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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  • PMPopic - Saturday, June 03, 2006 - link

    Hello all,
    Do any of these cards support either of the two new high definition standards(i.e. blue ray)? My understanding is that there are no cards or LCD monitors out now that support this do to the HDCP copy protection. When will we see cards and monitors that support this?
    Reply
  • Trisped - Wednesday, May 31, 2006 - link

    The guide was concise and well worded (as price guides usually are)
    Keep up the good work.
    Reply
  • Sunrise089 - Monday, May 29, 2006 - link

    I didn't take the time to re-read the last few video guides, but I seem to remember them not being as good as this one. I agree with most of your picks, and I do appreciate you including every possible card. I only have two changes I would make.

    First of all, it's time to move the X800/X850s and the 6800s to mid-range, where they compete in terms of performance. Then move the 7900GTs and X1800XT/XL and X1900GTO to high-end, if you still want to have four sections. None of us reading this guide really considers the 6800GT high-end anymore, not the X1800XL Ultra-high-end. I know Anandtech readers are more hard-core than the general Best Buy shopper, but that's who is reading the article anyways.

    Second, when you inevitably move the previous generation cards out of the high-end section, you need to directly compare them to the cards that cost the same amount of money. We all know that buying a $500 6800-Ultra is a terrible deal, heck even buying a 7800GTX is a terrible deal. Those cards were replaced by faster cards but didn't drop in price, so it's an easy call. The $160 X850XT is NOT an easy call. I am under the impression that while giving up SM3 support, it is probably faster overall than the current generation cards at the $160 price point, but I don't know for sure since it isn't normally included in reviews of modern games anymore, and the new cards don't normally get reviewed under the older games I can look up X850XT scores for. I think a direct comparison between last-gen and present-gen cards is warranted when the older cards have actually dropped considerably in price to match the prices of their current-gen performance equivalents.
    Reply
  • AGAC - Monday, May 29, 2006 - link

    My system was upgraded about one and half year ago and it´s going to remain as it is since the video subsystem is not just about framerates. Thanks to DRM schemes of tomorrow, no video card of today can legaly playback HD content. So, it´s a waiting game for me.

    BTW, does anyone knows about those phony claims made by ATI regarding HDCP compliant video cards?

    And I am not talking about HDMI on video cards. As far as I know, DVI can be HDCP compliant, so that is not much of a chalenge in terms of R&D.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, May 29, 2006 - link

    You need an HDCP chip on the card, and while it is possible, no one has done it yet with ATI chips (AFAIK). They are "HDCP compatible" but not "HDCP enabled". :| Reply
  • lafchiev - Monday, May 29, 2006 - link

    "Previous tests showed that NVIDIA's budget cards were slightly faster than ATI's budget cards, but mostly it's a non-issue. "
    I thought that X1300 was ever more powrfull than the 7300 or 6200 ones.
    Let see in the Anand review from 20 february:
    Battlefield2 performance 1024x768:
    X1300:24.2 fps
    NV7300GS: 18.2 fps

    Half Life 2 performance 1024x768:
    X1300:27.2 fps
    NV7300GS: 23.8 fps

    Quake 4 performance 1024x768:
    X1300:30 fps
    NV7300GS: 25.6 fps

    Overall NV7300GS is MUCH less performant than X1300
    and this changes everything in the budget cards comparison.
    Hi
    Ico
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, May 29, 2006 - link

    I was thinking X300 vs. 6200 - I'll clarify that. X1300 is still pitifully slow for gaming (as is the 7300). Reply
  • tential2 - Sunday, May 28, 2006 - link

    I am not sure but I cant seem to find any decent review on this website on the 7600GT and 6600GT. They are closely priced but as you said in the article the 6600T was a very popular card. As a result I am not sure whether to buy another 6600GT and try and go SLI or buy a 7600GT. Which gives more performance? I found a few benches but many of them showed SLI giving no performance benefits. I was wondering what the benefits of SLI 6600GT are over the 7600GT. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, May 29, 2006 - link

    7600 GT is generally a bit faster than 6800 GS/GT, so if you have benches of 6600GT SLI vs. 6800 GT you can draw some conclusions. If it were me, I'd take 7600 GT over 6600 GT SLI in a heartbeat. Two cards is a high-end option only, IMO. Don't bother with SLI until you're at least looking at 7900 GT. Reply
  • tential2 - Monday, June 05, 2006 - link

    It still would be nice to have a review on it. Also on Crossfire since I have seen nothing on upgrading with crossfire. It would be nice to buy a x1600XT knowing I could buy a later ATI card at anytime and run crossfire. It seems that has been largely neglected by reviewers and just people in genreal. I'm not even sure if Crossfire supports different cards anymore actually. Reply

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