So now that we?ve had a chance to look at the X1000 series what have we seen? ATI has put a lot of hard work in to bringing their cards up to the SM 3.0 spec and have leapfrogged NVIDIA in features and image quality from what I have seen when testing the cards against the GeForce 6800GT and 7800GTX. With the ATI X1000 series ATI has proven they have what it takes to compete with nVidia and in terms of driver updates and quality ATI has released 13 drivers in 2005. They kept their word with the monthly driver updates and even tossed in a 5.13 Beta driver for fun with just two weeks left in the year. It seems like things have picked up for ATI during the last half of 2005 and with the R580 in the works things look good going into 2006.
The ATI X1300 Pro:
The entry level X1300 Pro proved itself to be a very good videocard for less than $150. When you consider the hardware requirements for Microsoft’s upcoming Windows Vista operating system going with a non-integrated graphics solution is mandatory in my book. It is also nice of ATI to allow the X1300’s be run in Crossfire mode (two cards at once) without a mastercard. This gives entry level consumers the option of adding in another card and having plug-in-play Crossfire performance without the need of dongols. In terms of performance our 3DMark 2005 score went from ~2800 3DMarks to ~4600 3DMarks by adding the second card. Not bad performance numbers from the entry level ATI graphics solution considering nVidia’s GeForce 6200 series can’t be run in SLI. It offers all of the features and image quality improvements (AVIVO) of the more expensive cards but at a much lower price.
The ATI X1600 XT:
The X1600 XT on the other hand is hit or miss. It would be nice to see it performing on par with the 6800GT in all games instead of one or two. The price difference between it and a card similar in performance to the GT, the 6800GS, is quite close so it?s hard to say that this is the must have card in the mid range. For $179 it?s a great card that will play any game out today with little problem, and offers Adaptive Anti-Aliasing and High Quality Anisotropic filtering that neither of the 6800 cards can offer. In terms of speed it doesn’t offer the performance increase we expected, but it does offer better image quality and the ability to use all of today’s image quality features.
The X1800XL and X1800XT:
Moving on, the X1800 XL proves that ATI has pulled off some magic with their new generation. With a lower clockspeed on both the GPU and memory, it was able to match and at times outmuscle the X850 XT Platinum Edition. Considering you can find them for near the same price at this point it?s an easy decision to go with the newer X1800 XL for $350. Another thing about this card is that if you aren?t afraid to throw your warranty out of the window, it?s rumored to overclock extremely well, often times reaching speeds of the bigger, badder, X1800XT.
Speaking of the 1800XT, I was very impressed by how well it performed against the overclocked BFG 7800GTX. The cards were, for the most part, a dead heat. When it comes to price once again these two are within a few dollars of each other. The ATI X1800XT is currently priced at $574 and is reserved for what we feel is the die hard gamers that want the very best that ATI has to offer. For me it comes down to the trend of newer games that seem to favor the new X1000 architecture and the additional 256MB of memory that the X1800 XT offers.
Legit Bottom line: Though ATI launched their current GPU series after the NVIDIA GeForce 7 series, they did bring a complete top to bottom set of video cards to the market. With no problems of availability, impressive performance, and plenty of features, ATI has proven that good things come to those who wait.