Ultra High-End Graphics

Starting off our ultra high-end graphics section, we have NVIDIA's 7900 line-up. With the 7900 GTX, you'll find it performs right up there with the X1900 XT and X1900 XTX. It's difficult to say which is better as the 7900 GTX brings some excellent competition to ATI. The 7900 cards also generate less heat, use less power, and generally run quieter than their ATI counterparts, the X1900 XT and XTX. The main deciding factor between these cards will be the price and features, as well as the intended use. We would say that ATI tends to have the performance advantage in many games right now, but there are still titles that favor NVIDIA's cards. Taking a step down in performance, we've discovered that the 7900 GT performs slightly better than a 7800 GTX, which compared to ATI's offerings would put 7900 GT up with the X1800 XL and X1800 XT cards, performing about the same or slightly better than them.

At the moment, the MSI GeForce 7900 GTX 512MB [RTPE: NX7900 GTX-T2D512E] is going for $430 after a $30 mail-in rebate. Leading the 7900 GT pack this week are two cards, the MSI GeForce 7900 GT 256MB [RTPE: NX7900 GT-T2D256E] and the XFX GeForce 7900 GT XTREME 256MB VIVO [RTPE: PV-T71G-UCF7] going for $250 after a $30 mail-in rebate. Coming up very close behind are the eVGA GeForce 7900 GT CO 256MB [RTPE: 256-P2-N563] and the BFG GeForce 7900 GT OC 256MB [RTPE: BFGR79256GTOCE] on sale for $260 after a $40 mail-in rebate. You'll note that many of the 7900 GT/GTX cards come factory overclocked, so if you don't want to overclock on your own, you should pay attention to clock speeds.

The GeForce 7800 GT/GTX used to be very popular. However, we are only picking up on a single GT card this week as all the others are now out of stock, and as mentioned already you will get better performance out of the 7900 GT cards. All the other 7800 GT cards listed in the RPTE are coming up as pre-order only, so you will not see them displayed in the above chart. The best/only price we are able to find on a 7800 GT is the BFG GeForce 7800 GT OC 256MB [RTPE: BFGR78256GTOC] going for $305 shipped. With only 20 pipelines compared to 24 on the 7900 GT, there's absolutely no reason to recommend a 7800 GT anymore. If you already have one and are looking to upgrade to SLI, you can get a moderate performance increase, but that's about the only reason to even think about the 7800 GT cards.

In the 7800 GTX line-up, the best price we're pulling up on is the eVGA GeForce 7800 GTX KO 256MB [RTPE: 256-P2-N529] which is currently going for $408 shipped. You can also find quite a few of these cards going for between $445 and $460. As with other models, these 7800 GTX cards come with many different package alternatives, so read the details carefully to get what you really want or avoid what you don't. Given that the 7900 GT is over $100 cheaper and will generally overclock and outperform a 7800 GTX, we again emphasize that your money is probably better spent elsewhere - or just save it for the next graphics card generation.

Moving on to ATI's ultra high-end offerings, we'll start off with the X1900 XT cards. We found a few X1900 XTs priced roughly the same as the 7900 GTX cards. The best price we're able to bring you is the MSI Radeon X1900XT 512MB [RTPE: RX1900XT-VT2D512E] for $400 after a $30 mail-in rebate. If it wasn't for the mail-in rebate, we would also suggest either the PowerColor Radeon X1900XT 512MB [RTPE: 1900XT512OEM] on sale for $436 shipped, or coming in very close behind that is the Sapphire Radeon X1900XT 512MB [RTPE: 100149] for $437. Since the X1900 XT and 7900 GTX perform similarly, the deciding factor will usually be the price. As you can see here, the X1900 XT wins this week at a considerably lower price.

Just as we hoped, we're seeing the X1900 XTX going for under $500. We're finding the Gigabyte Radeon X1900XTX 512MB [RTPE: GV-RX19X512VB-RH] running for $478 shipped and also the Sapphire Radeon X1900XTX 512MB [RTPE: 100150] for $490 shipped. The XTX cards are really only about 5% faster than the XT cards, and of course if you ever upgrade to CrossFire you will be stuck with XT speeds anyway. We definitely recommend the XT cards, as the extra $75 really isn't worth spending.

There are a couple more X1900 cards worth mentioning. First, there's the All-In-Wonder model. The X1900 AIW has lower clocks than the X1900 XT (500/960), but you also get VIVO support, and the price is lower. With a $50 MIR currently available, the card is certainly a reasonable alternative. The other card worth mentioning is the X1900 GT. These cards trim the number of pipelines from 16/48 down to 12/36, along with having slightly slower clock speeds than the XT (575/1200). Given the price and features, we would currently go with the AIW model instead, as both sell for about $330 (with rebates). The AIW card has more pixel processing power but less memory bandwidth, so both end up offering similar performance.

These X1800 cards aren't very appealing. While the lower priced cards seem reasonable, anything after about $350 isn't a good idea considering the X1900 XT we found above going for $400 (AMIR). We feel the performance found with X1900 XT would be well worth the ~$50 additional cost. However, we can give a moderate recommendation to the Sapphire Radeon X1800XL 256MB [RTPE: 100133] going for $292.

Let us head on over to the high-end graphics cards and take a look at what we have there.

Index High-End Graphics
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  • hkBst - Sunday, May 28, 2006 - link

    If all you need is a cheap graphics card because your mobo doesn't have one, then it is probably better to consider a mobo which does have integrated (DVI) graphics.

