Sapphire's Radeon X800 graphics card

Twelve pipes a-smokin'
— 12:14 AM on February 4, 2005

THOSE OF YOU who have been hanging around here for a while know that I tend to get rather excited about a really good mid-range graphics card. Sure, the more expensive models are nice, and it's one of the perks of the job that I get to play around with them now and then. But when a GPU maker takes all of the technology built into a $500 luxury toy and crams it into a $200-ish package that offers decent performance, that's serious business. For many of us, NewEgg and the ol' credit card are about to have a rendezvous.

That's why we were excited when the new generation of eight-pipe graphics cards arrived this past fall, including the GeForce 6600 series and ATI's answer, the Radeon X700 line. The GeForce 6600 GT, in particular, was an excellent newcomer, and ATI countered by announcing the Radeon X700 XT, which we promptly reviewed. ATI's new mid-range card was a little slower than the GeForce 6600 GT, but the Radeon X700 XT wasn't a bad option, save for one thing: you couldn't buy one. ATI kept promising that we'd see them soon, but very few cards ever materialized. In the end, the Radeon X700 XT was stillborn, and ATI announced a replacement with better performance at the same price: the Radeon X800.

The Sapphire Radeon X800 card that we're reviewing today is one of the very first Radeon X800 cards available on the market, and it promises to be stiff competition for the GeForce 6600 GT. In fact, given the Radeon X800's 12-pipeline design, this shouldn't be a fair fight. But it should be fun to watch.

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