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ATI Radeon X1800 GTO
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Date: Mar 09, 2006
Section:Graphics/Sound
Author: Sean Pelletier And Dave Altavilla
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Introduction

Just a few short years ago, the graphics card industry was largely driven strictly by the innovations and technological developments made at the flagship GPU level. For the majority of users who cannot either afford or justify the cost of a top of the line graphics card, the industry was painfully boring, as the latest and greatest features typically took a generation or more to trickle down to mainstream and performance GPU segments. Fortunately, years later we find a dramatically different competitive landscape on the graphics card front, as today's mainstream and performance segment GPU's are equipped with the technology and features that would annihilate flagship GPU's from a few short generations ago.

In keeping with this recent trend, ATI is announcing the launch of their new Radeon X1800 GTO graphics card. With an MSRP of $249, this new model is essentially a modified Radeon X1800 XL GPU with fewer pipelines and ROPs. Here, we see a slight decrease from 16 pipelines down to 12 as well as a drop in ROPs from 16 to 8. Each GPU is equipped with 8 vertex shaders however as ATI has chosen to keep those resources intact for optimum performance. Looking at these basic specifications, it is certainly impressive to think that this is a $249 graphics card that has all of the features and functionality of the Radeon X1800 series of GPU's.

 

ATI Radeon X1800 GTO
Features & Specifications
Features - ATI Radeon X1800
• 321 million transistors on a 90nm fabrication process
•Ultra-threaded architecture with fast dynamic branching
•Sixteen pixel shader processors
•Eight vertex shader processors
•256-bit 8-channel GDDR3/GDDR4 memory interface
•Native PCI Express x16 bus interface
•Dynamic Voltage Control

Ring Bus Memory Controller
• 512-bit internal ring bus for memory reads
•Programmable intelligent arbitration logic
•Fully associative texture, color, and Z/stencil cache designs
•Hierarchical Z-buffer with Early Z test
•Lossless Z Compression (up to 48:1)
•Fast Z-Buffer Clear
•Z/stencil cache optimized for real-time shadow rendering
•Optimized for performance at high display resolutions, including widescreen HDTV resolutions

Ultra-Threaded Shader Engine
• Support for Microsoft DirectX 9.0 Shader Model 3.0 programmable vertex and pixel shaders in hardware
•Full speed 128-bit floating point processing for all shader operations
•Up to 512 simultaneous pixel threads
•Dedicated branch execution units for high performance dynamic branching and flow control
•Dedicated texture address units for improved efficiency
•3Dc+ texture compression
_o High quality 4:1 compression for normal maps and two-channel data formats
_o High quality 2:1 compression for luminance maps and single-channel data formats
•Multiple Render Target (MRT) support
•Render to vertex buffer support
•Complete feature set also supported in OpenGL 2.0

Advanced Image Quality Features
• 64-bit floating point HDR rendering supported throughout the pipeline
_o Includes support for blending and multi-sample anti-aliasing
•32-bit integer HDR (10:10:10:2) format supported throughout the pipeline
_o Includes support for blending and multi-sample anti-aliasing
•2x/4x/6x Anti-Aliasing modes
_o Multi-sample algorithm with gamma correction, programmable sparse sample patterns, and centroid sampling
_o New Adaptive Anti-Aliasing feature with Performance and Quality modes
_o Temporal Anti-Aliasing mode
_o Lossless Color Compression (up to 6:1) at all resolutions, including widescreen HDTV resolutions
•2x/4x/8x/16x Anisotropic Filtering modes
_o Up to 128-tap texture filtering
_o Adaptive algorithm with Performance and Quality options
•High resolution texture support (up to 4k x 4k)
CrossFire
• Multi-GPU technology
•Four modes of operation:
_o Alternate Frame Rendering (maximum performance)
_o Supertiling (optimal load-balancing)
_o Scissor (compatibility)
_o Super AA 8x/10x/12x/14x (maximum image quality)
_o Program compliant

