Introduction & The Card
Brutally honest. That phrase is a bit of an oxymoron, is it not? Seriously, what's so brutal about truth and honesty, anyway? Perhaps this term stems from another old saying: the truth hurts. Certainly that is the case with respect to NVIDIA's recent launch of its initially PCI Express-based GeForce 6600GT series product, versus ATi's legacy X600 architecture on the PCIe-based Radeon X600 XT. Let's face facts: The GeForce 6600 series mops up cleanly on any competitive product in the mid-range graphics arena, whether you consider its current PCIe implementation or forthcoming AGP derivatives. The numbers don't lie, and the benchmarks we showcased for you in our GeForce 6600 launch article told the brutally honest tale.
That was true two weeks ago, on September 7, 2004, but it may not be the case today. ATi lets its new eight-pipe machine take flight today, and it too will find its first home in a PCI Express-enabled architecture, with AGP board types to follow in Q4. In the pages ahead, we'll cover ATi's new Radeon X700 XT, its chip-level architecture (which isn't much of a departure from the X800 series), a new set of driver features that are being introduced along with it, and of course its relative performance profile versus NVIDIA's new mid-range eight-pipe GeForce 6600GT. Where's "Ruby" when we need her anyway? Spin us up some of that Vanna White intro flair on the Wheel Of Fortune, honey.
•Improved Anti-Aliasing performance
•Centroid Sample Anti-Aliasing Mode
•Programmable sparse sample patterns
• High-quality video processing & acceleration
•Real-time user programmable video effects
•Video post processing and filtering
•MPEG 1, 2, 4 encode and decode acceleration
•FULLSTREAM™ Video Deblocking
•WMV9 decode acceleration
•High-quality resolution scaling
•Adaptive Per Pixel Deinterlacing
•Noise removal filtering
One word adequately describes the design of the new ATi Radeon X700 XT: svelte. The X700 XT incorporates a low profile single slot design along with an active heatsink and fan combo that also has a neat and tidy footprint. The fan on this design is actually pretty quiet during normal operation, but after some time under heavy load, it does spin up a bit, and the audible whine of its turbine style blades is noticeable. It's not nearly as loud as, say, an NVIDIA GeForce 6800 card, but for those looking for complete silence, this XT model doesn't quite fly underneath the radar.
What is a very nice upside benefit to ATi's bleeding edge .11 micron TSMC-driven manufacturing process on the R410 core is the fact that this graphics card requires no external power source. In addition, ATi claims this new mid-range card will be faster than the company's previous-generation high-end card (the Radeon 9800 XT), with lower power requirements and the elimination of an external power source. Now that's what a die shrink is supposed to do for modern processor design. Granted, PCI Express does provide up to 75 Watts in a X16 graphic slot, so the new system architecture is a bit more accommodating, as well. Also, we've been informed that AGP implementations of the X700 coming down the pipe will require external power, as the design is on the hairy edge of AGP's maximum 45 Watt capacity. However, there's one thing for sure with the X700: You won't have to worry one iota about your existing power supply being able to handle the load.
Let's look quickly at the X700 architecture and the rest of the lineup that ATi is announcing today.