Okay now, you better grab some coffee! First a little overview. All X1000 series products are more or less based on the same chip. Of course in the high-end solutions you'll notice an extensive number of pixel pipelines and vertex units with the core clocked at a high frequency, combined onto that it has blazingly fast memory. The mid- and low range products will of course have less performance. And for ATI that meant disabling pipes and vertex unit that where not working and equipping the board with slower memory. Yes it's always fine balance of your money versus performance you can get for your investment. All the new products offer are offerd in a wide varyity of memory configurations. The top of the line products come in 512 MB version and a 256 MB version. And from low to mid end we can see 128 and 256 MB versions of a lot of products.
I must say that the X1000 series of product is absolutely looking promising. An innovative generation of products that offer a lot of flexibility, performance and diversity in features. With that in mind and combined with the fact that there pretty much is a card for any budget ATI has a good chance in turning this series into a big success. The new X1000 family should easily be capable of performing as good as or even better then the green comrades over in San Fransisco. Not just on a performance level, most of all feature wise. The gap has been with NVIDIA's Series 6 & 7 product line and the entire X1000 line has evolved into something very fashionable; it is equipped with some rather hip features. Key features to be named here are of course the rather new (for the graphics industry) 90-nm fabrication process. 90-nm why? You want the chip design to be very tiny, the smaller the better... ladies, are you listening (Ed: You better hope so Hilbert, only chance you have!)? You can fit more on one chip while the distance that electron is moving around is shorter. Often the result of a small design is that it'll mean higher clock frequencies. In case of the X1800 XT that means *caugh* a graphics core clocked at an amazing 625 MHz and yet there is still room enough to clock it even faster. The lowest class product in the entire line is clocked at 450 MHz. Amazing stuff as that was almost the maximum barrier for the .11 nm process. The downside of a new and smaller production fabrication process undoubtedly is the low yields in the begin phase of a new complex process. But according to ATI, yields are good and many boards will be available in retail on launch day (today) with some others following within just weeks.
One of the things you'll notice while reading reviews like these over the next couple of days is the fact that ATI moved away from FP24 bit precision and now just like NVIDIA is doing FP32. Another key feature is of course the expected implementation of Shader Model 3, I will not make a long and boring story about it but there is good reason to believe that ATI's SM3 model will be a very successful one.
If you program or play computer games or even recently attempted to purchase a video card, then you will have no doubt heard the terms "Vertex Shader" and "Pixel Shader". The step from 2.0 towards 3.0 is a relatively small one and most Shader Model 2.0 games can easily be upgraded to Model 3.0. Is it a huge visual advantage over 2.0? No not at all. Shaders 3.0 will be used only in several critical places where it can bring a performance boost and not image quality. Used properly there is a gain in performance. Far Cry is a good example, you've seen the reviews and it can definitely make a diffference when utilized properly.
ATI's all new Radeon X1800 XL