use of the capabilities of DirectX 9.0c, including Shader Model 2.0b and 3.0. The RADEON X800 XL scores over 5,000 points here, which is very impressive for a $299 device.

ATI has turned out a well-made product: the RADEON X800 XL is successfully competing even with the SLI configuration of two GeForce 6600 GT cards, not to mention the slower solutions.

The new product looks even better in the “eye-candy” mode where it is only second to the more expensive RADEON X800 XT.

The second test is more favourable towards NVIDIA’s cards, but the RADEON X800 XL is anyway no worse than the GeForce 6800 GT here. The GeForce 6600 GT SLI wins this test, though.

The highly efficient graphics memory subsystem helps ATI’s cards to win the “eye candy” mode of the second test.

The third test is the most sophisticated one, with long and complex pixel shaders. The RADEON X800 XL challenges the GeForce 6800 GT here, although the latter works in the Shader Model 3.0 mode. The two GPUs clocked at 500MHz help the GeForce 6600 GT SLI configuration make it to the top place.

The new RADEON is at any rate no worse than the GeForce 6800 GT in the “eye candy” mode. That’s a good result, considering that it comes at a low level of noise and heat. The new version of 3DMark extensively uses DirectX 9.0 functions, particularly complex pixel shaders. That’s why the RADEON X800 XL delivers a highly satisfactory performance in this benchmark overall.

Conclusion

Having benchmarked the RADEON X800 XL, we have to acknowledge that ATI has managed to make a graphics card that offers you the performance of the GeForce 6800 GT, but is smaller, quieter and cooler, requires no additional power, and costs $100 less!

If we compared the ATI RADEON X800 XL to the NVIDIA GeForce 6800 GT, it would be like with the RADEON X800 XT vs. GeForce 6800 Ultra. In other words, the RADEON X800 XL shows its best when processing complex pixel shaders and doing full-screen antialiasing and aniso-filtering whereas the GeForce 6800 GT shows an excellent speed in games that use the OpenGL API and stencil shadows. So, it seems like the choice depends only on your personal taste and needs, but the price factor here is not to be underestimated.

The recommended price of the RADEON X800 XL is $299, which is exactly $100 less than the recommended price of the GeForce 6800 GT – but the performance of the two is overall similar! Moreover, the cheaper product from ATI has a higher speed across a number of applications, which adds it even more appeal. This should ensure a high demand on the RADEON X800 XL – we recommend it to any user who’s going to spend about $300-350 to get a highest performance in modern computer games.

The RADEON X800 XL is also available for the AGP bus where it will also compete with the GeForce 6800 and 6800 GT. Remember, though, that the recommended price of the RADEON X800 XL AGP 8x is $349.

The RADEON X800 in its turn is going to become a hideous foe to the GeForce 6600 GT AGP. At the same price of $199, the ATI card boasts much better characteristics. As you know from our news article, the release of ATI’s new products for the AGP platform is going to increase the company’s sales in this sector due to their excellent performance and competitive pricing.

Overclockers, on the other hand, are unlikely to be seriously excited about the new cards as the use of the 0.11-micron process without low-k negatively affected the overclockability of the R430 chip. In all probability, RADEON X800 XL and X800 GPUs won’t generally overclock above 440-450MHz. Even the special RADEON X800 XL from PowerColor – with a more efficient cooler and an additional power connector – was only stable at 435MHz at best (a kind of announcement – we promise to review this very curious device in one of our upcoming reports).

Highs:

Lows: