Our Summary & Conclusion
Performance Summary: There is a ton of performance data on the preceding pages, so we're going to break down our summary into a couple of sections for each new family of Radeon.
Radeon X1300 Pro and X1600 XT
Throughout our entire battery of tests, the Radeon X1300 Pro performed somewhere in between a GeForce 6200 TC card and a GeForce 6600 GT. It should definitely be considered a low-end, budget solution. The Radeon X1600 XT was much faster than the X1300, as expected, but its performance fell somewhere in between a GeForce 6600 GT and a GeForce 6800 GT. In a head-to-head comparison though, the GeForce 6800 GT would significantly outperform the X1600 XT in the vast majority of today's benchmarks.
Radeon X1800 XT and X1800 XL
The X1800 XL performed at a similar, albeit somewhat lower performance level versus a GeForce 7800 GT, but even a GeForce 6800 Ultra was faster in many circumstances. The Radeon X1800 XT, however, if we disregard the multi-GPU configurations, traded the top spot with a GeForce 7800 GTX in some tests (3DMark, Splinter Cell, FarCry, HL2) with about a 60/40 split in favor of NVIDIA. And in typical fashion the Radeons shine better with AA and Aniso Filtering enabled, but the X1800 XT's larger 512MB frame buffer certainly helped it in this area. In general, ATI's new cards performed better in Direct3D applications than they did in OpenGL applications, which has historically been the case for ATI's products. Overall though, we'd consider the GeForce 7800 GTX the "faster" all-around card in terms of general gaming performance.
ATI has given us a lot to talk about today. Not only with regard to their new family of products, but with their execution and reputation within the market and community as a whole. Looking back over the previous pages, it seems to us that ATI initially began designing the X1000 with NVIDIA's GeForce 6 Series in mind. Had the R520 architecture not suffered from delay after delay, and launched before the GeForce 7 Series, ATI would have been in a much better position. The X1000 graphics family is feature-rich, and performs very well with the GeForce 7 out of the picture. But that's not what happened, and at each of their product's respective projected price points, they are outperformed by NVIDIA's products in many scenarios.
For the X1000 series to gain any traction in the market, cards are going to have to hit store shelves quickly, and in quantity, to drive their street prices down -- and fast. Considering that a GeForce 7800 GTX can be bought for under $480 already, we suspect a >$500 price tag for a Radeon X1800 XT, when / if it arrives with the same specifications that we tested here, is not going to be well received by the majority of potential buyers. Luckily for ATI, the X1800's die is significantly smaller than a GeForce 7800 GTX's, so if they're getting adequate yields from TSMC, they'll be able to drop prices relatively quickly to be competitive this holiday buying season. Unfortunately, we can't be certain when the cards we've tested here will actually be available for purchase, based on the obvious past executional issues in recent ATi product launches.
Last week, we tested a Radeon X850 XT CrossFire system, and were told that motherboards and master cards would be made available almost immediately. Yet, here we are, eight days later and CrossFire is no where to be found. We're sure you've probably read numerous unbiased editorials posted on this subject as of late, so we won't beat a dead horse here. Essentially, X850 CrossFire turned out to be a technology demonstration rather than a product launch, even though ATI representatives looked us straight in the eye and said they waited to re-launch CrossFire until products were available in quantity. That is simply not the case as of today and it's looking more and more like X800 series CrossFire boards are pretty much "still born", with at least one of ATi's major AIB's commenting to us that they're still deciding whether or not to bring them to market. In this case, we guess "available" is a relative term. The problem with doing this - again - is that we can no longer take ATI on their word when talking availability. What we will do is show you exactly when ATI says the X1000 family of graphics cards will be made available...
No need to speculate on PR spin here.
These milestones are either hit or they're not...
The image above was taken directly from one of ATI's recent product briefings. No speculation, here. So, if in the next few days, Radeon X1800 XLs, X1300 Pros, and X1300s aren't available, everyone will know whether or not ATI's word is their bond. To put it bluntly, ATI has to stick to this schedule if they want to start rebuilding the reputation they earned during the Radeon 9700 - 9800 days. It's kind of like ATI is in the same position that NVIDIA was in when the much maligned NV30 / GeForce FX 5800 Ultra was scheduled to launch after repeated delays. ATI also needs to stick to this schedule if they want to make any real money this holiday season. It's not just about the rep. As you can see, the Radeon X1800 XT, and both X1600s, are at least a month to two months away. If ATI falters even slightly, cards will not be on store shelves this holiday season, and you can't sell what's not available. And that's even if cards ship at the specifications listed in this article. Why did you do this to yourself ATI? A conclusion should be filled with definitive statements. Not more questions.
Noticeably missing from the schedule above are the X1x00 CrossFire master cards. Not having an idea when they'll be released also raises some questions. However, we have confirmation from folks like Asus and Abit that Crossfire motherboards are being readied now, with Asus also currently offering a BIOS upgrade for their P5WD2, i955X board to support CrossFire. What about CrossFire X1x00 series master cards, though? We'll see. We'll take a page from our friends in Missouri, the "show-me" state, on this one.
We also feel ATI has got to get Avivo working flawlessly, transparently, and quickly. The video related features of the X1000 Graphics family are technically second to none, at least on paper. But the current state of their drivers and third party software support doesn't expose all of Avivo's features. If Avivo did everything it is supposed to do, the X1000 family of cards would have scored much better on the HQV video benchmark, and playback of DXVA accelerated WMV HD content would be working properly. We've seen Avivo functioning with our own eyes, on multiple occasions though, so we're confident ATI can remedy this particular situation. It's just a matter of getting the necessary code written and tweaked. Again this looks like just another hint of that execution issue that ATI seems to be stumbling with as of late.
There you have it. The details surrounding ATI's new X1000 Graphics Family are no longer a secret. The GPU family is equipped with an advanced Ring-Bus memory controller and a feature-rich video engine, and in-game image quality is top notch. But delays have certainly hurt ATI. If the company executes from this point forward, however, and delivers real product, they will be in a much better position to compete with NVIDIA in the coming weeks and months. Let's all hope they pull it all together. It's never good to have just one competitor running the show.
|•_Good Direct3D performance at each price point
•_Dual-Link DVI Outputs
•_Excellent in-game image quality
•_Promising Avivo Technology
|•_Don't know when they'll REALLY ship
•_Outperformed by similarly, or lower priced NVIDIA products
•_No tangible real-world benefits with Avivo, yet
•_Sub-Par OpenGL performance