The introduction of the X700 line (codenamed RV410), ATI is breaking their tradition of using revamped and tweaked previous generation parts in their current generation midrange product. RV410 is officially an R423 derivative. We see this as a very big step for ATI, and we hope they maintain this direction with future generations. The immediate impact on the consumer space will be better performance in the midrange and compatibility on par with high end products.

This last point is important to realize. Last year, many games or features that ran fine on 9700 and 9800 cards would have strange problems or incompatibilities with 9600 cards. Also, previous generation RV series cards lacked ATI's F-Buffer which enables GPUs to run shader programs that exceed a certain length. These issues were usually cleared up in driver updates or game patches, but attention to the midrange tended to follow attention to the high end segment. Now that the high end ATI GPU is the same core design as the midrange, any performance improvements or fixes that apply to the X800 will also apply to the X700 line.

Unlike last year (and the year before), ATI's product launches have lagged NVIDIA's. Our 6600 numbers are exactly 2 weeks old today. While some may speculate that this gives ATI an advantage because they have seen the performance of the competition, ATI needs to carefully balance yield, performance, and price for itself before it can worry about the competition. Bringing a product to market second in such a competitive space would only give ATI an advantage if they were able to maintain profitable yields at higher performance than necessary (and so could lower clocks and increase yield while still leading performance). Of course, all this goes out the window when you have NVIDIA and ATI both throwing insanely low yield high performance limited availability parts at each other trying to claim the performance crown. Hopefully we can be confident that the 6600 GT and the X700 XT will end up being less vaporous than the 6800 Ultra Extreme and the X800 XT Platinum Edition.

But all speculation aside, this is when the battle really heats up. Both NVIDIA and ATI now have affordable midrange products in the market that perform very well with respect to previous generation parts. We've got all the details inside; read on to find out who comes out on top in the most important competition for this GPU generation.

Scaling Down the X800
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  • PrinceGaz - Wednesday, September 22, 2004 - link

    #27 The Plagrimaster:

    Do you know what a paragraph is?

    Anyway, 1280x960 or 1280x1024 is becoming the more common resolution used by many people with fairly recent systems, even if its only because 1280x1024 is the native resolution of their LCD display, so anything else looks inferior.

    How fast someone's CPU is really only determines the maximum framerate that can be achieved in any given game sequence regardless of resolution. The CPU itself won't churn out frames more quickly just because the graphics-card is rendering at a lower resolution. That answers the first half or so of your post.

    As the X700 series are upper mid-range cards, they are intended to be used at quite high resolutions, not 1024x768 or less. The tests showed the X700XT was easily capable of producing a more than satisfactory framerate at 1280x1024 in every game tried including Doom 3, so why run more tests at 1024x768? Only if it were a slower which could only manage 30-40fps or less at 1280x960 would tests at lower resolutions be worthwhile.
  • kmmatney - Wednesday, September 22, 2004 - link

    Since these are now "low-end" cards, it would be great to see how they perform with slower cpus. I still have a lowly XP 2400+ thoroughbred...and I'd rather spend money on my Video card than another MB/CPU, if it can perform (at 1024 x 768).
  • Chuckles - Wednesday, September 22, 2004 - link

    I don't know about you, #27, but I think 10x7 is tunnel vision. Decent sized monitors are not all that expensive, and they allow you to do so much more with the space.
  • ThePlagiarmaster - Wednesday, September 22, 2004 - link

    What I want to know is how everything performs at 1024x768 with and without 4xaa/8xan. Lets face it 95% of the people running these games are NOT doing it in anything higher. To cut this res out of everything but doom3 (an oddball engine to begin with) is ridiculous. Sure higher shows us bandwidth becomes a big issue. But for most people running at 1024x768 (where most of us have cpu's that can keep a decent fps), does bandwidth really matter at all? Is a 9700pro still good at this res? You have to test 1024x768, because all you're doing here is showing one side of the coin. People who have the FASTEST FREAKING CPU's (eh, most don't - raise your hand if you have an athlonFX 53 or A64 3400+ or better? - Or even a P4 of 3.4ghz or faster? - I suspect most hands are DOWN now), to go with the fastest GPU's. Most people cut one or the other. So you need to show how a card does at a "NORMAL" res. I usually can't even tell the difference between 1024x768 and 1600x1200. At the frenetic pace you get in a FPS you don't even see the little details. Most of us don't hop around in different resolutions for every different game either. Most of my customers couldn't even tell you what resolution IS! No, I'm not kidding. They take it home in the res I put it in and leave it there forever (1024x768). If you're like me you pick a res all games run in without tanking the fps. Which for me is 1024x768. I don't have to care what game I run, I just run it. No drops during heated action. I hope you re-bench with the res most people use so people can really see, is it worth the money or not at the res the world uses? Why pay $200-400 for a new card if the 9700pro still rocks at 1024x768, and that expensive card only gets you another couple fps this low. I know it gets tons better with much higher res's but at the normal persons res does it show its value or not? In doom it seems to matter, but then this game is a graphical demo. No other engine is quite this punishing on cards. A good 70% or so of my customers still buy 17inchers! Granted some games have multi-res interfaces, but some get really small at larger resolutions on a 17in. This article is the complete opposite of running cpu tests in 640x480 but yeilds the same results. If nobody runs at 640x480 how real-world is it? If "almost" nobody runs in 1600x1200 should we spend more time looking at 1024x768 where 90% or so run? That's more real world right? 1600x1200 is for the fastest machines on the planet. Which is NOT many people I know, and I sell pc's...LOL.
  • AtaStrumf - Wednesday, September 22, 2004 - link

    At the very least have a look at Far Cry and Halo results. They realy seem to be upside down.

    I don't know who's making the mistake here, but it's something that needs looking into.
  • AtaStrumf - Wednesday, September 22, 2004 - link

    Derek I think your GPU scores urgently need updateing. We need to be able to compare new cards to old ones and we just can't do that reliably right now. Have a look at xbitlabs test results.

    Relative positions between 9800 XT and X700 XT are more often then not different from your results.

    In their results it seems like R9800 XT fares much better relative to X700 XT. We might be making the wrong conclusions based on your scores.
  • Da3dalus - Tuesday, September 21, 2004 - link

    Quite clearly a win for nVidia in this match :)

    Hey Derek, are you gonna do a big Fall 2004 Video Card Roundup like you did last year? That would be really nice :)
  • jm0ris0n - Tuesday, September 21, 2004 - link

    #17 My thoughts exactly ! :)
  • DerekWilson - Tuesday, September 21, 2004 - link


    ATI has stated that they will be bridging the RV410 back to AGP from PCIe -- they will not be running seperate silicon. They didn't have any kind of date they could get us, but they did indicate that it should be available before the end of the year. It's just hard to trust having such distant dates thrown around when both ATI and NVIDIA have shown that they have problems filling the channel with currently announced products.


    This is likely a result of the fact that only the X700 XT, 6600 GT, and X600 XT were run with the most recent drivers -- the 6800 series cards are still running on 61.xx while the 6600 GT was powered by the 65.xx drivers. We are looking into a driver regression test, and we will take another look at performance with the latest drivers as the dust starts to settle.
  • Aquila76 - Tuesday, September 21, 2004 - link

    OK, I phrased the first part of my post VERY badly. In my defense, I had not yet had any coffee. ;)
    What I was trying to get across was that ATI does OK competing with NVidia in DX games, but still gets killed in OpenGL. They used to smoke NVidia in DX, but now NVidia has fixed whatever issues they had with that and are making a very good competitive card to ATI's offering. The 6600GT is clearly the better card here, for either D3 or HL2 engines.

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