ATI Radeon X800XL 512MB & Catalyst 5.6 Driver Update

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Summary & Conclusion

Benchmark Summary: We're going to focus on two sets of benchmark results in this summary.  Our goal was two-fold, we wanted to find out want kind of impact the extra memory on the 512MB Radeon X800XL had on performance, and also wanted to see how the new Catalyst v5.6 drivers affected performance.  Overall, the 512MB Radeon X800 XL performed at virtually the same level as its 256MB counterpart in the majority of circumstances, but games like FarCry and HL2 benefited slightly from the extra RAM at higher resolutions, especially when AA and anisotropic filtering were turned on.  When looking at the performance on the Catalyst v5.6 drivers versus the older v5.5 drivers, we found that 3DMark05, Halo, FarCry and Half Life 2 gained the most performance, but only the high-res Half Life 2 tests, when anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering were enabled, showed a significant increase in performance.

Overall we were impressed with the 512MB ATI Radeon X800 XL, but we're equally as impressed by the 256MB version, probably more so, when you factor in their respective prices. The extra memory installed on the 512MB Radeon X800 XL simply doesn't have a huge impact on performance just yet.  We're certain the extra memory will help sometime in the future, when more demanding games hit store shelves, but for now there isn't much of a benefit unless you're continously running at higher resolutions with high levels of anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering enabled.

The 256MB Radeon X800 XL can be found for approximately $275 at some on-line retailers, but the 512MB version has a much higher $449 MSRP (street prices range from $439 - $480). Deciding whether or not the extra RAM is worth an almost $200 price premium is ultimately up to you, but we suspect most owners of current X800 class cards, or better, won't be upgrading anytime soon and if they did, a Radeon X850 XT offers better performance for a similar price-point. In the end though, ATI does have an impressive product on their hands, that's is potentially more future-proof than any 256MB Radeon currently shipping. Thanks to the 16-pipe X800 core, and a mature driver suite, the 512MB ATI Radeon X800 XL offers top-of-the-line performance and a bit of insurance against obsolescence. The extra memory can potentially insure a longer life-span for the card, that will enable the use of higher-quality modes in future game engines, without having to swap data too and from system memory.

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