Avivo Video and Display Engine
• High performance programmable video processor
_o Accelerated MPEG-2, MPEG-4, DivX, WMV9, VC-1, and H.264 decoding (including DVD/HD-DVD/Blu-ray playback), encoding & transcoding
_o DXVA support
_o De-blocking and noise reduction filtering
_o Motion compensation, IDCT, DCT and color space conversion
_o Vector adaptive per-pixel de-interlacing
_o 3:2 pulldown (frame rate conversion)
•Seamless integration of pixel shaders with video in real time
•HDR tone mapping acceleration
_o Maps any input format to 10 bit per channel output
•Flexible display support
_o Dual integrated dual-link DVI transmitters
_o DVI 1.0 / HDMI compliant and HDCP ready
_o Dual integrated 10 bit per channel 400 MHz DACs
_o 16 bit per channel floating point HDR and 10 bit per channel DVI output
_o Programmable piecewise linear gamma correction, color correction, and color space conversion (10 bits per color)
_o Complete, independent color controls and video overlays for each display
_o High quality pre- and post-scaling engines, with underscan support for all outputs
_o Content-adaptive de-flicker filtering for interlaced displays
_o Xilleon™ TV encoder for high quality analog output
_o YPrPb component output for direct drive of HDTV displays
_o Spatial/temporal dithering enables 10-bit color quality on 8-bit and 6-bit displays
_o Fast, glitch-free mode switching
_o VGA mode support on all outputs
•Compatible with ATI TV/Video encoder products, including Theater 550





ATI Radeon X1800 GTO


 

The reference card we tested was not visibly discernable from any single-slot X1800 cards we've had in the labs and was designated with a green "Non-Qualification Sample" sticker. Here, the same copper-based heatpipe heatsink assembly was charged with keeping the core at a reasonable temperature. In practice, this cooler did an excellent job and maintained very reasonable noise levels throughout testing. Moving our attention towards the side bracket of the card, we find two dual-link DVI headers. Those aiming to drive hefty 30" LCD's the likes of Apple's Cinema Display or Dell's 30" behemoth, can rest easy, as this card has the horsepower, in addition to the proper connectivity to do so.

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Architecture

Given the recent launch of ATI's new flagship Radeon X1900 series, the previous high-end Radeon X1800 series has seen some new introductions as well as some price cuts. With an MSRP of $249, the new Radeon X1800 GTO represents the most economical option in ATI's family of enthusiast GPU's. The current product lineup consists of the SKUs listed below which are arranged according to MSRP. Here, we should note that both the Radeon X1800 XL 512MB as well as the X1800 XT 256MB are not your typical consumer SKU's. Rather, these cards are special AIB SKU's for system vendors to allow more flexibility in specifying complete systems for a given price point.

 

Item / Configuration MSRP Availability
Radeon X1800 GTO 256MB $249 March 31
Radeon X1800 XL 256MB $299 Available
Radeon X1800 XT 512MB $329 Available
Radeon X1800 Crossfire 512MB $349 Available
Radeon X1900 XT 512MB $479 Available
Radeon X1900 XTX 512MB $549 Available
Radeon X1900 Crossfire 512MB $549 Available

 

Looking at the table above, we see some promising news that is somewhat tainted by one inconsistency. Despite the fact that every SKU except one is currently available in the retail channel, the card in question today will not be readily available until the end of March. As a result, we begin to view today's product launch as a knee-jerk reaction to NVIDIA's new GeForce 7600 and GeForce 7900 series and not as a previously-planned product from ATI. Were that not the case and the Radeon X1800 GTO represented a new architecture and not simply a cut-down X1800 XL, we could understand and appreciate a slight delay to launch. 

Conversely, ATI would claim that previous pre-loading of retail and partner channels has only lead to leakage of pre-embargo lift information in the market, so they felt compelled to hold off shipping until a couple of weeks after launch.  We'll sift through this a bit and offer that if NVIDIA has been able to keep things under wraps with their GeForce 7900 series hard launch, so should ATI.

