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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  • kmmatney - Wednesday, December 1, 2004 - link

    Man, It's way too confusing buying a card these days. There were already way too many ATI model numbers out there, and now this! Why can't they have an entry, Low Mid-range, High Mid-Range and high-end card and leave it at that.
  • sophus - Wednesday, December 1, 2004 - link

    model numbers are out of control. just go look at and get bombarded by all of the models...

    i've heard that the purpose of the all the numbers/acronyms is to confuse the consumer into buying a "newer" part, read: more profitable for them.

    the prices are getting too high. $500 for a card?! too much money for a (practical) gamer's most frequently upgraded part.

    also, the availability for these cards is way too low. How long after the release do we have to wait until we can actually see these in stores? is demand that high and supply that low? is there a leak in their bank accounts? are their manuf processes too high?

    a small tweak in their product and they demand top-dollar? or rather, "well this NEW product is just a little bit better then our last one. so instead of lowering the price on our OLD product, we'll just set the bar higher for our NEW product."
  • Mykal Starclem - Wednesday, December 1, 2004 - link

    I just hope that the large increase in the variety of cards means that a couple of them which actually be available to buy

  • Kasper4christ - Wednesday, December 1, 2004 - link

    *cough* Spell check :P
    Page 2
    "before it's clock soeeds are officially set in stone."
  • Steve Guilliot - Wednesday, December 1, 2004 - link

    Software HDTV decoders/encoder require working DxVA (i.e. ATI cards) for best performance, and sometimes to work at all. For people intersted in going the HTPC route, the video processor is very important, just not to you.
  • miketheidiot - Wednesday, December 1, 2004 - link

    extremely unimpressive. My 6800 is still fine.
  • Regs - Wednesday, December 1, 2004 - link

    This does not look like a refreash to me. Just seems more like overclocked parts trying to win the performance crown that "no 'one'" can afford. I expect Nvidia to do the same. ATI even has the nerve to charge 400 dollars for a 12 pipe design. At least have it include Dual Dvi. I know it may not need the extra 4 pipes enabled, but it just seems like their taking you for a ride for a few extra MHz.
  • Araemo - Wednesday, December 1, 2004 - link

    I stand corrected, though iDCT is VERY old tech, that nVidia had around from at least the geforce 4 series(if not the gf2 series), and ATI has had since sometime in the RAGE series.

    And the "Motion compensation" sounds like what ATI has enabled via their drivers in a couple aps (Divx Player and Realplayer, if I'm not mistaken.)

    Motion estimation is what I was thinking the only new use was, my mistake. Though I DO hope that nvidia at least has iDCT working, if not the motion compensation as well. The main selling point I saw w/ regards to the video processor was the ENCODE.. since I've never had a cpu usage problem while decoding a video.. even on a pentium 2 running windows 2000.

    #26: I don't think 'decent' is the right word.. their drivers are decent, they just aren't fast.

    I draw the distinction because of the number of video cards I've had with UNSTABLE drivers. I am very happy with the stability of the Catalyst 4.x series drivers.

    That said.. nVidia has stable AND fast openGL drivers.. hello ATI?
  • ViRGE - Wednesday, December 1, 2004 - link

    #4, it's not worth getting worked up over anyone's video processor at this point. Nvidia's 68xx processor may be broken, but even if it worked, it doesn't make a difference. There are not any MPEG4 decoders on the market that can use either company's card, and WMV acceleration on my X800 Pro is having no impact: frame rates and CPU usage stay the same. And let's not even talk about hardware assisted encoding...

    The whole "video processor" idea has so far turned out to be a joke from both sides.
  • Zebo - Wednesday, December 1, 2004 - link

    #10 the USD has lost 33% of it's value since GF4 days so in reality Vcards are the same price just your dollar is'nt worth anything.

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