ATI's Radeon X800 graphics processors

Plus NVIDIA's counterpunch
— 8:00 AM on May 4, 2004

BACK IN THE DAY, graphics geeks would demonstrate a new effect using a model of a teapot. Nowadays, the object of our graphics demos is the sexpot. And if the sexpot demo is a measure of a graphics card, the new Radeon X800 series wins, hands down. The X800 is ATI's second generation of DirectX 9-class GPUs with the floating-point datatypes that have taken real-time graphics to a new plane, and the Ruby demo ATI has created to show off its new GPU is simply stunning.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. First, let's set the stage a bit. You're probably already aware that ATI has had a very good past couple of years, since the introduction of the Radeon 9700 GPU (code-named R300). ATI's arch-rival, NVIDIA, struggled mightily with its competing NV30-series of graphics chips, but just recently recovered quite nicely with the introduction of its NV40 chip, now better known as the GeForce 6800 series of GPUs.

You might do well to go read our GeForce 6800 Ultra review if you haven't already, but for the lazy among us, I'll sum things up. The GeForce 6800 Ultra is a massive chip with a sweet sixteen pixel pipelines and out-of-this-world performance several steps beyond ATI's previous top-end chip, the Radeon 9800 XT. I concluded my review of the 6800 Ultra by saying that NVIDIA had left ATI with no margin for error, and I meant it. Fortunately, it looks like ATI hasn't stumbled in the least, and the choice between graphics chips will come down to better versus best.

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