Thoughts and Conclusion

The X850 XT Platinum Edition

The bad news is that the X850 XT PE is really nothing new from ATI — no new architectural changes, no process changes.  The good news is that it’s still damn fast.

ATI X850 XT PE and X800 XL GPUs - Graphics Cards 69

The ATI X850 XT PE comes with a promise of being able to actually buy one soon, but at price of $549. That is ATI’s MSRP on the part and is the most expensive video card ever to be released recently in the consumer market.  Though there will be many that will salivate over this card, not many can afford to buy it.  The market for $500+ PC parts just isn’t that large and hence the supply of these products can be tight.  But if ATI can at least offer this one up with a steady stream of cards, I’ll be happy.

For the time being, it looks like ATI has the fastest video card we have ever tested (of course we are not counting NVIDIA’s SLI technologies, as that is really two video cards).  Laying claim to the highest performing single-GPU solution puts ATI tentatively back in a position they were wobbling on for a while.  Though the NVIDIA NV48 card refreshes seem to have been forgotten about in Santa Clara (the location of ATI’s R&D), utilizing SLI configurations gives NVIDIA that coveted speed crown once again.

The X800 XL

If ever there was a sleeper in the GPU world, this would be it.  On paper, the X800 XL didn’t look very exciting, and getting the card in my hands didn’t give me butterflies.  But after testing it for a couple of days, it’s impossible to not be impressed.

ATI X850 XT PE and X800 XL GPUs - Graphics Cards 70

With a sticker price set at $299 according to ATI yesterday afternoon, the X800 XL is out performing the $399 6800 GT and in some cases is rivaling the performance of the 6800 Ultra card that costs $499.  How can you not be excited about that?  The NVIDIA 6600GT that is priced at $250 is going to have to be very careful where it leaves itself as the X800 XL will easily stomp on it, for only $50 more. 

The question that remains though is the all important issue of availability.  The 6600GT and 6800GT are for sale all over the place; if the X800 XL doesn’t show up soon, then that leaves the window wide open for NVIDIA.  If the X800 XL floods the channel soon, I think you’ll either see the prices on the NVIDIA cards falling and/or an over supply of their cards in the market.  Only time will tell, and hopefully in the matter of weeks.

Final Thoughts

There is at least one downside to this release that should be mentioned.  Recent buyers of the X800 XT, or X800 Pro line especially, are going to be upset that their $399 purchase is already being outperformed by a part $100 cheaper.  It would be nice to see some good faith offerings from ATI for an upgrade, but I wouldn’t count on it. 

Overall though, the new ATI winter line-up is pretty impressive.  The X850 XT Platinum Edition is the fastest GPU available on the market if you are willing to pay for it, and the X800 XL looks to be the best deal of the year for a price / performance buyer. 

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