Issues and Conclusions
The product positioning of any GPU is really what determines if it is going to be a success. Take the best performing card in the world, ask $1000 for it, and you’ll surely fail. Take the same card and sell it for $300 and you have a winner. Price and performance play a delicate balancing game in the GPU world.
This is where ATI sees the X800 XL 512 MB card fitting in with the current GPU options. Being placed firmly between the 6800 GT and 6800 Ultra card from NVIDIA, the X800 XL 512 MB is in a good position to make some consumers happy. It does seem to out perform the 6800 GT pretty well, though the 256 MB card did so on a similar scale too. Looking at that table above, you have to ask yourself, are you going to pay an additional $100 for a 512 MB card vs a 256 MB card?
The X800 XL 512 MB card also adds to the complexity of deciding what new video card to buy. Do we really need to have different cards, with different numbers of pixel pipes? What about vertex shaders, memory configuration, and whatever else all priced $50 apart, from $50 to $500? Right now it’s pretty confusing for consumers, but now add a new ATI card to the mix. It’s going to get a whole lot worse when the new GPU refreshes hit this summer adding themselves to the already heaving mix of graphics cards options. Should make for some interesting reviews though!
This is a pretty hyped up term that is overly used by both GPU companies. Does “HD gaming” really exist? What defines it? Nobody knows, and if they do, their lying.
To ATI, HD gaming refers to ultra-high-resolution gaming. We’re talking 2048×1536 resolutions with 4xAA and 8xAF. Sounds pretty nice, right? Too bad I don’t have a monitor here that will push that resolution otherwise I might have tried to play around with it. Instead, take a look at what results ATI had comparing their 256 MB and 512 MB X800 XL cards.
Both Half-Life and Far Cry at this level see some nice gains, up to 55% frame rate increases. It will be some time before this resolution becomes a viable option for home users even though the price tag of entry isn’t extremely high. You can find Viewsonic monitors that can do 2048×1536 at 68 Hz for under $500.
Final Thoughts – Do you need a 512 MB video card?
Our benchmark results did show a noticeable gain in gameplay performance when moving from the 256 MB X800 XL to the 512 MB version. Of course, this is only possible when you are running at the highest possible resolution, with all the eye candy and in-game features turned all the way up. Hopefully though, if you are buying a $450 video card, you plan to do that anyway.
That being said, if you don’t plan on running at resolutions that high, then the additional memory isn’t going to do squat for you. If you are happy with lower rez, or even need to run at 1024×768 because of lack of CPU power, then you should definitely look toward the cheaper model of the X800 XL.
The argument could also be made that current games don’t NEED to have the 512 MB card, so why should you bother buying one now? ATI and NVIDIA will tell you that you are simply preparing for the next wave of game engines to take advantage of them, and you’ll already be prepared. But as we all well know, if both ATI and NVIDIA are following the regular 6-8 month refresh cycle, then we all expect new cards coming up this summer. You can count on those next-gen cards having 512 MB, or at least a 512 MB option.
Overall, I was impressed with the performance of the X800 XL 512 MB card, but not enough to go out and buy one just yet. Performance junkies may want to run out and try to find the first on the shelf, but most users will be more than happy with a 256 MB card until the next GPUs hit the market later this year.
For more information and discussion on this 512 MB ATI Radeon X800 XL card, check out our video card forum.
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