Graphics Cards Guide

GeCube Radeon X1800 GTO 256MB review

GeCube Radeon X1800 GTO 256MB (PCIe)

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A Paper Launch Retort

A Paper Launch Retort

The GeForce 7600 GT announced at CeBIT in early March was a shot in the arm for NVIDIA's ageing mid-range products using the older GeForce 6 architecture. Subsequently, we have all seen the budget version in the form of the GeForce 7600 GS. Against existing ATI mid-range cards like the Radeon X1600 series, these new NVIDIA cards (enjoying wide availability at retail) would probably replicate the same blockbuster success that the GeForce 6600 GT enjoyed to the detriment of its ATI rivals. But even before the GeForce 7600 GT came into the picture, ATI has been working on a new upper mid-range contender. This was the Radeon X1800 GTO, a product born to meet the price performance threat of the GeForce 6800 GS and the first Radeon of the new generation to feature the 'GTO' suffix.

The original line of 'GTO' cards from ATI has done quite well in the market. Featuring a ragtag mixture of older cores, these cards were decent mid-range performers that provided good value provided you had no need for fancy Shader Model 3.0 class effects. The Radeon X800 GTO2 also delighted tweakers as they soon unlocked its pipelines and overclocked it to its full potential, one that matched the much more costly Radeon X850 XT Platinum Edition. Therefore, what ATI did was to reproduce this winning formula, this time using the R520 cores of its somewhat successful Radeon X1800 series.

The 90nm R520 core is reused as expected and crippled (though not purposely). The pixel processors have been reduced from the 16 found in the Radeon X1800 XL to just 12. We bet that you are just drooling at the possibility of unlocking this core to the full complement of 16, but that might probably not be possible as ATI is likely to be using the 'rejected' batch of Radeon X1800 XT cores that contain a damaged pixel shader quad. The memory bus remains at 256-bits wide with the same internal 512-bit ring bus architecture that is the hallmark of the Radeon X1800 series. This is probably where ATI hopes to seize the initiative, since the probable opponents from NVIDIA, like the GeForce 7600 GT are still restricted to a 128-bit memory bus. Clock speeds are 500MHz for the core and 1000MHz DDR for the memory. This is identical to the Radeon X1800 XL, to which the GTO shares more than a passing resemblance. However, the Radeon X1800 GTO does use more cost effective memory chips to suit its clock speeds as compared to the XL brother.

So how would the new Radeon X1800 GTO stack up against its rivals in the market? Well, we have the specifications of some of these cards in the table below for your reference. Although the GeForce 6800 GS may have been the initial impetus for the Radeon X1800 GTO, it has been effectively eclipsed by the new GeForce 7600 GT in both value and performance. So we have decided to leave it out in favor of the new card. Here then is our comparison table:

The Radeon X1800 GTO Compared
GPU/VPU ATI Radeon X1800 GTO 256MB ATI Radeon X1800 XL 256MB ATI Radeon X1600 XT 256MB >NVIDIA GeForce 7600 GT 256MB NVIDIA GeForce 7800 GT 256MB
Core Code R520 R520 RV530 G73 G70
Transistor Count 321 million 321 million 157 million 177 million 302 million
Manufacturing Process (microns) 0.09 0.09 0.09 0.09 0.11
Core Clock 500MHz 500MHz 590MHz 560 MHz 400 MHz
Vertex Shader Pipelines 8 8 5 5 7
Rendering (Pixel) Pipelines 12 16 12 12 20
Texture Mapping Units (TMU) 12 16 4 12 20
Raster Operator units (ROP) 12 16 4 8 16
Z Compare Units 12 16 8 16 32
Memory Clock 500MHz (1000MHz DDR3) 500MHz (1000MHz DDR3) 690MHz (1380MHz DDR3) 700MHz (1400MHz DDR3) 500MHz (1000MHz DDR3)
DDR Memory Bus 256-bit 256-bit 128-bit 128-bit 256-bit
Memory Bandwidth 32.0GB/s 32.0GB/s 22.1GB/s 22.4GB/s 32.0GB/s
Ring Bus Memory Controller 512-bit (for memory reads only) 512-bit (for memory reads only) 256-bit (for memory reads only) - -
PCIe Interface x16 x16 x16 x16 x16
Molex Power Connectors Yes Yes NIL NIL Yes
Multi GPU Technology Yes (CrossFire) Yes (CrossFire) Yes (CrossFire) Yes (SLI) Yes (SLI)
DVI Output Support 2x Dual-Link 2x Dual-Link 1x Dual-Link 1x Single-Link 1x Dual-Link 1x Single-Link 1x Dual-Link 1x Single-Link
Street Price ~ US$249 ~ US$299 ~ US$180 US$199 ~ US$300

One unfortunate characteristic that the Radeon X1800 GTO inherited with the Radeon X1800 series is that it was paper launched by ATI in early March, with review units conveniently sent to hardware publications following NVIDIA's CeBIT announcement. But as usual, the public had to wait till late March before actual units were shipped to retail and we have only just got our own retail unit for this review. So without further ado (or complaints), lets take a look at the Radeon X1800 GTO from GeCube next.