    Another reason for considering a low-end card though is for dual dvi outputs to drive two monitors, if you don't play games. I haven't seen any integrated graphics which support dual monitors.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Sunday, May 28, 2006 - link

    Actually, Derek has most of the GPUs I think. I've got lots of other stuff around, and enough spare GPUs (most of them I purchased), but parts get scattered. I don't even have any X18/1900 series cards right now, just a couple X1600 Pros. Reply
  • drewintheav - Saturday, May 27, 2006 - link

    "...but if you don't mind dealing with the hassle of filling out forms, photocopying UPCs and mailing them out, and perhaps waiting eight weeks for your check to arrive..."

    Since when did they accept a photocopy of the UPC?

    :)
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, May 27, 2006 - link

    You can tell how often we fill out mail-in rebates. ;-)

    Seriously, I've purchased about five products in the past year that had a mail-in rebate, and I haven't filled out a single one before the expiration date. One of them arrived two days before the expiration date, and in the end I just look at it, shrug, and figure $10-20 isn't worth the hassle. I figure mail-in rebates are usually a precursor to price cuts anyway, so if you're really worried about saving money just wait another month or two.
    Reply
  • Sunrise089 - Monday, May 29, 2006 - link

    "...in the end I just look at it, shrug, and figure $10-20 isn't worth the hassle."

    I think we see where all the anandtech flashing banner add revenue is going, and to think I didn't block them to try to help the site ;)

    Seriousely Jarred, you more than earn whatever they pay you, but there are a lot of us on budgets that have the $$$ in the bank to put forth up front, but then need the rebate ammount to make the purchasea affordable. For me spending 10 minutes on forms is worth $20, since I'm not quite pulling in the $120/hour that is basically equivilent to.

    PS - I noticed you signed your post to the first poster above. Assuming you actually read this, is "Hardware Editor" a promotion, or were you just assuming a non-regular wouldn't know you were staff?
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, May 30, 2006 - link

    Techincally, I now post (most of) the articles into the engine. I also am doing more work than just SFFs and occasional other articles. Basically, Gary Key and I are now full-time with AnandTech (whereas we were both part-time a few months ago). I used to call myself "SFF and Guide Editor" since that's what I did. Now, "Hardware" is generic enough that I stuck that on, though I should probably drop everything other than "Editor" at this point.

    It's not the 10-20 minutes that I care about, it's the fact that it usually ends up taking two+ months to get the rebate. You also send in the UPC usually, preventing a return in case you change your mind. There are also some shady MIRs out there, where you never do get that rebate back - I don't think anyone we track does that, but I know places like Officemax have had issues in the past. Cheers!

    Jarred
    Reply
  • Josh7289 - Saturday, May 27, 2006 - link

    I haven't been paying attention to the computer hardware, especially the video card, market for about six months now, and this is exactly what I needed to bring me back to what's going on. I see there are a few cards that are new to me that you didn't mention in your guide. Can anyone explain to me what the X1900GT, X1800GTO, and if you want, 7300GS are? Also, didn't there used to be an X1300 vanilla?

    This quote caught my eye, too:

    "The best/only price we are able to find on a 7800 GT is the BFG GeForce 7800 GT OC 256MB [RTPE: BFGR78256GTOC] going for $305 shipped. With only 20 pipelines compared to 24 on the 7900 GT, there's absolutely no reason to recommend a 7800 GT anymore."

    Speaking about pipes, could anyone refresh me on the amount of pipelines each of the ultra-high end cards has, if you don't mind?

    Finally, to me, reading this feels very weird:

    "The GeForce 7800 GT/GTX used to be very popular."

    ^^ Anyway, if anyone could help, I'd greatly appreciate it. Thank you very much!
    Reply
  • ImJacksAmygdala - Saturday, May 27, 2006 - link

    Josh7289,

    The video card market can be very hard to keep track of. The best places I use to track the market is Anandtech's price guide articles, and Adrian's Rojak Pot comparison charts.

    ATI
    http://www.rojakpot.com/showarticle.aspx?artno=88&...">http://www.rojakpot.com/showarticle.aspx?artno=88&...

    Nvidia
    http://www.rojakpot.com/showarticle.aspx?artno=88&...">http://www.rojakpot.com/showarticle.aspx?artno=88&...

    Hope this helps...

    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, May 27, 2006 - link

    There are a few cards that we didn't try breaking down further, so the X1300 and X1300 Pro are grouped together. 7300 GS is a competitor to those cards, but really they're all very slow in comparison to the midrange products.

    X1900 GT is like the X1900 XT, only with lower clock speeds and 12/36 pixel pipelines instead of 16/48. (Basically, the X1900 chips can do three shader operations per pipeline per cycle, or something similar to that.) X1800 GTO is basically the same thing (12 pixel pipelines, 12 ROPs), only using the older R520 court instead of the newer R580 core. X1800 really isn't that bad, but X1900 is just better.

    Clock for clock, the ATI X1900 pipelines are now a bit more powerful than NVIDIA's, but NVIDIA has 33% more pipelines with slightly slower clock speeds, so it more or less equals out. Drivers still play a critical role, so there are games that continue to perform better on NVIDIA even though the X1900 hardware is generally faster. I would also have to give the advantage to SLI over CrossFire -- CrossFire is still a far less elegant solution in my opinion.

    On the other ultra high-end cards, 7800 GTX and 7900 GT/GTX are all 24 pixel pipelines, 16 ROPs, and 8 vertex pipelines. 7800 GT has 20 pixel pipelines, so even at the same clock speeds it ends up being slower than the others. X1800 XT/XTX are all 16 pixel pipelines and 8 vertex pipelines, also with 16 ROPs.

    Hopefully, that clears things up for you. :-)

    Take care, and happy Memorial Day weekend!
    Jarred Walton
    Hardware Editor
    AnandTech.com
    Reply

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