Introduction

Take all the clichés used to describe a long overdue event or the unexpected fulfillment of a promise (hot places freezing, heavy animals soaring through the air, etc...) and you still couldn't say enough to fully proclaim the news that ATI has finally properly hard launched a product. That's right, looking around the internet this morning has provided us with the joyous realization that the Radeon X1900XT, XTX, and CrossFire parts are available for purchase. We've tried to keep an eye on the situation and it's been quite easy to see that ATI would be able to pull it off this time. Some sites started taking preorders earlier in the week saying their X1900 parts would ship in one to two days, putting the timeframe right on the mark. There were no missing dongles, no problems with customs, and ATI told us last week that thousands of parts had already been delivered to manufacturers.

And if that isn't enough to dance about, ATI has delivered a hugely powerful part with this launch. The Radeon X1900 series is no joke, and every card featuring the name is a behemoth. With triple the pixel shader units of the X1800 XT, and a general increase in supporting hardware throughout the pixel processing engine, ATI's hugely clocked 384 Million transistor GPU is capable of crunching enormous volumes of data very quickly. Fill rate isn't increased very much because the X1900 series still only allows 16 pixels to be drawn to the screen per clock cycle, but power is delivered where it is needed most. With longer and more complex shader programs, pixels need to stay in the shader engine longer which further shifts the performance burden from the theoretical maximum fill rate.

NVIDIA would like us to compare the X1900's increase in ALU (arithmetic logic unit) power to what they did with the FX 5900 after NV30 tanked. Certainly, increasing the math power (and increasing memory bandwidth) helped NVIDIA, but fortunately for ATI the X1900 is not derived from a fundamentally flawed GPU design. The X1800 series are certainly not bad parts, even if they are being completely replaced by the X1900 in ATI's lineup.



I'll spoil the results and make it clear that the X1900XT and XTX are hands down the best cards out there right now. But all positives aside, ATI needed this card to hard launch with good availability, perform better than anything else, and look good doing it. There have been too many speed bumps in ATI's way for there to be any room for a slip up on this launch, and it looks like they've pulled it off. The launch of the X1900 series not only puts ATI back on top, but (much more importantly) it puts them back in the game. Let's hope that both ATI and NVIDIA can keep up the good fight.

But let's not forget why we're here. The first thing we are going to do is talk about what makes the R580 GPU that powers the X1900 series so incredibly good at what it does.

R580 Architecture
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  • DerekWilson - Tuesday, January 24, 2006 - link

    this is where things get a little fuzzy ... when we used to refer to an architecture as being -- for instance -- 16x1 or 8x2, we refered to the pixel shaders ability to texture a pixel. Thus, when an application wanted to perform multitexturing, the hardware would perform about the same -- single pass graphics cut the performance of the 8x2 architecture in half because half the texturing poewr was ... this was much more important for early dx, fixed pipe, or opengl based games. DX9 through all that out the window, as it is now common to see many instructions and cycles spent on any given pixel.

    in a way, since there are only 16 texture units you might be able to say its something like 48x0.333 ... it really isn't possible to texture all 48 pixels every clock cycle ad infinitum. in an 8x2 architecture you really could texture each of 8 pixels with 2 textures every clock cycle forever.

    to put it more plainly, we are now doing much more actual work with the textures we load, so the focus has shifted from "texturing" a pixel to "shading" a pixel ... or fragment ... or whatever you wanna call it.

    it's entirely different then xenos as xenos uses a unified shader architecture.

    interestingly though, R580 supports a render to vertex buffer feature that allows you to turn your pixel shaders into vertex processors and spit the output straight back into the incoming vertex data.

    but i digress ....

    Reply
  • aschwabe - Tuesday, January 24, 2006 - link

    I'm wondering how a dual 7800GT/7800GTX stacked up against this card.

    i.e. Is the brand new system I bought literally 24 hours ago going to be able to compete?
    Reply
  • Live - Tuesday, January 24, 2006 - link

    SLI figures is all over the review. Go read and look at the graphs again. Reply
  • aschwabe - Tuesday, January 24, 2006 - link

    Ah, my bad, thanks. Reply
  • DigitalFreak - Tuesday, January 24, 2006 - link

    Go check out the review on hardocp.com. They have benchies for both the GTX 256 & GTX 512, SLI & non SLI. Reply
  • Live - Tuesday, January 24, 2006 - link

    No my bad. I'm a bit slow. Only the GTX 512 SLI are in there. sorry! Reply
  • Viper4185 - Tuesday, January 24, 2006 - link

    Just a few comments (some are being very picky I know)

    1) Why are you using the latest hardware with and old Seagate 7200.7 drive when the 7200.9 series is available? Also no FX-60?

    2) Disappointing to see no power consumption/noise levels in your testing...

    3) You are like the first site to show Crossfire XTX benchmarks? I am very confused... I thought there was only a XT Crossfire card so how do you get Crossfire XTX benchmarks?

    Otherwise good job :)
    Reply
  • DerekWilson - Tuesday, January 24, 2006 - link

    crossfire xtx indicates that we ran a 1900 crossfire edition card in conjunction with a 1900 xtx .... this is as opposed to running the crossfire edition card in conjunction with a 1900 xt.

    crossfire does not synchronize GPU speed, so performance will be (slightly) better when pairing the faster card with the crossfire.

    fx-60 is slower than fx-57 for single threaded apps

    power consumption was supposed to be included, but we have had some power issues. We will be updating the article as soon as we can -- we didn't want to hold the entire piece in order to wait for power.

    harddrive performance is not going to affect anything but load times in our benchmarks.
    Reply
  • DigitalFreak - Tuesday, January 24, 2006 - link

    See my comment above. They are probably running an XTX card with the Crossfire Edition master card. Reply
  • OrSin - Tuesday, January 24, 2006 - link

    Are gamers going insane. $500+ for video card is not a good price. Maybe its jsut me but are bragging rights really worth thats kind of money. Even if you played a game thats needs it you should be pissed at the game company thats puts a blot mess thats needs a $500 card. Reply

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