ATI cards spotted on milk cartons

The Inq asks a very pertinent question: Where are the ATI HyperMemory cards? We posted news of the product announcement when it happened, but we were a little surprised not to have received review samples by the time of the introduction. We fully expected them, and we'd even lined up a pair of GeForce 6200 TurboCache cards with similar memory configurations for comparison. Now it appears that ATI decided, for whatever reason, not to sample cards to the press. We will continue to try to get our hands on one of these things for review.

This comes as part of a one-two punch that includes the "technology preview" of a 512MB Radeon X850 XT card this past weekend, an event that had the feel of a semi-scuttled product launch, complete with product intro posters proclaiming the 512MB cards to be "The only choice for hardcore gamers who want the most advanced performance." Except, of course, that they are no choice at all, because ATI won't be making them.

At the same time, our watch continues for widespread availability of ATI's new Radeon X800 and X800 XL cards at something approaching their stated list prices. So far, neither availability nor pricing has matched the expectations set by ATI. The Radeon X800 XL is selling for as low as $359 at select vendors, well above the $299 MSRP. Availability is still limited, though, and ATI's own-branded cards are apparently nowhere to be found. The one exception is this listing at CompUSA for an ATI Radeon X800 XL at $299. Is this the exception that proves the rule, or the beginning of something good?

Meanwhile, ATI told us to expect 128MB versions of the Radeon X800 to be selling for around $199, directly competitive with the GeForce 6600 GT. Such cards are apparently mythical creations, because no ATI board partner has, to my knowledge, yet introduced one, and ATI has said it won't be making vanilla X800 cards itself. The only Radeon X800 cards in the wild have 256MB of RAM, and they are selling for around $270. The Radeon X700 XT, of course, is dead and gone, leaving the weak-sister Radeon X700 Pro as ATI's true option at $199.

We've been trying to determine whether the relatively high prices on the X800 and X800 XL are a result of limited availability or inherently higher pricing than ATI represented to us. To find out, we've checked with multiple hardware resellers, trying to get a sense of the pricing of these cards in the distribution channel, but last we checked, they weren't yet available through major North American distributors. That certainly limits our ability to get pricing info.

ATI continues to maintain that availability on the R430 GPU on the Radeon X800 and XL cards should be fab-tacular, because there's quite a bit of 110 nm fab capacity to be had.

The most notable bright spot in this picture is the Radeon X850 XT series, which seems to have decent availability and pricing somewhat in line with expectations.

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