The New ATI Lineup

All told, ATI is launching 5 new products based on two new cores this fall: 3 cards in a new 2 slot line dubbed X850 (based on R480), and 2 cards rounding out the lower end of the X800 line (built on the R430 core). Upon seeing the full list of new cards offered, we were very interested to see just how the performance numbers would fall out. From the MSRPs ATI gave us, the targets are quite apparent. Here's a quick rundown of exactly what we're looking at.

ATI R480/R430 Product Lineup
Radeon X850 XT PE
Radeon X850 XT
Radeon X850 Pro*
Radeon X800 XL
Radeon X800
*Radeon X850 Pro clock speeds are not yet final

This time around, ATI thinks we are ready for a new ultra high end price point. The inclusion of the X850 XT Platinum Edition at $549 is a real product this time around, as opposed to the previous X800 XT PE as a kind of ATI sanctioned overclocked version of the X800 XT.

With the extra 20MHz over the X800 XT PE core, and the effective memory clock boost of 60MHz, the new X850 XT PE will put in a top showing across the board. Actually being available this time around means that we have a significantly faster card available to anyone who wants it. If we consider the former top of the line to be the more available X800 XT (with 500/1GHz clocks), then we are looking at maximum theoretical performance gains of 8% (40MHz core clock increase) for processing intensive games. Of course, the increase in memory clock will help push that ceiling up in some cases (especially when we start looking at bandwidth intensive high resolutions with AA and AF enabled).

Currently the X850 XT PE doesn't have any formal competition from NVIDIA in the form of a sanctioned part. It may have been possible to find a 6800 Ultra Extreme on the market if one looked hard enough and had the money to spend, but at this point the top of the line NVIDIA product we can put up against the ATI's line will be the 6800 Ultra. That may change if NVIDIA decides to bring out something new, but we still haven't heard what they have in store for us. Only time will tell, but for now we can expect the X850 XT PE to perform (and cost) head and shoulders above anything NVIDIA has on the table.

In terms of power consumption the X850 XT PE breaks new records for single card power consumption as it drew more power than its predecessor as well as NVIDIA's GeForce 6800 Ultra:

Peak System Power Consumption

The X850 XT looks to be almost the same product the X800 XT PE was. The only difference is a slight drop in memory clock (an effective 40MHz). We can expect roughly the same performance we saw from the older, impossible to find, part. We never saw anything but an AGP version of the X800 XT PE in our labs. In any case, the tiny difference in memory clock isn't going to make much of a difference in the performance of this new part and the older one, and probably just adds a tiny bit of headroom. ATI is hinting at the fact that they may have a new version of their overdrive software (with a little more user control) coming down the pipe. Maybe even this part, with its huge cooling solution and PCI Express power, will have a little room to fly. We'll have to wait until we get a shipping card in our labs to determine that though. From the NVIDIA side, the GeForce 6800 Ultra is the current competitor to the X850 XT, and we will be putting this part to the test in our benchmarks to see how it stacks up.

The X850 Pro looks to be a filler part. The difference between the XT and the Pro will be the 12 pixel pipelines, and the fact that the Pro will come in a DVI + analog configuration rather than the dual DVI setup of the two higher end models. The current X800 Pro has its clocks set at 475/900. The new X850 Pro will bump the performance of this up a bit (as well as add about $100 to what current X800 Pros are going for). The NVIDIA GeForce 6800 GT could  have some heavy competition from this part if ATI got some performance out of it, but the older X800 Pro wasn't always able to keep up with the 6800 GT either. This higher clocked part just might have what it takes if ATI can put a little more power into it before it's clock speeds are officially set in stone. But that's one of the things we'll have to wait to find out.

The new X800 cards won't be available until January, and we don't have any actual samples in our labs yet. ATI only sent their flagship X850 XT Platinum Edition out to reviewers, but since all of the X850 and X800 cards use clock variations on shipping GPUs we could look at the performance of all of ATI's launches today using other cards clocked to lower (or sometimes higher) speeds.

The X800 XL and X800 cards are supposed to fall within the current X800 line in performance. ATI lists the X800 between the X800 SE and X800 Pro, and the X800 XL just above the X800 Pro. Unfortunately, we haven't located any 12-pipe NVIDIA GeForce 6800 PCI Express solutions, so we can't round out the comparisons on the low end as much as we'd like.

