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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  • Entropy531 - Tuesday, September 21, 2004 - link

    Didn't the article say the pro (256mb) was the same price as the XT (128mb)? It does seem odd that the 6600s are only pci-e. Especially since nVidia only makes motherboards with AGP slots, right?
  • Drayvn - Tuesday, September 21, 2004 - link

    However, on this site it shows the X700XT edged out a win overall.

    What i think is ATi are doing what nVidia did in the high end market, they brought out the X700Pro, which is very close to the X700XT, but cheaper, and probably highly moddable.

    Buy a X700Pro with 5 - 10% loss of performance for $60 less?
  • blckgrffn - Tuesday, September 21, 2004 - link

    What mystifies me (still) is the performance discrepancy between the 6800 and 6600 GT. In some cases, the 6600 GT is whooping up on it. The 6600GT preview article made some allusions to 12 pipes not be as effeicient as 8 and 16, etc. But if the performance is really so close between them, the 6800 is probably going to go the way of the 9500 Pro. That's too bad, my 6800 clocked at 400/825 is pretty nice. If anyone could clear up why the 6600 GT is faster than the 6800, that would be nice. The fill rates should be nearly identical, I guess. But doesn't the 6800 retain it's 6 vertex shaders and wouldn't the extra memory bandwidth make a noticeable difference?
  • Resh - Tuesday, September 21, 2004 - link

    Just wish nVidia would come out with the NF4 NOW with PCI-Express, etc. a board with two 16x slots, one 6600Gt now, and one later is looking pretty awesome.
  • rf - Tuesday, September 21, 2004 - link

    Looks like ATI dropped the ball - 12 months or more kicking nVidias ass and now they are the ones lagging behind.

    Oh well, I am not in the market for a graphics card at the moment (bought a 9800XT last year) but if I was, I'd be switching to nVidia.

    I do have to say that the move away from AGP is annoying. What about the people that want to upgrade their components? Are we supposed to ditch kit that is less than 6 months old?
  • ZobarStyl - Tuesday, September 21, 2004 - link

    I must agree all things considered the 6600GT really comes out the winner...I mean, look at the x800/6800 launch, the x800Pro looked like it just massacred the 6800GT, and now no one thinks twice at the 400$ price point which is better because nV put out some massive driver increases. Considering the 6600GT already has the performance AND feature advantage over the x700, there's just no contest when you add in what the nV driver team is going to do for its perf. Can't wait to dual up two 6600GT's (not SLI, multimonitor =) )
  • LocutusX - Tuesday, September 21, 2004 - link

    Just to be clear, I think #3's statement was invalid simply because Nvidia is winning half the Direct3D games as well as all the OGL games.
  • LocutusX - Tuesday, September 21, 2004 - link

    #3: "Again we see ATI=DX, nVidia=OpenGL. "

    Nah, don't think so. Here are the notes I took while I read the article;


    d3 (big win) - OGL
    far cry (with max AA/AF) - DX9
    halo - DX9
    jedi academy (big win) - OGL
    UT (tie) - DX8/DX9


    far cry (with NO aa/af) - DX9
    source engine (small win) - DX9
    UT (tie) - DX8/DX9

    I'm sorry to say it, but the X700XT is a disapointment. I'm not an "nvidiot"; check my forum profile, I'm an ATI owner.
  • Shinei - Tuesday, September 21, 2004 - link

    #11: Probably because you won't have much money left for a video card after you buy all the new crap you need for a Prescott system. ;)

    Anyway, this quote made me wonder a bit.
    "From this test, it looks like the X700 is the better card for source based games unless you want to run at really high quality settings."
    Er, if I can get great graphics at a decent framerate (42fps is pretty good for 16x12 with AA/AF, if you ask me (beats the hell out of Halo's horribly designed engine)), why WOULDN'T I turn on all the goodies? Then again, I used to enable AA/AF with my Ti4200 too, so my opinion may be slightly biased. ;)
  • Woodchuck2000 - Tuesday, September 21, 2004 - link

    #10 - I agree entirely! These are midrange cards. Yet they're released first as PCIe parts. Which is only available as a high-end Intel solution. Why does this make sense?

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