Final Analysis & Conclusion
In terms of the benchmarks we've shown you today, it's very much a split decision for this middle weight bout of the eight-pipeline PCI Express-based graphics contenders - 18 wins for ATi, 17 for NVIDIA. Where ATi's card wins in places such as UT2004, it sometimes wins big. Of course, when it comes to Doom 3, NVIDIA clearly has the advantage and also wins big in that game engine. Then of course there's Half Life 2. Upon its release, our expectation is that the X700 XT will have a bit of an advantage there when anti-aliasing is used, but only time will tell. In addition, the currently available Counter Strike Source stress test, at this point, we feel may not be a realistic depiction of what HL2 benchmarking or gaming performance will be. We just won't know that answer fully until the game is released. So for now, we have games such as Far Cry, UT2004 and Doom 3 to look to for next-generation gaming peformance metrics. In this case, it's two out of three for the ATi Radeon X700 XT, not a bad batting average by any measure.
There is no question about it, the new ATi Radeon X700 XT puts up one heck of a fight versus NVIDIA's latest eight-pipeline mid-range GeForce 6600 GT. If you asked us even three weeks ago if we thought ATi could answer the GeForce 6600 GT's harsh battle call, we would have probably answered no. Honestly, the GeForce 6600 GT is and was just that impressive. However, equally as impressive is ATi's new Radeon X700 XT. With the exception of Doom 3, it steps right up to the performance levels of NVIDIA's latest mid-range GeForce and then some in certain cases. The X700 XT has obvious strength in its six-vertex engine setup and delivers in high-polygon-count gaming conditions. In addition, ATi's obviously robust DX9 gaming performance, as is evident in our Far Cry and UT2004 testing, carries forward in this generation of mid-range products.
What we're sure most of you are jonesing for at this point is an AGP version of either of these two new $199 graphics cards from NVIDIA and ATi. In the OEM sector, it will be interesting to watch the design wins land for the respective players in the field. Both cards are native PCI Express incarnations with no external power required and similar thermal characteristics. We'll have to see how those chips fall, but it should be interesting. However, in the retail market, it may just be a case of which competitor gets an AGP card on the shelf first. Both have their strong suits, for sure, and third-party OEM implementations of the reference designs should by all rights have plenty of flair. Our collective hats are off to ATi for answering the GeForce 6600's call and for admitting the brutally honest truth of the X600's aging base architecture. It will be eight pixel pipelines and six vertex engines of fun coming out of Canada this holiday buying season, and that's likely to keep sugarplums dancing in high-resolution detail over those cold winter months.