Summary & Conclusion
Benchmark Summary: Considering that the Radeon X800 XL's suggested retail price is $299, we'll focus on how the card performed when compared to the GeForce 6800 GT. From a feature and specification standpoint, the GeForce 6800 GT is the X800 XL's main competitor. And the 6800 GT is NVIDIA's 16-pipeline card that comes closest to the X800 XL's projected price point, although 256MB GT's currently sell for $380 on up. When compared to a card who's street prices are about 26% higher than its MSRP, the Radeon X800 XL won 18 tests, lost 17, and tied in the remaining 5 tests. Take a single game out of the equation, Doom 3, and the win-loss-tie ratio changes to 18-11-5. This is a very strong performance from the Radeon X800 XL in our opinion, so long as the card's street prices actually approach its MSRP.
As long as ATi can deliver the Radeon X800 XL in meaningful quantities, and board partners sell their cards at or below MSRP which was traditionally the case, we think ATi has a real winner in their product line-up. And every indicator points to ATi and their partners being able to do just that. The R430's die is significantly smaller than the R423, and its target clock speed is much easier to hit than the previous generation, which should mean higher yields per wafer. The X800 XL requires less power to operate at its target clock speed than the previous generation, it gets by just fine with a single slot cooling solution, and the PCB that it's built upon is more than capable of handling the X800 XL's needs. In fact it's the very same PCB used on the X850 XT Platinum Edition. Just about every aspect of this card suggests ATi will be able to deliver the X800 XL to the masses; we think they'll do it this time around.
The Radeon X800 XL's price-performance ratio also make it a very appealing product. For much less money than current 16-pipeline cards from NVIDIA or ATi, the Radeon X800 XL delivers essentially the same performance. The bottom line is, to get a video card that'll be clearly faster than the X800 XL once it's made available, you'll have to spend an additional $150 to $200. Unless NVIDIA slashes prices on the GeForce 6800 GT, or releases a new, lower-priced 16-pipe GPU of their own, nothing will touch the X800 XL at its price point.
While we're talking dollars, we also have to mention the 12-pipe Radeon X800. ATi suggests that the Radeon X800, with 128MB of RAM and a 400MHz GPU, will be available for about $199. We haven't had a chance to test an actual Radeon X800 just yet, but we suspect it's performance will fall somewhere between an X700 XT and X800 Pro. At this price point, where does that leave the X700 XT? It too has an MSRP of $199? Depending who you ask, the X700 XT will either disappear from ATi's roadmap and never hit retail, or its price will drop to roughly $150. In all likelihood though, the X700 XT will never ship in any real quantity. Abit's got a 256MB X700 XT listed on their global website, but you can't buy it anywhere just yet, and why would you with the X800 and X800 XL looming at similar price points?
Another question that we're sure many HotHardware readers are pondering is whether or not ATi plans any AGP versions of the X800 and X800 XL? At the moment we don't have anything official from ATi to tell you, but rumor has it ATi will have a PCI Express-to-AGP bridge chip available in early Q1 2005. If this turns out to be true, we expect the R430 will be made available for AGP. Time will tell.