The Competition

ATI has been very aggressive as of late, and we have been quite happy with what we have seen so far. After their circuit design setback with the X1800 last year, ATI really turned things around and offered the X1900 lineup in rather quick succession. Before today, the X1900 was clearly the king of the hill in all things graphics. With the new RD580 chipset from ATI offering 2x x16 PCI Express slots, Crossfire is looking better than ever as well. The comparison at the high end is very exciting: it's never been a better time to be a graphics enthusiast with tons of excess money.

At the same time, the midrange is heating up as well. With prices on the X1600 looking good, the new pressure on NVIDIA from ATI's upcoming X1800 GTO (which we unfortunately don't have), and solid products like the 6800 GS and 7800 GT already out there, the 7600 GT is a welcome addition in price/performance.

So we can get a good idea of what we will be working with, we are providing tables comparing the features of the high end cards and mid range cards we will be testing from NVIDIA and ATI. CrossFire and SLI will be looked at as well.

NVIDIA Graphics Card Specifications
  Vert Pipes Pixel Pipes Raster Pipes Core Clock Mem Clock Mem Size (MB) Mem Bus (bits) Price
GeForce 7900 GTX 8 24 16 650 800 512 256 ~$500+
GeForce 7900 GT 8 24 16 450 660 256 256 ~$325
GeForce 7800 GTX 512 8 24 16 550 850 512 256 $600+
GeForce 7800 GTX 8 24 16 430 600 256 256 $450
GeForce 7800 GT 8 20 16 400 500 256 256 $300
GeForce 7600 GT 5 12 8 560 700 256 128 ~$200
GeForce 6800 GS 5 12 8 425 500 256 256 $180


ATI Graphics Card Specifications
  Vert Pipes Pixel Pipes Raster Pipes Core Clock Mem Clock Mem Size (MB) Mem Bus (bits) Price
Radeon X1900 XTX 8 48 16 650 775 512 256 $600+
Radeon X1900 XT 8 48 16 625 725 512 256 $500
Radeon X1600 XT 5 12 4 590 690 256 128 $150


We will also be including SLI and CrossFire setups for these cards in all cases but for the X1600 XT. Unfortunately, during testing one of our X1600 cards decided to roll over and die (such is the price of working with engineering samples and prerelease products). The other card we would love to have included is the X1800 GTO which has 12 pixel pipes and is clocked similarly to the X1800 XL. As we mentioned previously, ATI didn't get a card to us for testing.

For our comparison, we have decided to test all applications with 4xAA and 8xAF in all tests but Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory. For Splinter Cell we are testing with SM3.0 options enabled and AA disabled as the game doesn't allow both to be set while playing. With all of this power available, our opinion is that AA is worth enabling in just about any situation. The visual quality benefit, even at high resolutions, is well worth it.

NVIDIA's Die Shrink: The 7900 and 7600 The Test and Power
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  • Z3RoC00L - Thursday, March 9, 2006 - link

    Anandtech don't favor ATi over nVIDIA. Have you checked out the majority of reviews? The only site that's giving nVIDIA a decisive win is HardOCP. If you want fanboism and retardation (yes new word I invented) please feel free to visit http://www.HardOCP.com">http://www.HardOCP.com. But if you want solid benchmarks only a few places offer them. Beyond3D, Anandtech and firingsquad. You can also check Techreport & Hothardware. Want a list?
    - Anandtech (GeForce 7600 and 7900 series)
    - Beyond 3D (GeForce 7600 series)
    - Bjorn 3D (GeForce 7600 and 7900 series)
    - ExtremeTech(GeForce 7600 and 7900 series)
    - Firing Squad (GeForce 7900 series)
    - Firing Squad (GeForce 7600 series)
    - Guru 3D (GeForce 7600 and 7900 series)
    - Hard OCP (GeForce 7900 series)
    - Hardware Zone (ASUS GeForce 7900 GT)
    - HEXUS (GeForce 7600 and 7900 series)
    - Hot Hardware (GeForce 7600 and 7900 series)
    - Legit Reviews (XFX GeForce 7900 GTX XXX Edition)
    - NV News (eVHGA GeForce 7900 GT CO)
    - PC Perspective (GeForce 7600 and 7900 series)
    - PenStar Systems (eVGA GeForce 7600 CO)
    - The Tech Report (GeForce 7600 and 7900 series)
    - Tom's Hardware Guide (GeForce 7600 and 7900 series)
    - Tweak Town (BFG GeForce 7900 GTX)
    - Club IC (French) (GeForce 7900 GT)
    - iXBT (Russian) (GeForce 7600 and 7900 series)
    - Hardware.FR (GeForce 7900 series)
    - Hardware.FR (GeForce 7600 series)

    All in all the x1900XTX comes out the winner in the high end segment when HIGH END features are used (AA and AF) and when heavy Shaders are used as well. But it's not a clear victory. Results go both ways and much like the x800XT PE vs. 6800 Ultra (with roles reversed) there will never be a clear winner between these two cards.