The X800 XL will be a cheap way to get the benefits of 16 pixel pipe parallelism, even if overall bandwidth is reduced by core clock speed. This makes it more appealing than some slightly higher clocked 12-pipe cards in many ways. There is some trade off though: since all the X800 series cards have 6 vertex pipelines, higher clock speed does directly translate to better geometry performance. This will be a fun part to watch in the benchmarks.

At the lower end today, we have the X800. This is just a 12 pixel pipe part with lower core and memory clocks than the current X800 Pro. This should leave us with very similar performance characteristics to the current X800 Pro, just at what ATI is calling a $250 price point. We haven't seen the 8 pipe X800 SE selling at that price on the AGP side. With the X700 line pushing up against 250 from below, this could be very good for the midrange consumer.

Index Lightning Fast, and CPU Bound
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  • Staples - Wednesday, December 1, 2004 - link

    Yay for another dumb naming convention. ATi did this intentionally and I hope it turns people off to the brand. They did this with the R300 too but it is even worse this time, they all have 850xx in the name. As for me, I will be sticking with my 6800GT, these new cards are not much faster and the cost for the small performance gain is ridiculous.
  • ShadowVlican - Wednesday, December 1, 2004 - link

    thanks for the great review Anand!

    i particularly liked the way you compared X800XL, X800, and X850Pro... that was very well done and to the point... i've yet to see another review site do that...

    however i do wish to see the X700 and 6800 in there
  • flexy - Wednesday, December 1, 2004 - link

    Keep an eye on the x800 XL. That's the interesting card of the bunch. At a $349 suggested MSRP (you know we'll shortly see deals for $300 for the card), this is a great card.

    its not a GREAT card, it merely has the best price/perf ratio of ALL these current cards.

    Two/Three years $350 got you the cream of the high-end top-of-the line cards....and TODAY $350 dont even give you a new GPU, just a a refresh of what is BASICALLY the 9700, 9800, X800 etc...all the same old **** with the same shaders and the same tech (basically).

    Ironically, i caught myself TOO thinking that $349 is a good price - well just as proof how brainwashed "we" already are....
  • flexy - Wednesday, December 1, 2004 - link

    Maybe they wanted to throw out some product to see how well it sold and in which flavor (AGP or PCI-e)?
    WHAT products ? :)

    * nonexistant cards ?
    * cards for $500 - $800 ?

    ALso..the question AGP/PCI is irrelevant since AGP is dead..sorry to bring the news :)
  • ViRGE - Wednesday, December 1, 2004 - link

    #35, HDTV is MPEG2; both companies have had working MPEG2 decoding abilities for some time. Even the 68xx's broken processor still does MPEG2.
  • skunkbuster - Wednesday, December 1, 2004 - link

    #41 i've read an article not too long ago that ati had not updated their openGL drivers in over a year.
    also, add to the fact that their fireGL video cards, while theoretically ~should~ have had better performance than nvidia's(higher clock speed/emory pipelines), consistantly were OUTPERFORMED(by a good bit too) by nvidia and their older tech.

    i'm specifically talking about the fire gl cards that were based off of the 9700/9800 gpu vs. the workstation cards using geforce4/fx gpus.

    these reasons make me believe that its lack of driver optomization; that is not using the card's capbilities to full potential more than anything.

    this might not conern many people, but it does me, since i work with maya.
  • realist - Wednesday, December 1, 2004 - link

    also ati is coming out with there SLI type ati cards ownage!!
  • carldon - Wednesday, December 1, 2004 - link

    I was looking at the SLI benches and the 6600GT in SLI has almost the same performance as the X800XL, X850Pro and of course the X800. The SLI option is great for people who want to upgrade later and also want the SM3.0 option. But the cost of Nforce4 motherboards, if high, could tip the scales in Ati's favour. This is going to an interesting price war over the next month.
  • Noli - Wednesday, December 1, 2004 - link

    Am I right in thinking that nvidia big lead in doom3 performance is because its latest cards carry out that shadow occlusion thingie whereby a the shadows for a lightsource pointing out of a scene aren't calculated? That's a huge advantage and I never got the feeling that ATI was doing the same. If I'm right and ATI OGL drivers are not that bad but it's just the shadows thing, could ATI not steal and implement this idea too?
  • Pollock - Wednesday, December 1, 2004 - link

    I'd have to agree that the X800 XL is looking quite nice, especially if they overclock well and have good ram on them. Too bad PCIe is taking forever to get here for the Athlon 64...

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