ATI's 3D card impervious to Nvidia's GeForce
| ATI's new 3D cards demonstrate marked superiority over Nvidia's new high-end chip, proving themselves faster overall in a smarter design. With new cards still on the horizon, the picture may change, but for now, ATI's Radeon X800 series is the 3D technology to beat. |
By Rich Brown (May 4, 2004)
| The gaming and graphics communities received some significant news from both ATI and Nvidia today, with each graphics-chip manufacturer making major announcements. ATI's revelation is the release of the 128MB Radeon X800 Pro, which sells for $399, and the announcement of the higher-end 256MB Radeon X800 XT Platinum Edition, which will be available for $499 when it launches on May 21. Nvidia unveiled its next-generation GeForce 6800 and GeForce 6800 Ultra chips a couple of weeks ago, but it follows ATI with the announcement of two more cards in the GeForce 6800 family: the GeForce 6800 Ultra Extreme and the GeForce 6800 GT.
Since Nvidia is strictly a chip manufacturer and, unlike ATI, doesn't sell its own cards at retail, you won't find any of the new GeForce 6800 cards for sale until Nvidia's third-party retail partners, such as Gainward, XFX, and others, finish incorporating the chips in their own graphics cards. We've been told that $499 cards using the high-end GeForce 6800 Ultra chip will be the first to appear on retail shelves, showing up sometime during the second or third week of May.
If you demand the absolute best performance, you may want to wait until the GeForce 6800 Ultra Extreme cards ship. The price and the ship dates of the Extreme cards have yet to be determined, but these cards will be factory overclocked, squeezing as much performance as they can out of the silicon. At the moderate high end, the GeForce 6800 GT, scheduled to ship in the middle of June, should compete with the Radeon X800 Pro card at the $399 price point. Finally, the simply named GeForce 6800 card should sell for $299 and is expected in stores at the end of May.
Although retail versions of the GeForce 6800 Ultra aren't available today, Nvidia sent us a reference card for our tests. This sample card is virtually identical to what you'll find at retail, which allows us to report its benchmark results and compare them to the ATI Radeon X800 XT Platinum Edition's. We will update our First Take of the GeForce 6800 Ultra with a full review once we are able to test a retail version of the card.
Looking at the performance figures, you can see that this go-round has a much different result than last generation's inconclusive head-to-head between ATI's Radeon 9800 XT and Nvidia's GeForce FX 5950 Ultra. We finally have a clear winner in the form of the ATI Radeon X800 XT Platinum Edition, which not only bested Nvidia's new GeForce 6800 Ultra on our benchmarks, but also features a much more efficient design. Nvidia has some catching up to do, and the performance crown still could change hands with driver maturation and as we test Nvidia's factory-overclocked Extreme boards. For now though, the ATI Radeon X800 XT Platinum Edition has a leg up in terms of both design and performance, making it our Editors' Choice award winner.
Read the reviews:
ATI Radeon X800 XT Platinum Edition
ATI Radeon X800 Pro
First Take: Nvidia GeForce 6800 Ultra
Rich Brown is an associate editor at CNET.com who covers desktop computers, graphics cards, and PC audio-related products. He is based in CNET's New York City office and is a proud resident of Brooklyn, New York.