Our Summary & Conclusion
Performance Summary: ATI's new Radeon X1900 XTX and XT performed very well throughout all of our testing. In the video related tests, ATI's flagship clearly out scored NVIDIA's GeForce 7800 GTX in HQV, and while playing back high-definition video it had slightly lower CPU-utilization as well (please note, CPU utilization will vary depending on the video being played, however). During the game tests, the new Radeon X1900 XTX and XT outperformed NVIDIA's best in about 80% of the benchmarks, especially in the tests where anisotropic filtering and anti-aliasing were used concurrently. The same essentially holds true for the X1900 CrossFire configuration, although NVIDIA's SLI scaled better in a couple of tests, like F.E.A.R for example. ATI's strongest performance continues to be in DirectX applications, whereas NVIDIA continues to be strong in OpenGL applications.
It's amazing what can happen in a little over three months in this industry. In our initial look at ATI's X1K Graphics family back in October '05, we were hard on ATI for the company's past problems with availability and were somewhat underwhelmed by the R520's (X1800 XT) performance in a couple of key areas compared to NVIDIA's GeForce 7800 GTX. At the time, the capabilities of the AVIVO video pipeline weren't being fully utilized and DXVA video acceleration wasn't even working properly. And OpenGL performance was also lacking when compared to NVIDIA's products. Although in ATI's defense, DirectX performance was relatively good at launch.
Today however, and the landscape has completely changed. Even with the introduction of the higher-clocked 512MB GeForce 7800 GTX, ATI has been able to overtake NVIDIA in terms of overall performance and features. AVIVO is also working properly, OpenGL performance is much better thanks to some driver tweaks, and we encountered no major issues with stability or compatibility. The only problems we encountered had to do with some missing detail in HL2, and CrossFire not scaling as well as SLI in some areas, but software updates could remedy these issues. Now that ATI's software engineers have seemingly caught up with their hardware team, the brand new Radeon X1900 launches with more optimized drivers that expose more of the hardware's capabilities. We couldn't say that when the X1800 XT launched.
Chart Courtesy of ATI
These new Radeon X1900 should also enjoy much wider availability at launch then ATI's previously released products. According to ATI thousands of X1900s in various flavors have already shipped, and should be on sale almost immediately, at price points ranging from $499 for the new All-In-Wonder to $649 for the Radeon X1900 XTX. In fact, they've already showed up at a few on-line retailers, at prices very close to MSRP. In contrast, NVIDIA's flagship 512MB GeForce 7800 GTXs are nearly impossible to find in retail at the moment and if you do find one, odds are the price will be well above MSRP.
If you inspect the chart above, you'll notice a big gap in ATI's current product line-up where the X1800 XL and XT should be. We asked ATI what would happen to the X1800 family now that the X1900 is already here, and were told the two would co-exist for some time. But representatives were not specific as to how long that time would be. We suspect X1800s, especially X1800 XLs, will be available for at least a couple of months though, and prices on the X1800 XT and XL will drop in the short term to fill the gap in the chart above.
Overall, we have to give kudos to ATI for starting off 2006 with a such a bang. The company's problems in 2005 were well documented, so we won't rehash them here. Instead, we'll congratulate ATI for launching the Radeon X1900 so quickly, and thank them for keeping the rivalry between them and NVIDIA alive. ATI fought hard, and seems to have wrestled the performance crown from NVIDIA this time around. NVIDIA surely isn't sitting idle though, and will certainly have an answer for the X1900 sometime soon, but for now ATI is riding high. It wasn't a blow-out by any means, but the X1900 is definitely a winner.
|•_48 Shader Processors!
•_Dual-Link DVI Outputs
•_Image Quality Bug
•_Clunky CrossFire Dongle