We've previously mentioned that the Radeon X1800 GTO does not represent any new architectural changes to the X1800 series of GPUs. In fact, the new GTO model uses the exact same R520 core shown above which is found in the more expensive models of the same family. Here, the only limitations placed on this card to reach the desired price-point are the reduction of shader pipelines down to 12 and the cut in number of ROPs down to 8. In short, this means the Radeon X1800 GTO is equipped with a complete DX9 architecture that supports Shader 3.0 as well as constant FP32 processing, dynamic flow control, HDR with FSAA, and a 512-bit Ring Bus memory controller. On top of this, users also receive complete support for ATI's AVIVO multimedia functionality. Perhaps one of the most interesting features of this new model however is the upcoming support for "peer-to-peer" Crossfire operation.

CrossFire With No Master For The Performance Mid-Range -
After speaking with ATI, we learned that the Radeon X1800 GTO would be one of the few graphics cards that would support "peer-to-peer" CrossFire implementations. This hardware configuration would not require any of the usual dongles or special "Master CrossFire Edition" graphics cards. Rather, CrossFire would be software-enabled through the driver and inter-GPU communications would take place across PCI Express Graphics links. Unfortunately, it is hard to get too excited about this feature at this time, as this functionality is not currently enabled in any drivers and the expected release date for such a driver is not currently known at this time. Regardless, I'm sure many users are excited with the prospect of losing CrossFire dongles and having to purchase a specific model of their CF Master graphics card to obtain the performance benefits of CrossFire.

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Test System and 3DMark06

HOW WE CONFIGURED THE TEST SYSTEMS: We tested our NVIDIA cards on an Asus A8N32-SLI Deluxe nForce 4 SLIX16 chipset based motherboard. However, the ATI cards were tested on an Asus A8R32-MVP Deluxe motherboard based on the CrossFire Xpress 3200 chipset. Both systems used the same AMD Athlon 64 FX-55 processor and 1GB of low-latency Corsair XMS RAM. The first thing we did when configuring these test systems was enter each BIOS and loaded the "High Performance Defaults."  The hard drive was then formatted, and Windows XP Professional with SP2 was installed. When the installation was complete, we installed the latest chipset drivers available, installed all of the other necessary drivers for the rest of our components, and removed Windows Messenger from the system. Auto-Updating and System Restore were also disabled, the hard drive was defragmented, and a 768MB permanent page file was created on the same partition as the Windows installation. Lastly, we set Windows XP's Visual Effects to "best performance," installed all of the benchmarking software, and ran the tests.

Important** - For our testing purposes, we chose to test the $249 Radeon X1800 GTO against its main competition. As of today, that competition consists of the $179 - $229 NVIDIA GeForce 7600 GT and the $299 NVIDIA GeForce 7900 GT. Ideally, we would have included a ~$349 Radeon X1800 XL with its 16 pipelines to balance things out. However, we received word of this product launch less than a week ago and did not have enough time or resources to complete testing with that card, on top of imminent NVIDIA launches and Intel IDF presentations. Regardless, the cards tested do an excellent job of framing the Radeon X1800 GTO and aid in determining which graphics card presents the ideal balance of price and performance.

The HotHardware Test Systems
AMD Athlon 64 FX Powered

Processor -

Motherboard -





Video Cards -





Memory -


Audio -

Hard Driv
e -

 

Hardware Used:
AMD Athlon 64 FX-55 (2.6GHz)

Asus A8N32-SLI
nForce4 SLIX16 chipset

Asus A8R32-MVP Deluxe
ATI CrossFire Express 3200

Radeon X1800 GTO

Radeon X1600 XT
Radeon X1600 Pro
GeForce 7900 GT
GeForce 7600 GT

1024MB Corsair XMS PC3200 RAM
CAS 2

Integrated on board

Western Digital "Raptor"

36GB - 10,000RPM - SATA

Operating System -
Chipset Drivers -
DirectX -

Video Drivers
-




Synthetic (DX) -
DirectX -

DirectX -
DirectX -
OpenGL -
Relevant Software:
Windows XP Professional SP2
nForce Drivers v6.82
DirectX 9.0c

