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PowerColor Radeon X800 GT 256MB (PCIe)
By Vincent Chang
Category : Graphics
Published by Vijay Anand on Monday, 8th August, 2005
Rating : 4.5 out of 5 stars  

ATI's Latest Mid-Range Radeon

Most of you would be aware that ATI's next generation graphics chipset, codenamed R520, is due to be launched in the coming months. NVIDIA has again been first out of the blocks with its next generation GeForce 7800 GTX and has been setting the pace with the immediate retail availability, while ATI has cloistered its engineers to concentrate on making the R520 a competitive success. Hence, there have barely been any developments from ATI recently, other than a minor upgrade to the Radeon X800 XL with a 512MB version that didn't really excite most of us. But those engineers have also been working on something else too. As we have found out, this is none other than the Radeon X800 GT.

The Radeon X800 GT is also, as its name suggests, another addition to ATI's increasingly crowded and incestuous X800 family of graphics cards. Initially conceived as ATI's high end product line, the series has gradually fallen down the hierarchy, with the X850 series now the king of ATI's lineup. This latest expansion is another significant step for the X800 series towards the middle and mainstream categories.

Not only that, from the reports that we have seen, the eight-pipeline Radeon X800 GT is based on a mixture of cores. While the core speed is clocked similarly at 475MHz, the core that you find on a Radeon X800 GT could be a R423, R430 or even a R480 part. Of course, most buyers would not really care which core it has; what they should know is that there are two variants of the card, either with 128MB or 256MB of memory. The 256MB version will be using GDDR3 memory rated at 2.0ns (clocked at 980MHz DDR) while the 128MB is would use GDDR3 or GDDR1 memory rated at 2.5ns (clocked at 780MHz DDR). Accordingly, they are priced differently, with the 256MB version slated to launch at US$159 and the 128MB version at US$139.

So why is ATI introducing this card so late in the game? After all, this is a product that would conceivably be competing directly against ATI's less than successful upper mid-range X700 series, which has already lost ground against NVIDIA's offerings. Looking at how the Radeon X800 GT stacks up against its present ATI siblings in the mid-range, we can say that the Radeon X800 GT should easily hold its own against them. However, note that the plain Radeon X800 is actually a more powerful card than the Radeon X800 GT, so don't get yourself mixed up on which is the more powerful SKU.

Overview of ATI's Mid-range Cards
GPU/VPU ATI Radeon X800 GT 256MB ATI Radeon X800 GT 128MB ATI Radeon X800 ATI Radeon X700 XT ATI Radeon X700 PRO
Core Code Various (R423, R430, R480) Various (R423, R430, R480) R430 RV410 RV410
Transistor Count Varies Varies 160 million 120 million 120 million
Manufacturing Process (microns) Varies Varies 0.11 0.11 0.11
Core Clock 475MHz 475MHz 400MHz 475MHz 425MHz
Vertex Shaders 6 6 6 6 6
Rendering (Pixel) Pipelines 8 8 12 8 8
Texture Units per Pipeline 1 1 1 1 1
Memory Clock 490MHz (980MHz DDR3) 390MHz (780MHz DDR3) 350MHz (700MHz DDR3) 525MHz (1050MHz DDR3) 430MHz (860MHz DDR3)
DDR Memory Bus 256-bit 256-bit 256-bit 128-bit 128-bit
Memory Bandwidth 31.4GB/s 25.0GB/s 22.4GB/s 16.8GB/s 13.8GB/s
RAMDAC Dual 400MHz Dual 400MHz Dual 400MHz Dual 400MHz Dual 400MHz
TV Output Int., 1024x768 Int., 1024x768 Int., 1024x768 Int., 1024x768 Int., 1024x768
TMDS transmitter Int. 165MHz Int. 165MHz Int. 165MHz Int. 165MHz Int. 165MHz
PCI Express Interface x16 x16 x16 x16 x16
Molex Power Connectors NIL NIL NIL NIL NIL

However, from the mix of cores used for this card, we speculate that ATI is probably digging in their reject bins for the X800 cores that have failed to make the high end grade and reusing them for as the Radeon X800 GT. Hence, the timing of its introduction now, when ATI has a ready pool of cores to sample from. ATI is also using the 'GT' nomenclature for its latest Radeon, adding to the diverse and potentially bewildering array of cryptic model names floating in the market from both sides (XT, SE, LE, GTX, etc) and that new name is a dead giveaway about its intended target.

NVIDIA already has an existing 'GT' product line and ATI's move can only deepen the confusion among casual buyers. Or it could reinforce the fact that the ATI Radeon X800 GT is aimed squarely at NVIDIA's best-selling GeForce 6600 GT. And probably most important of all, the Radeon X800 GT comes at a competitive price compared to the GeForce 6600 GT. So after all that theory, how would the X800 GT do against both its internal and external rivals in practice? Read on to find out how PowerColor's Radeon X800 GT fared in our labs.

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