Introduction

The introduction of the X700 line (codenamed RV410), ATI is breaking their tradition of using revamped and tweaked previous generation parts in their current generation midrange product. RV410 is officially an R423 derivative. We see this as a very big step for ATI, and we hope they maintain this direction with future generations. The immediate impact on the consumer space will be better performance in the midrange and compatibility on par with high end products.



This last point is important to realize. Last year, many games or features that ran fine on 9700 and 9800 cards would have strange problems or incompatibilities with 9600 cards. Also, previous generation RV series cards lacked ATI's F-Buffer which enables GPUs to run shader programs that exceed a certain length. These issues were usually cleared up in driver updates or game patches, but attention to the midrange tended to follow attention to the high end segment. Now that the high end ATI GPU is the same core design as the midrange, any performance improvements or fixes that apply to the X800 will also apply to the X700 line.

Unlike last year (and the year before), ATI's product launches have lagged NVIDIA's. Our 6600 numbers are exactly 2 weeks old today. While some may speculate that this gives ATI an advantage because they have seen the performance of the competition, ATI needs to carefully balance yield, performance, and price for itself before it can worry about the competition. Bringing a product to market second in such a competitive space would only give ATI an advantage if they were able to maintain profitable yields at higher performance than necessary (and so could lower clocks and increase yield while still leading performance). Of course, all this goes out the window when you have NVIDIA and ATI both throwing insanely low yield high performance limited availability parts at each other trying to claim the performance crown. Hopefully we can be confident that the 6600 GT and the X700 XT will end up being less vaporous than the 6800 Ultra Extreme and the X800 XT Platinum Edition.

But all speculation aside, this is when the battle really heats up. Both NVIDIA and ATI now have affordable midrange products in the market that perform very well with respect to previous generation parts. We've got all the details inside; read on to find out who comes out on top in the most important competition for this GPU generation.

Scaling Down the X800
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  • AlphaFox - Tuesday, September 21, 2004 - link

    if you have a PCIe system, why would you waste your $$ on an entry level card???? these cards should be released on AGP if they want any to sell. Reply
  • manno - Tuesday, September 21, 2004 - link

    The real issue is this, nVidia, has dedicate die space to shadowing functions specificaly requested by John Carmak for use with the Doom 3 engine. Nvidia obliged, yes ATI's openGL drivers are POS's but even if they were up to snuff Doom 3 will still favor nVidia. That said it all boils down to where do you thing the better mods/engine licenses will go Doom 3, or Half-Life 2, and is the small discrepency between the 6600 GT, and 700 XT realy worth those few extra frames in HL2, as compared to the significant frame rate difference in Doom 3, and the subsiquent games based on that engine. Not to mention PS 3.0 support. I'll gladly spend $10 extra for a better card. Reply
  • coldpower27 - Tuesday, September 21, 2004 - link

    That makes more sense since ATI's has to make a seperate core for the AGP version while Nvidia doesn't and can use thier HSI. Reply
  • chilled - Tuesday, September 21, 2004 - link

    #5: HardOCP's conclusion states that the AGP version of the X700 will be not be available soon, but before Christmas.

    I read somnewhere(?) that the AGP version of the 6600 would be available sometime in October...

    Make of that what you will.
    Reply
  • chilled - Tuesday, September 21, 2004 - link

    #3: I think it would be fairer to say that under DX ATI/nV are in a situation of win some, lose some. I wouldn't say the ATI cards are superior - read the Conclusion again.

    However, like Derek said it remains to be seen how the cards perform with a mid-range system.
    Reply
  • Locutus4657 - Tuesday, September 21, 2004 - link

    So now long before these mid-range solutions are available in AGP? Seems incredibly silly to me that they weren't first released in AGP form! I can't use either nVidia's or ATI's midrange solutions in my midrange system (A64 3000+). Strangly though, if I wanted to blow $400 on a video card I could always get an x800! Reply
  • shabby - Tuesday, September 21, 2004 - link

    The specs on paper look good, but for some reason the x700 doesnt perform.
    With aa/af enabled you'd expect the x700 to beat the 6600gt in dx games thanks to ati's optimizations/cheats, but it doesnt. Go figure.
    Reply
  • Aquila76 - Tuesday, September 21, 2004 - link

    Again we see ATI=DX, nVidia=OpenGL. It's interesteing that the gap in DirectX games is narrowing. ATI needs to get better OpenGL support somehow and do it quick. These cards are pretty evenly matched (diff of only 2-4 FPS avg.) - until you get to OpenGL. NVidia comes out on top by 15-20 FPS in those benches. Reply
  • DerekWilson - Tuesday, September 21, 2004 - link

    Please pay careful attention to the test page -- the 9700 Pro was tested on a (more suited to gaming) Athlon 64 system which makes the results not absolutely comparable.

    The Athlon 64 system is our video test rig, and rerunning all our cards on a p4ee system when the A64 gives results we can use as a reference just didn't make sense.

    As stated on the test page, the directly comparable cards are the GeForce 6600 GT, the Radeon X700 XT, and the Radeon X600 XT.
    Reply
  • skunkbuster - Tuesday, September 21, 2004 - link

    in some cases the X700 XT scored worse than the 9700 pro... i think ati needs to work on their drivers. Reply

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