NVIDIA Forceware v84.17

ATI Catalyst v6.2


Benchmarks Used:
3DMark06 v1.0.2
FarCry v1.33*
F.E.A.R.
Half Life 2*
Quake 4*

* - Custom Test (HH Exclusive demo)

Performance Comparisons with 3DMark06 v1.0.2
Details: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark06/

3DMark06
Futuremark recently launched a brand-new version of their popular benchmark, 3DMark06. The new version of the benchmark is updated in a number of ways, and now includes not only Shader Model 2.0 tests, but Shader Model 3.0 and HDR tests as well. Some of the assets from 3DMark05 have been re-used, but the scenes are now rendered with much more geometric detail and the shader complexity is vastly increased as well. Max shader length in 3DMark05 was 96 instructions, while 3DMark06 ups the number of instructions to 512. 3DMark06 also employs much more lighting, and there is extensive use of soft shadows. With 3DMark06, Futuremark has also updated how the final score is tabulated. In this latest version of the benchmark, SM 2.0 and HDR / SM3.0 tests are weighted and the CPU score is factored into the final tally as well.

Looking at the results from 3DMark06, we see a very close battle between the $249 Radeon X1800 GTO and the cheaper $179 - $229 GeForce 7600 GT. With each card scoring roughly 3000 points, we are realizing that there is some serious performance to be had for this price range. However, the surprise in the group comes from the score of the $299 GeForce 7900 GT as its showing is a clear 1,000 points above the other top contenders.

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FarCry

Performance Comparisons with FarCry v1.33
Details: http://www.farcry.ubi.com/

FarCry
If you've been on top of the gaming scene for some time, you probably know that FarCry was one of the most visually impressive games to be released on the PC last year. Courtesy of its proprietary engine, dubbed "CryEngine" by its developers, FarCry's game-play is enhanced by Polybump mapping, advanced environment physics, destructible terrain, dynamic lighting, motion-captured animation, and surround sound. Before titles such as Half-Life 2 and Doom 3 hit the scene, FarCry gave us a taste of what was to come in next-generation 3D gaming on the PC. We benchmarked the graphics cards in this article with a custom-recorded demo run taken in the "Catacombs" area checkpoint, at various resolutions without anti-aliasing or anisotropic filtering enabled, and then again with 4X AA and 16X aniso enabled concurrently.

 

 

At a resolution of 1280x1024, we find that every card we tested was able to turn in respectable framerates. Somewhat surprisingly, the Radeon X1800 GTO found itself trailing the cheaper GeForce 7600GT by more than 10fps when no FSAA or AF was in use. Once 4x AA and 8x AF were enabled, the strength of the R520 architecture was finally illustrated as the roles were reversed and the GeForce 7600 GT was behind by 10fps. As we witnessed with 3DMark06, NVIDIA's GeForce 7900 GT was the leader of the pack by no small margin. In each case, this new GPU held a nearly 20fps advantage over ATI's new contender.

Raising the game's resolution to 1600x1200 yielded some slightly different results. Here, the more price-conscious GeForce 7600 GT lost its sizeable lead with no image quality enhancements enabled and the Radeon X1800 GTO was only a mere 3fps behind. Again, we found the GeForce 7900 GT doing a good job justifying its $50 premium over the X1800 GTO, by being nearly 40fps faster. Enabling FSAA and AF narrowed that margin significantly, although the overall pack order still had the GeForce 7900 GT taking top honors with the Radeon X1800 GTO taking second and the GeForce 7600 GT following in third.

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Half-Life 2

Performance Comparisons with Half-Life 2
Details: http://www.half-life2.com/

Half Life 2
Thanks to the dedication of hardcore PC gamers and a huge mod-community, the original Half-Life became one of the most successful first person shooters of all time.  So, when Valve announced Half-Life 2 was close to completion in mid-2003, gamers the world over sat in eager anticipation. Unfortunately, thanks to a compromised internal network, the theft of a portion of the game's source code, and a tumultuous relationship with the game's distributor, Vivendi Universal, we all had to wait until November '04 to get our hands on this classic. We benchmarked Half-Life 2 with a long, custom-recorded timedemo in the "Canals" map, that takes us through both outdoor and indoor environments. These tests were run at resolutions of 1,280 x 1,024 and 1,600 x 1,200 without any anti-aliasing or anisotropic filtering and with 4X anti-aliasing and 16X anisotropic filtering enabled concurrently.

