Price Guides, April 2005: Video Cardsby Kristopher Kubicki on April 23, 2005 12:05 AM EST
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GPU High EndLast month, we were excited to announce that the X800, X850XT and X800XL were showing on store shelves. Of course, we were originally promised a December/January ship date instead of a February/March ship date, but this is just business as usual for those of us accustomed to the hardware world. This month, the same cards from last month are on retail shelves, but now, in easy-to-upgrade AGP form. However, recommending a third generation Radeon X series repackaged into an AGP form is a difficult proposition for us. Although you may have upgraded your motherboard and CPU in the past, an AGP Radeon X800 only makes sense for those who have spent a lot of money on a relatively recent nForce3 or K8T800 setup, but only need to upgrade the graphics card now. A socket 462 based solution really would benefit more from a CPU/motherboard upgrade than from a high end GPU upgrade, although some overclockers among the crowd will always beg to differ. Further, considering that the X800 AGP cards carry a $30 premium over their PCIe brethren, we can't justify the extra cost. nForce4 boards are very easy to get under $100 for Socket 754 and Socket 939 [RTPE: nForce4]. By the way, if you really want an AGP video card, an ASUS 6800 GT might be the better way to go, but more on that in a second.
Since March, the Sapphire X800 256MB [RTPE: 100107] fell almost $50, certainly impressive considering that we were promised an actual $250 MSRP on this product. Sapphire's X800XL 256MB [RTPE: 100105] also fell to the $299 MSRP, which was certainly welcomed as well. Take a look at how both of these products have behaved over the last three months.
Sapphire X800 256MB
Considering the fact that we were recommending X800XL video cards over GeForce 6800GTs [RTPE: GeForce 6800GT] a month ago, and the Radeons took a nose dive in price, we would be ridiculous to not call the X800XL cards our top graphics card pick this month. We do commend NVIDIA for ramping up shipments of their retail 6800GT and 6800 Ultra PCIe cards. Although, until vendors decide to drop the MSRP on these cards, we are quite sure that ATI will continue to dominate the $200-$300 video card market. We have mentioned it before in the past, but the Radeon X800 Pro [RTPE: Radeon X800 Pro] lineup is a dead end. With prices on the better performing X800 XL where they are, we strongly recommend against buying a Radeon X800 Pro.
Sapphire X800XL 256MB
We alluded to an LeadTek GeForce 6800 GT [RTPE: A400 GT TDH] earlier, and if you fall in that specific high-end AGP market, there really aren't many effective options. For those looking for the benchmark numbers, take a quick look at our benchmark summary from a few months ago. When talking about AGP video cards, these aren't apples-to-apples comparisons because of the bridge chips, but for all intents and purposes, there will not be much difference between those benchmarks and the AGP variants. Going the 6800GT route saves you $20 or so if you go with the 128MB version on AGP.
A bit of competition in this field would be nice. As we mentioned earlier, the bout for PCIe high end cards certainly go to ATI.