Diamond's Radeon HD 2900 XT 1GB graphics card

GDDR4 rides again

IF YOU'VE BEEN PAYING attention, you probably already know that AMD elected not to reach for the overall graphics performance crown when it introduced its new generation of Radeons, including the flagship Radeon HD 2900 XT. Instead, the company chose to target the $399 mark, where the 2900 XT would compete against the GeForce 8800 GTS. This was a surprising move, indeed—practically without precedent in the modern GPU race.

AMD did it for solid reasons, of course, including the fact that its new graphics processor wasn't quite up to the task of taking on the GeForce 8800 GTX head to head. That makes the product we're reviewing today all the more interesting, because it's a souped-up version of the Radeon HD 2900 XT with a full gig of screaming fast GDDR4 memory. AMD has practically kept mum on this product, choosing not to point out its existence or highlight it in any way. But Diamond and a handful of other AMD partners have been shipping the cards to PC makers for a few weeks now, and contrary to the initial plan, cards are quietly beginning to show up at online retailers, as well.

This card, with a staggering 128 GB/s of memory bandwidth, raises a number of intriguing questions about the role of memory bandwidth, the question of graphics memory size (how much is enough?) and most of all, the potential of AMD's R600 GPU. Some time has passed since the 2900 XT's debut, drivers have had time to mature, and here we have a faster version of the card. Can this new 2900 XT take on Nvidia's best? Are the matchups altered in DirectX 10 games? And how does the UVD-less 2900 XT really perform in HD video playback? Read on for all of these answers and more.

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