 

 

Traditionally, Half-Life 2 is a benchmark which is typically dominated by ATI GPU's in much the same manner that Doom3 favors NVIDIA hardware. As such, it is no surprise to see the Radeon X1800 GTO performing exceptionally well in this game. At a resolution of 1280x1024 with no enhanced image quality settings enabled, it is a close race between the top three cards as less than 10fps separates them. Enabling FSAA and AF brings a slight performance penalty on each card and provides enough framerate differentiation between them to easily declare the GeForce 7900GT the fastest with the Radeon X1800 GTO following in a close second.

Raising the resolution to 1600x1200 takes its toll on all but the GeForce 7900GT as every other card falls below 100fps once FSAA and AF are enabled. Again, we have the same pecking order in the results with the Radeon X1800 GTO coming in a very respectable second to the slightly more expensive card from NVIDIA.

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F.E.A.R

Performance Comparisons with F.E.A.R
More Info: http://www.whatisfear.com/us/

F.E.A.R
One of the most highly anticipated titles of 2005 was Monolith's paranormal thriller F.E.A.R. Taking a look at the minimum system requirements, we see that you will need at least a 1.7GHz Pentium 4 with 512MB of system memory and a 64MB graphics card, that is a Radeon 9000 or GeForce4 Ti-class or better, to adequately run the game. Using the full retail release of the game patched to v1.02, we put the graphics cards in this review through their paces to see how they fared with a popular title. Here, all graphics settings within the game were set to the maximum values, but with soft shadows disabled (Soft shadows and anti-aliasing do not work together currently). Benchmark runs were then completed at resolutions of 1152x864 and 1600x1200, with and without anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering enabled.

 

 

There is a bit of irony when testing the game F.E.A.R as its stiff hardware requirements instills fear in the vast majority of systems that attempt to run the game in all its visual glory. This new title is taxing enough to bring even the fastest enthusiast systems down a notch or two. Running a resolution of 1152x864, we find the two new NVIDIA GPU's taking the lead with the Radeon X1800 GTO trailing slightly behind by 9fps. Positions change slightly once FSAA and AF are introduced, with the Radeon X1800 GTO now commanding second place by a narrow 4fps over the GeForce 7600 GT.

Somewhat surprisingly, the cheaper GeForce 7600 GT is able to still maintain a lead over the Radeon X1800 GTO even at a high resolution of 1600x1200. Here the new ATI card is right on the cusp of acceptable framerates with a strained 34fps performance. Adding FSAA and AF to the mix changes things in ATI's favor, although only by a narrow 2fps margin. As we've witnessed in all other benchmarks, the GeForce 7900 GT dominates the competition by a sizeable margin with it scoring the same average framerate with FSAA and AF enabled, as the Radeon X1800 GTO scores without any of those settings enabled. Then again, we must remember that the GeForce 7900GT is $50 more expensive than the ATI counterpart (and 12 pixel pipes stronger) so its up to the user to determine which card is best for their desired price range.

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Quake 4

Performance Comparisons with Quake 4
Details: http://www.quake4game.com/

Quake 4
id Software, in conjunction with developer Raven, recently released the latest addition to the wildly popular Quake franchise, Quake 4. Quake 4 is based upon an updated and slightly modified version of the Doom 3 engine, and as such performance characteristics between the two titles are very similar.  Like Doom 3, Quake 4 is also an OpenGL game that uses extremely high-detailed textures and a ton of dynamic lighting and shadows, but unlike Doom3, Quake 4 features some outdoor environments as well. We ran this these Quake 4 benchmarks using a custom demo with the game set to its "High-Quality" mode, at resolutions of 1,280 x 1,024 and 1,600 x 1,200 without anti-aliasing enabled and then again with 4X AA and 8X aniso enabled simultaneously.

