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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  • Shinei - Friday, July 9, 2004 - link

    Definitely interesting to see the 6800NU's performance numbers... I almost want to say that the 6800 will be the DX9-generation's Ti4200. Not that that'll stop me from getting a 6800GT or a 6800U to replace my 4200, mind you. :p
    Anyway, I like the inclusion of the "value" graphs as part of the benchmark results, it makes it easier to see what card gives you the best bang (in the case of these latest cards, a boom?) for your buck. And as always, AT puts out the quality benchmarks that I recommend so highly to everyone.
  • Mithan - Friday, July 9, 2004 - link

    I think the best "value" card out right now is the 6800 GT. Reply
  • sparkz - Friday, July 9, 2004 - link

    What kind of monitors were used and also what type of connection was used for testing at 16x12? (DVI or VGA) Reply
  • ViRGE - Friday, July 9, 2004 - link

    SilentRunning, they aren't using the MSRP, they're using the actual market price. Reply
  • Neekotin - Friday, July 9, 2004 - link

    well i got myself an x800 xt already (pulled a lot of strings...), nice article anyway.. wished you included overclocked numbers, hardcore types do it anyway. i had mine liquid cooled to 620/600... blazing! hehehe Reply
  • SilentRunning - Friday, July 9, 2004 - link

    [q]ATI Radeon 9700 Pro: $180
    ATI Radeon 9800 XT: $400
    ATI Radeon X800 Pro: $420
    ATI Radeon X800 XT: $540
    ATI Radeon X800 XT Platinum Edition: $600[/q]

    Obviously you need to re-evaluate how you obtain prices. Since ATI's SRP (suggested retail prices) are lower. Those prices are from dealers who are price gouging due to demand.

    ATI Radeon X800 Pro: $399 SRP
    ATI Radeon X800 XT Platinum Edition: $499 SRP

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