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Radeon X700 vs GeForce 6600 Comparison (AGP & PCIe)
By Vincent Chang
Category : Graphics
Published by Jimmy Tang on Wednesday, 21st September, 2005


The New Lower Class

The winds of change are once again sweeping across the harsh graphics landscape, as they have been doing so like clockwork almost every year. Despite the fact that there are only two main chipmakers in the market, the competition is every bit as intense as Coke and Pepsi. Of the two, NVIDIA drew first blood with its GeForce 7800 series while its rival ATI has faced delays with its next generation graphics card. When the long awaited X1800 series is released in the coming weeks, both sides would have their cards on the table and the media circus to determine who is the top dog for the next year will shift into high gear.

What is an oft neglected (though completely reasonable) fact is that amidst the media frenzy over the latest baubles from the two chipmakers, the high-end parts may bask in the glory and lord over its competition, but it is the lower and mid-range graphics cards that bring home the bacon. And with the latest cards assuming the mantle of the high-end, the existing cards are facing a demotion in both its price and performance bracket, which could be good news for those who cannot justify spending the extravagant prices for the best. Best-selling mid-range cards like the NVIDIA GeForce 6600 GT will become even more affordable than they are already. The middle class of yesterday becomes the pauper of today.

But wait, what is the mid-range from ATI? Discounting the recent releases of its X800 variants (Radeon X800 GT, Radeon X800 GTO), a belated attempt to compete in the higher mid-range against the GeForce 6600 GT and 6800, the actual middle range Radeon was originally spearheaded by the Radeon X700 series, consisting of the vanilla Radeon X700, the Radeon X700 PRO and the Radeon X700 XT. Unfortunately, the retail availability of some of these Radeon X700 cards was often quite poor. For example, the normal Radeon X700 was quite rare compared to the Radeon X700 PRO and the X700 XT was even less frequently sighted. This unavailability have hurt its sales, especially since NVIDIA seemed to have no issues with its GeForce 6600 cards.

Now that almost a year has lapsed since its initial launch, we can say with confidence that all the variants of the Radeon X700 are now widely available in retails stores. The only catch is that this already lower mid-range card is probably going down the ladder in the next few weeks, to join its main competitor in this performance/price range, the GeForce 6600. However, while that may make this card unsuitable for those with a bigger performance appetite, it also opens up a new market of budget conscious customers. Hence, for those who are looking to get their hands on these lower mid-range cards, we have prepared this head to head comparison between the two 'new' entrants to the low-end, the ATI Radeon X700 and the NVIDIA GeForce 6600 to illustrate their performance and features. Before we proceed, the table below contains some useful technical information about the two cards.

Comparison Table for the Radeon X700 & GeForce 6600
GPU/VPU ATI Radeon X700 128MB DDR3 NVIDIA GeForce 6600 128MB DDR1
Core Code RV410 NV43
Transistor Count 120 million ~145 million
Manufacturing Process (microns) 0.11 0.11
Core Clock 400MHz 300MHz
Vertex Shaders 6 3
Pixel Shader (Rendering) Pipelines 8 8
Peak Texture Fill Rate (Mtexels/s) 3,200 2,400
Memory Clock 350MHz (700MHz DDR3) 275MHz (550MHz DDR1)
DDR Memory Bus 128-bit 128-bit
Memory Bandwidth 11.2GB/s 8.8GB/s
NVIDIA CineFX Engine - 3.0
NVIDIA Intellisample Technology - 3.0
NVIDIA UltraShadow Technology - II
ATI SMARTSHADER HD -
ATI SMOOTHVISION HD -
ATI HYPER Z HD -
Pixel Shader Support 2.0b 3.0
Vertex Shader Support 2.0 3.0
DirectX Support Up to DirectX 9.0b Up to DirectX 9.0c
FSAA Mode Multi Sampling (up to 6x) Multi Sampling (up to 6x)
Anisotropic filtering Modes Up to 16x Up to 16x
Other Features
  • VIDEOSHADER HD
  • 3Dc
  • HYDRA VISION
  • On-Chip Video Processor
  • NVIDIA HPDR Technology
  • DVC 3.0
  • Support for NVIDIA Cg
  • NView
  • RAMDAC Dual 400MHz Dual 400MHz
    TV Output Int., 1024x768 Int., 1024x768
    TMDS transmitter Int. 165MHz Int. 165MHz
    Interface PCIe x16 OR AGP 8x (with Rialto bridge) PCIe x16 OR AGP 8x (with HSI bridge)
    Molex Power Connectors PCIe - None

    AGP - Yes
    NIL

    Besides the information summarized in the table, there are a few differences to note between these two graphics cards. First, multiple graphics processing units (GPU) or in ATI's case, the lack of it. While NVIDIA's SLI technology has been available for some time, ATI is only launching its own CrossFire technology later this month. The odds of actual CrossFire ready boards available in retail immediately are not in favor of ATI at the moment given its track record recently. And even if you could get your hands on a CrossFire motherboard, the Radeon X700 is not supported; currently only the Radeon X800 series is supported. Although SLI should not be that relevant for a decidedly lower end product like the GeForce 6600, it is still something to be aware of.

    Next, both GPUs are native PCI Express solutions, reflecting the certainty that AGP is into its last years. However, to cater to the low and mid-range market, where customers are less likely to invest in a new motherboard just to adapt to a new graphics card, both chipmakers have their own bridging chips (Rialto for ATI and HSI for NVIDIA) to allow the Radeon X700 and the GeForce 6600 to be compatible with AGP only motherboards.

    The GeForce 6600 supports Shader Model 3.0, a feature that is still underutilized by modern games and is also redundant for a lower end card like the GeForce 6600, where the frame rates would suffer a disastrous drop if this were enabled. No bets on which option will be the choice of gamers. Therefore, it is irrelevant that the Radeon X700 is not compliant with Shader Model 3.0. Of course, this does not prevent the marketing guys at NVIDIA from jumping on ATI for this flaw given the opportunity.

    Finally, a fact for the trivial pursuit fans: the AGP version of the Radeon X700 requires a separate Molex power connector to run properly and should be included in your package. This is not necessary for the PCIe version and the GeForce 6600.

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