Introduction

The past couple months have been very exciting, entertaining, and interesting as far as consumer level computer graphics cards go. Everyone was blown away when NVIDIA essentially doubled performance of their previous generation in their new top of the line 6800 Ultra. Shortly thereafter, we had the pleasure of discovering that this generation of graphics cards would see two GPU makers on equal footing for the first time since hardware acceleration was introduced. Each IHV has strong points and weak points, but the overall picture is surprisingly balanced.

Ever since our initial X800 review went to press, we've been promising a look at NVIDIA's "6850", which actually turned out to be a 6800 Ultra Extreme. So, why did it take so long? NVIDIA's reference 6800 Ultra Extreme was essentially DOA: drivers wouldn't install on the card, though we could boot standard VGA. It's been a long road, but since then, we've gotten a hold of eVGA's 6800 Ultra Extreme Edition.

Though 6800 non-ultras have been in the Press' hands for a while, some might wonder why we haven't yet covered it. Our NVIDIA reference card wouldn't even boot, but luckily, LeadTek was gracious enough to lend us a 6800 card for the purposes of this review. We haven't had any problems with our vendor cards, and we don't think there's any reason to worry about NVIDIA cards because of this one issue. Nevertheless, it's still worth mentioning.

So, now we have 3 real flavors of NV40, plus one overclocked (less available) version, and 2 flavors of R420, plus one overclocked version (which is suppose to be as available as the XT, but we'll have to wait and see what happens there).

It's difficult to tell whether the sheer number of options available will be helpful to consumers, or just plain confusing. And pricing is still going to be a difficulty. The real factor that will determine whether or not to buy the card will be price/performance. Though prices right now may be highly dependant on availability, we'll review some price/performance numbers in our conclusion to see where things stand. Hopefully, this review will help to show the full picture of the AGP 8x playing field, and help take some of the pain out of the decision-making process.

But first, we need to take a look at the two cards with which we will be using.

The Cards
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  • gordon151 - Friday, July 09, 2004 - link

    [q]ATI Radeon X800 XT: $540
    ATI Radeon X800 XT Platinum Edition: $?[/q]

    The X800 XT == X800 XT PE with respect to your prices.
    Reply
  • deathwalker - Friday, July 09, 2004 - link

    The use of ATI catalyst 4.X drivers has proven to be a real thorn in the side of ATI card owners(in my opinion). I have a 9700Pro and the use of any catalyst driver above 3.9 results in a 3-5% performance hit regardless of the benchmark I use for measurement. I wonder if the resulting compatibility issues resolved in the 4.X series is worth the tradeoff in performance. ATI needs to remain focused on performance issues also in there driver releases. I have been a long time ATI fan (since the release of the 8500)..but..this article clearly indicates that Nvidia is in the process of or already has put a trump card on the table with the 6800 series of VGA cards that ATI needs to respond to. Reply
  • RyanVM - Friday, July 09, 2004 - link

    How did the X800 XT come out ahead of the XT-PE by 10fps in the Homeworld 2 16x12 4xAA/8xAF test? Reply
  • Warder45 - Friday, July 09, 2004 - link

    Derek, do you really think a fall refresh line is comeing this year? The spring line has barely shown up, let alone the low end ATI cards haven't really been introduced. Seems like that would be a big waste of money for ATI and Nvidia to release refreshes before the current line has market penetration. Reply
  • Slikkster - Friday, July 09, 2004 - link

    All I can say is that it's about time, Nvidia, that you've closed the gap on ATI. I'm looking forward to 2 6800 UE's SLI'd on a pci express board. heheh Reply
  • DerekWilson - Friday, July 09, 2004 - link

    sorry, to answer the resolution and connection questions:

    Viewsonic P95f+ using analog. When necessary (with the 6800 U and 6800 UE) we used a DVI to analog adapter.
    Reply
  • DerekWilson - Friday, July 09, 2004 - link

    Things would have looked different if we had gone with MSRP ... things will also look different in a couple months when the fall refresh line comes out.

    We didn't feel it was fair to use MSRP because people can't find these cards for MSRP right now. In a month or two, that may or may not be different. And in a month or two, we may take another look at performance and value.

    But, as we indicated in the article, the value graphs should really be more of a guide than a definition. If that makes any sense :-)
    Reply
  • at80eighty - Friday, July 09, 2004 - link

    gotta agree with Shinei, this bunch DEFINITELY makes me wanna shift from my trusty Ti4200 *sniff* : p ... and umm no, im no fanboy; was seriously considering the X800XT, but the tests make me think the 6800GT is worth my money...

    btw Derek...what monitor + connection were you using for these tests?

    /also - the value graphs: - great idea!...something i've come to expect from you guys now : P Keep up the good work!

    Reply
  • trexpesto - Friday, July 09, 2004 - link

    whoops thought I was just logging in - um - nice article.

    I've seen newegg testing the waters with 9800 Pro 256MB for $223.00. Once I could believe it was a mistake, twice tho seems like real sampling to see when they should be lowering the price. There's just so many models out there, given a 10$ spacing, it's like prices are shored up from the bottom. Anyways, picked one up, but I let them sweat for a half hour first. ;)

    Reply
  • Pumpkinierre - Friday, July 09, 2004 - link

    In homeworld2 test the X800XT 1t 1600x1200 goes up in speed when you switch on 4xAA and 8xAF and beats the PE!
    Reply

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