The Doom3-based Quake4 benchmark runs do an excellent job of showcasing our previous point of how favorably NVIDIA hardware runs on this engine. Much like the advantage the ATI cards held in Half-Life 2, the NVIDIA cards run away with this benchmark at 1280x1024. Here, the cheaper GeForce 7600 GT commands almost 20fps of headroom over the Radeon X1800 GTO. The more expensive GeForce 7900 GT goes a few steps further by nearly doubling the score of ATI's latest card. Adding FSAA and AF brings an enormous performance hit for all cards and levels the playing field between the GeForce 7600 GT and the Radeon X1800 GTO.

With a higher resolution of 1600x1200, we witness one of the rare occasions where the Radeon X1800 GTO is unable to surpass the GeForce 7600 GT and is still well behind the slightly cheaper card. Again, adding FSAA and AF levels the playing field and the two return nearly identical results. Once more, the GeForce 7900 GT's $50 price premium seems to pay off in spades as its scores are always 15fps or more beyond the other contenders.

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Overclocking

Overclocking ATI's Radeon X1800 GTO
(Fast 3D Video Card) + Overclocking = Even Faster Card

Regardless of how fast graphics cards become over time, nearly all of us in the enthusiast set are plagued with the flaw of never being satisfied. If there is even the most remote chance that a piece of hardware could be faster, we'll scour the earth searching for a way to unlock that speed. Fortunately, graphics card vendors have provided users with the appropriate tools within the drivers to push the envelope with their hardware and attain the highest framerates possible. Using these tools, we threw caution to the wind and attempted to find the breaking point for each of the major GPU's of interest. Keep in mind that we are dealing with reference card samples here and not actual retail products. As such, your mileage will vary when attempting to overclock your own graphics cards.


The Radeon X1800 GTO comes equipped with a stock core frequency of 500MHz. Thanks to its 90nm fab process, it seems certain that there should be some solid overclocking headroom with this GPU. Furthermore, the conservative stock 1GHz memory frequency had equal opportunity of seeing some more aggressive speeds. After experiementing with gradually increasing clock speeds for both core and memory, we settled on a stable overclock of 575MHz for the core and 1.13GHz (565MHz DDR) for the memory. As we see in the Quake 4 benchmark results shown above, this overclock was able to provide an additional 4fps. Were one to experiment with an aftermarket heatsink assembly or utilize watercooling, they could easily squeeze some higher frequencies from this card and see larger performance increasese.

With NVIDIA's latest GPU's also sharing a 90u process, it is no surprise to see some equally impressive numbers regarding their overclocking ventures. Again, we find modest to impressive performance improvements ranging from 3fps up to 9fps. When you consider the fact that these performance increases for all cards are coming free of charge, the notion of overclocking becomes less of a tainted black art and more of a worthwhile venture.

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Conclusion

Performance Summary:

When comparing these cards, it is important to boil each down to their most primitive and basic forms in order to get a clear perspective of how they stack up. In doing so, we will look at the cheapest form of each card that allows for the full performance and functionality the vendor intended for that GPU. In short, we'll be looking at the lowest MSRP that still retains the reference clock speeds and full hardware specification for that given GPU. Fancy heatsink assemblies and robust bundles aside, the most basic graphics cards found in retail using these GPU's present some tough decisions.

Looking at the basic GeForce 7600 GT, we see a card that would realistically sell for $179 for a generic model with stock speeds and nothing more. As we've witnessed throughout our benchmarks, this economical card is very capable of providing an excellent gaming experience. Often times, the $179 GeForce 7600GT would be leading the new pricier $249 Radeon X1800 GTO when FSAA and AF were not enabled. This alone makes the card an impressive offering for those dealing with a very tight budget. However, in this day it is hard to not look at FSAA and AF as essential settings when playing today's latest and greatest games. Although the card is no slouch, we clearly see that the strength of the Radeon X1800 GTO's R520 architecture lends itself towards being a better overall decision for discerning gamers who can appreciate those IQ settings. Then again, the $70 price differential between the two could be the deciding factor as that is no small amount of money for the vast majority of us.