    I for one prefer the X1900XTX, I like the fact that it will last a tad longer and offer me better Shader performance, better performance under HDR, Adaptive AA, High Quality AF, HDR + AA, AVIVO and the AVIVO converter tool. But that's just my opinion.
    Reply
  • Fenixgoon - Thursday, March 9, 2006 - link

    You do realize that the x1900 XT and XTX beat the 7800 series, right? That's all Nvidia has had until now. I'm glad to see the 7900 take the lead (albeit the few frames it gains generally don't matter). What concerns me is the budget market. I'd like to see both ATI and Nvidia do some more work in producing better budget cards. My x800pro is still an awesome mid-range card that can hang with many of these new series cards, minus SM3(I bought it some months ago as a final AGP upgrade). In the end of course, stiff compeitition = better price/performance for us Reply
  • Spoonbender - Thursday, March 9, 2006 - link

    Been living under a rock for the last 3 years? ATI's drivers are fine these days. I still prefer NVidia's drivers, but that's a matter of preference mainly. Quality-wise, there's only the slightest difference these days.
    And NVidia isn't all that compatible either. They've ditched support for everything up to (and including) Geforce 2 in their newer drivers. But really, who cares? I doubt you'd get much more performance out of a GF2 by using newer drivers.

    As for the bias, I'm surprised NVidia does so well in this test. I was expecting them to take a beating performance-wise.


    But geez, what you're saying is really "I don't know anything about ATI, but the fact that AT includes their cards in benchmarks means they must be evil liars..."
    Reply
  • Spinne - Thursday, March 9, 2006 - link

    If you've never had experience with an ATI GPU, how qualified are you to judge their software? I've used cards made by both companies and I would not bad mouth ATI's drivers down anymore. Ever since the Catalyst series came out, their drivers have been pretty decent. The 'Driver Gap' is highly overrated and untrue to the best of my experience, atleast under Windows. Under Linux, my apartment mate tells me ATI's drivers suck, but then again, he's never used them, but I'd give some weight to his opinion. In any case, there's no point in buying a high end card like this for a Linux box. Reply
  • rgsaunders - Thursday, March 9, 2006 - link

    First of all, let me say that Anandtech is usually the first place I visit when looking for information on new hardware, however, I find that your video card reviews seem to have fallen prey to the same pattern as other review sites. Although its nice to know how these cards perform for gaming, the vast majority of users do more than game with their machines. It would be very beneficial to those of us looking for a new video card to see results of comparative video quality for text use and photo editing as well as the normal gaming tests. In the past, I have returned video cards because of their extremely poor text quality, even though they were good for gaming. The gaming community is a vocal minority online, however, the vast majority of users spend a lot of time using their machines for textual processing or photo editing, etc and a small portion of their time gaming.

    Please include the requested tests in upcoming video card reviews so as to provide a balanced, professional review of these products and stand out from all the other review sites that seem to concentrate primarily on gaming.
    Reply
  • Spinne - Thursday, March 9, 2006 - link

    Can you specify what cards you've had to return due to poor texture quality? As far as I know, no cards have had problems with 2D in a very very long time. In any case, you'd have to be insane and very rich to splurge money on a G71 or R580 class card for Photoshop or @D desktop performance. It's like buying a '70 Dodge Challenger for driving to work in. I do however feel that AT needs to talk about image quality in 3D some. With all the different modes of AF and AA out there, and the cores themselves performing so well, IQ becomes a large factor in the decesion making process. Reply
  • rgsaunders - Thursday, March 9, 2006 - link

    In the past I have had to return Asus and Abit Geforce based cards due to their dubious text\2D quality. There are differences between the various cards, ATI and nVidia, dependant upon the actual manufacturer, in their filter designs. This has a noticeable affect at times on the quality of the text. I agree that IQ in 3D is important, however I do think that text and 2D IQ are also important. The fact that a G71 or R580 class card may be overkill if all you were doing with your computer is Photoshop or MSOffice, however for some of us, the computer is a multipurpose device, used for the full gamut of applications, including occassional gaming. In the main, I usually stay a step behind the bleeding edge of video performance, as do many others. Todays bleeding edge is tomorrows main stream card and unless you review everything the first time, there is no information wrt text and 2D IQ. Reply
  • Zoomer - Monday, March 13, 2006 - link

    These are most likely reference cards, and reference cards from nvidia have in the past proven to output a much better signal that what will be produced later on, esp. when the price cutting starts. Reply
  • Zoomer - Monday, March 13, 2006 - link

    One more thing.

    Derek, why don't you guys take the time required to produce a nice review? Is it really necessary to get that article up and running on the day of the launch? If you got the cards late, bash the company for it. And take all the time you need to do a proper review like these AT have done in the past.

    Reviews with just benchmarks and pharaphrased press release info is REALLY boring and is a turn off. For example, I couldn't bear to look at the graphs as they weren't relevant. I skipped right to the End.

    Whatever happened to overclocking investigations? Testing for core/mem bottlenecks by tweaking the frequency? Such infomation is USEFUL as it means all these with the same care out there DOES NOT have to repeat it for themselves. Recall AT's TNT/GF2 era articles. If my memory is correct, there were pages of such investigation, and a final recommendation was made to clock up the mem clock to the limit, and then clock up the core.

    Image quality comparisons like these done on for the Radeon 32 DDR, R200, etc are almost absent.

    Quality of components used? Granted, this is moot for engineering sample cards, but an investigation of the cooling solution would be good. Reliability and noise of the cooling solution should be included. Does these ultra fine fins dust traps? That small high RPM screamer a possible candidate for early failure?

    Performance is only one small part of the whole picture. Everyone and their dog publishes graphs. However, only a select few go beyond that, and even fewer are from these that have the trust of many.
    Reply
  • Questar - Thursday, March 9, 2006 - link

    According to Hardocp, the 7900 has horrible texture shimmering issues. Reply

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