The Chip

R420 is a very power GPU in tight little package. ATI opted not to go with full DirectX 9.0 Shader Model 3.0 support in their latest GPU, but that doesn't mean that this chip doesn't pack a punch. Here's a breakdown of what's on the top of the line playing field now.

  NV38 NV40 R360 R420
Transistors
130M
222M
110M
160M
Core clock
475MHz
400MHz
412MHz
500MHz
Mem clock
950MHz
1.1GHz
900MHz
1.12GHz
Memory Bus
256bit
256bit
256bit
256bit
Vertex Pipelines
~4
6
4
6
Pixel Pipelines
4x2
16x1
8x1
16x1
Shader Model
2.0+
3.0
2.0
2.0+
Fab Process
130nm
130nm
150nm
130nm

  GeForce 6800 GT GeForce 6800 Ultra GeForce 6850 Ultra Radeon X800 Pro Radeon X800 XT PE
Price
$399
$499
$499+
$399
$499

The first thing we see is that R420 has the highest clock speed (giving it the highest peak fillrate), and it just edges out NV40 for memory speed. Of course, these theoretical numbers don't really translate directly into performance. In order to understand where performance comes from, we'll need to take a much closer look at the architecture.

Before we get in over our heads on this, it is important to differentiate the hardware itself from how the hardware looks in terms of a graphics API. Both NVIDIA and ATI, in presenting their hardware to us, have relied heavily on using the constructs of DirectX 9 to explain what's going on at different stages in the pipeline. This is useful in that we can understand how the hardware looks to the software, but there are some caveats. We will be keeping this in mind as we look over the new offerings from ATI and NVIDIA.

Index The R420 Vertex Pipeline
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  • raks1024 - Monday, January 24, 2005 - link

    free ati x800: http://www.pctech4free.com/default.aspx?ref=46670 Reply
  • Ritalinkid - Monday, June 28, 2004 - link

    After reading almost all of the video cards reviews posted on anandtech I start to get the feeling the anandtech has a grudge against nvidia. The reviews seem to put nvidia down no matter what area they excel in. With leading openGL support, ps3.0 support, and the 6850 shadowing the x800 in directX, its seems like nvidia should not be counted out as the "best card."
    I would love to see a review that tested all the features that both cards offered especially if showed the games that would benefit the most from each cards features (if they are available). Maybe then could I decide which is better, or which could benefit me more.
    Reply
  • BlackShrike - Saturday, May 08, 2004 - link

    Hey if anyone is gonna be buying one of these new cards, would anyone want to sell their 9700 pro or 9800 por/Xt for like 100-150 bucks? If you do contact me at POT989@hotmail.com. Thanks. Reply
  • DonB - Saturday, May 08, 2004 - link

    No TV tuner on this card either? Will there be an "All-In-Wonder" version soon that will include it? Reply
  • xin - Friday, May 07, 2004 - link

    (my bad, I didn't notice that I was on the first page of the posts, and replied to a message there heh)

    Well, since everyone else is throwing their preferences out there... I guess I will too. My last 3 cards have been ATI cards (9700Pro & 9500Pro, and an 8500 "Pro"), and I have not been let down. Right at this moment I lean towards the x800XT.

    However, I am not concerned about power since I am running a TruePower550, and I will be interested in seeing what happens with all of this between now and the next 4-6 weeks when these cards actually come to market... and I will make my decision then on which card to buy.
    Reply
  • xin - Friday, May 07, 2004 - link


    Besides that, even if it were true (which it isn't), there is a world of difference between have *some* level of support, and requiring it. (*some* meaning the intial application of PS3.0 technology to games, that will likely be as sloppy as your first time in the back of a car with your first girlfriend).

    Game makers will not require PS3.0 support for a long long long time... because it would alienate the vast majority of the people out there, or at least for the time being any person who doesn't have a NV40 card.

    Some games may implement it and look slightly better, or even still look the same only run faster while looking the same.... but I would put money down that by the time PS3.0 usage in games comes anywhere close to mainstream, both mfg's will have their new, latest and greatest cards out, probably a 2 generations or more past these cards.
    Reply
  • xin - Friday, May 07, 2004 - link


    first of all... "alot of the upcoming topgames will support PS3.0!" ??? They will? Which ones exactly?
    Reply
  • Z80 - Friday, May 07, 2004 - link

    Good review. Pretty much tells me that I can select either Nvidia or ATI with confidence that I'm getting alot of "bang for my buck". However, my buck bang for video cards rarely exceeds $150 so I'm waiting for the new low to mid range cards before making a purchase. Reply
  • xin - Friday, May 07, 2004 - link


    I love how a handful of stores out there feel the need to rip people off by charing $500+ for the x800PRO cards, since the XT isn't available yet.

    Anyway, something interesting I noticed today:

    http://www.compusa.com/products/product_info.asp?p...

    http://www.compusa.com/products/product_info.asp?p...

    Notice the "expected ship date"... at least they have their pricing right.
    Reply
  • a2y - Friday, May 07, 2004 - link

    Trog, I Also agree, the thing is.. its true i do not have complete knowledge of deep details of video cards.. u see my current video card is now 1 year old (Geforce4 mx440) which is terrible for gaming (50fps and less) and some games actually do not support it (like deusEX 2). I wanted a card that would be future proof, every consumer would go thinking this way, I do not spend everything i earned, but to me and some others $400-$500 is O.K. If it means its going to last a bit longer.
    I especially worry about the technology used more than the other specs of the cards, more technologies mean future games are going to support it. I DO NOT know what i'v just said actually means, but I fealt it during the past few years and have been affected by it right now (like the deus ex 2 problem!) it just doesn't support it, and my card performs TERRIBLY in all games

    now my system is relatively slow for hardcore gaming:
    P4 2.4GHz - 512MB RDRAM PC800 - 533MHz FSB - 512KB L2 Cache - 128MB Geforce4 mx440 card.

    I wanted a big jump in performance especially in gaming so thats why i wanted the best card currently available.
    Reply

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