Price Guides, February 2005: Video Cardsby Kristopher Kubicki on February 19, 2005 12:05 AM EST
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PCIe High End RangeAs promised, ATI's X800, X850XT and X800XL are here, albeit a little later than we had all expected. Hopefully, you have had the opportunity to read our introduction of the X800/X850 back in December as well as the X800XL follow up a few weeks later. The X800XL caught our interest as one of the strong price/performance cards, given its $299 estimated MSRP. Unfortunately, instead of a $299 GeForce 6800GT competitor, we have a $369 GeForce 6800GT competitor instead. Granted, almost everywhere we look, the Radeon X800XL [RTPE: Radeon X800XL] is very competitive with the GeForce 6800GT [RTPE: GeForce 6800GT]; and that's based on the fact that you can find the PCIe version of the 6800GT. For months, system builders were given priority from NVIDIA channel distributors over retail vendors, and we are just starting to see consistent availability now.
Prices are falling rapidly on the X800XL, and we will probably have a better feel for the market in the next couple of weeks. If the card stabilizes just under the GeForce 6800GT, we would be crushed, but at the rate that prices are dropping, it might do much better than that.
Even with the fact in mind that prices are still falling, the X800XL claims our top pick for this week's high end purchase. The Sapphire Radeon X800XL [RTPE: 100105] and the PowerColor X800XL [RTPE: R43C-TVD3D] are within a few dollars of each other, and you should be very pleased with either one of them.
Crossing the threshold from High End to Insanity, the X850XT began showing up at select merchants about two weeks ago. The best available pricing still puts the card in the mid $500 range, which is a ridiculous amount of money to spend on a video card.
You'll notice that we deliberately did not weigh SLI very high in this week's high end pick. With issues on nForce4 starting to surface, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense right now to throw all of your eggs into the SLI basket. Tumwater SLI support seems fine - but if you are an enthusiast willing to spend thousands of dollars on a high end workstation, you probably aren't running an Intel based system anyway. SLI is a nice, possible upgrade bonus if you already intend to purchase a 6600GT or a 6800GT, but we don't recommend investing in an SLI setup until some of the more mature motherboards and chipsets hit the retail market.