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.
•_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