In similar fashion, we find ourselves faced with the same situation (although reversed) when looking at the GeForce 7900 GT versus the new Radeon X1800 GTO. One glimpse at the benchmarks for this card reveals that NVIDIA's latest flagship family of GPU's is going after ATI with a vengeance. From start to finish, there was not a single benchmark which this new GPU didn't dominate. However, with a minimalist card using this GPU retailing for $299, we are talking about a graphics card that is $50 more than the Radeon X1800 GTO and nearly on par with a $350 16 pipeline Radeon X1800 XL. Granted, the performance differential between the Radeon X1800 GTO and the GeForce 7900 GT was drastic to say the least. However, to some a $50 premium is not justifiable and the $249 pricepoint is a hard limitation for their budget. In this case, the Radeon X1800 GTO is the better choice as it offers excellent performance with or without FSAA and AF enabled and has solid overclocking headroom for futher performance benefits. 

Without question, with the launch of the Radeon X1800 GTO ATI has released a solid card with excellent performance for a very reasonable price. Unfortunately, it appears as though time is ATI's worst enemy here as NVIDIA's latest offerings seem to overshadow this launch effort on many fronts. Then again, those looking for a high performance graphics card for under $300 certainly have their work cut out for them as each of the three main cards in question throughout this review stand out on their own merits.

In the end, we look at the Radeon X1800 GTO with mixed emotions. Surely, nobody will deny the fact that this new product is more reactionary than revolutionary. Unlike some product launches in the past, the X1800 designation to this product is much more than just a name as the product carries over the full features and functionality of its more expensive counterparts. Were this product to have launched with the original Radeon X1800 family, ATI would have had a hard time keeping this card on store shelves. Fast forward several quarters and we find a dramatically different situation for the vast majority of consumers. With the arrival of NVIDIA's GeForce 7600 GT and GeForce 7900 GT, the Radeon X1800 GTO is hardly a runaway victor by any stretch of the imagination. ATI still has a solid card on their hands and users surely won't be disappointed with a card of this caliber. However, there are several key points to ponder when considering which card deserves your attention.

Boiling things down to the basics, we see the Radeon X1800 GTO as a 90u core consisting of roughly 321 million transistors. With 12 pipelines, 8 vertex shaders, and 8 ROPS the card is easily able to play the latest and greatest games with ease. Thanks to the intricate and efficient ring bus memory architecture of the R520 core, AIB vendors can spec relatively modest and inexpensive memory chips and still attain excellent performance. Somewhat conversely, we find the GeForce 7900 die being made on a 90u process and consisting of "only" 278 million transistors. This GPU features 24 pipelines, 8 vertex shaders, and 16 ROPs. The GeForce 7600 GT comes to the table with a 90u process as well and is armed with 12 pipelines, 5 vertex shaders, and 8 ROPs. One look at the impossibly small die of the GeForce 7600 GT and you quickly realizes this is a very cheap GPU to make.

This brings us to our main concern with the Radeon X1800 GTO. Using the expensive and rather large die of the R520 core with its hefty number of transistors, we cannot help but wonder how ATI can make any appreciable amount of profit with this card. Essentially being a constrained version of the ~$350 Radeon X1800 XL, we begin to wonder if ATI can afford to channel R520 cores towards this $249 part. Obviously, the company needed an answer to NVIDIA's latest mainstream offerings and in this respect, the Radeon X1800 GTO does a solid job. However, we would not be surprised to see a new mainstream offering coming from ATI with a smaller die consisting of fewer transistors which would be much more economical. Chances are, such a part would be coming much sooner rather than later should ATI be following our train of thought. Until then, ATI fans have a new option to consider for a high performance mainstream part with the launch of the Radeon X1800 GTO.

_Single-Slot Cooling
_Faster than GeForce 7600 GT with AA/AF enabled
_Good overclocking headroom thanks to 90u process
_Full AVIVO functionality
_Strong FSAA and AF performance
_Slower than GeForce 7600 GT without AA/AF
_Significantly slower than GeForce 7900GT despite being only $50 cheaper


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