The one question that people are going to want answered is whether you really require Shader Model 3.0 and everything that comes with it? The X1K series have just been released and with that in mind, would the GT or GTO product be a good alternative over ATI's new X1000 series ? I don't know, in this price range I don't feel that there is a distinct need for Shader Model 3.0 but it's good to have it on-board. Next to that the X1K series sport dual-link DVI guaranteeing that you can hook up the highest resolution monitors you want. In a lot of cases the similarly priced X1600 XT was close to the performance of today's tested cards so that's a really tough call to make, and luckily I don't have to do so.
Both cards are a relatively cheap upgrade for you with good build quality and very decent performance. That XK1 series from ATI is a dillema though. The GT and GTO should have been released last year in December as that was the point where the immensely popular GeForce 6600 GT and plain 6800 were released. Right now if you buy a x800 GT/GTO card you'll buy a previous generation graphics card as the X1600 XT for example will become available over the upcoming weeks. I can tell you this though, I'd prefer the GTO over the X1600 XT as performance seems to be a tad better. Let's break down the products and have a little chat about them.
The x800 GT: ATI released something priced competitively and definitely has got something there that can compete with the GeForce 6600 GT really well and in fact usually is faster. In fact in some cases it can even get close to the 12 pipe GeForce 6800. Then again, still no Shader Model 3 is present as this is once more a refresh product and although I'm not sure on this there's likely no Crossfire option, which is a very strong point for the 6600 GT SLI. I am getting a little puzzled though as ATI is sticking to the 0,11 micron fabrication process at TSMC. Thinner manufacturing technologies are used to cut-down the manufacturing costs and possibly increase clock-speed of complex processors. This is what we saw today as the core clock really is high. So if priced right the product might become a nice success. But is it too little too late? Shouldn't this product have been released say at Christmas 2004? A lot of potential buyers will say "What's the point?" they would rather spend the $179 and get the awesome X800 GTO with its 12 pipes.
Only time will tell, but one thing is a sure fact, there are a lot of ATI fans out there with a budget that have been looking out for this product and it will sell for sure. A huge plus has to be the price versus performance ratio, but also do not rule out the versatility the card offers. Although primary considered to be a gaming card, graphics cards these days are getting more functionality. Think of media playback, video acceleration, HDTV connectivity and a lot of other features that make modern graphics cards really important. This card for example would make a lovely solution in a Home Theater PC connected to a HDTV screen. You'd get all the high-resolution advantages while being able to play a fragolicious game at very nice framerates for not a huge amount of money. The performance is as expected and the price seems right. This product is 100% targeted against the GeForce 6600 GT and does the job quite well. Stability, hey not an issue as this is refresh technology. The drivers have been tweaked for this generation and that's a huge benefit. On the downside, do not expect any new features like the x1K Shader model 3 and new memory controller.
Then there is the x800 GTO that arrived in the form of a devil that popped out of a Pandora's box. This product really surprised me. In it's default settings it's not heaps faster compared to the GT but yeah, it is faster and closer to the GeForce 6800 series. The trick however is HiS' iTurbo function. Instantly you can bump it up 100 MHz on the core, straight away, at a manufacturer supported speed. That is going to be huge in my decision making today. Not only that, we have been able to push the core towards 550 MHz bringing massive overall performance to this card. This card has the R480 core, a 256-bit memory bus, is able to deliver MID-RANGE leading performance, tremendous overclocking, and near silent operation thanks to the cooling solution.
For the money the product is 100% right. Sure it does not have Shader model 3 and can't handle dual link DVI compared to the next generation cards but this GTO card shows massive potential. I expect this to be a very good selling card if marketed right. HIS needs to hurry up though and make this product available though the channel quickly.
Due to the IceQ II cooling solution solution both products will be roughly 15 USD more expensive compared to competitor products. Please invest in the extra 15 bucks. As the cooling is 100% worth every penny. Also for the modders among you: please bare in mind that this little gem has the R480 core .. that's right .. you "might" be able to unlock some additional pipelines there. One issue though, you might run into volatage issues if you decide to try this as this card does not have the additional 6-pin power connector and thus feeds a maximum 75 Watts from the PCI-Express bus, which might not be enough to feed the 16 active pipes.
Now, with all discussion aside, the price of the X800 GT will of course contribute to it's success. At roughly 150-175 USD for this 256 MB model this is a fantasic price versus performance product in that mid-range segment of the market. That's a fact. The GT however might be brought to the market too late.
The GTO seems to be one of these cards with a sweet spot to it. The huge iTurbo clocks give it the X-factor. It's a high-quality product offering fantastic performance with nice cooling. Today I'm going to call the GTO the winner and give it our editor's choice award.
Many thanks to Peter from HIS technology for providing the samples.
ATI Radeon x800 GT Product type: 256 MB (GDDR3) mid-range graphics card Manufacturer: HIS Website: www.HISdigital.com Estimated MSRP: USD 149
ATI Radeon x800 GTO Product type: 256 MB (GDDR3) mid-range graphics card Manufacturer: HIS Website: www.HISdigital.com Estimated MSRP: USD 179
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