GeCube Radeon X1600 XT review
If the thought of paying £400 for a graphics card fills you with terror, but you simply must play recent games at decent settings, the X1600 XT seems the best choice here.
Its most obvious price competitor is another ATi product – the passively cooled Sapphire X800 GTO Ultimate, which took pride of place on the A List for two months.
Our benchmarks tell a surprising story, though: the X800 GTO equals and, in some cases, beats the X1600 XT. Running our standard Far Cry and Half-Life 2 tests, the X1600 XT scored 36fps and 32fps respectively, while the GTO scored 56fps and 58fps. All of these scores are still playable, but we were expecting more.
Taking the resolution up to 1,600 x 1,200, the X800 GTO gets 30fps-plus results in Far Cry and Half-Life 2, while the X1600 XT only manages a barely playable 25fps in Far Cry and 24fps in Half-Life 2.
Ultimately, the X1600 XT is an awkward proposition. Shader Model 3 is an important bonus, but the current price/performance ratio is disappointing. New driver releases may solve its woes, but for the time being we recommend sticking to the X800 GTO if you only have around £100 to spend.
ATi Radeon X1 series
The at-a-glance guide to ATi’s new batch of GPUs
ATi’s highly anticipated range of graphics cards has finally hit the shelves. With cards designed for budgets ranging from £40 to £350, ATi is hoping to cater for every type of gamer. Here, we introduce the technology behind the new GPUs, and on the opposite page we review a top-end retail version of each one.
The Radeon X1 series (our unofficial group name for the X1300, X1600 and X1800 ranges) is ATi’s first range of cards with no support at all for AGP, so if you’re a die-hard ATi fan with an AGP motherboard you’ll have to say goodbye to it. Each card is based on a brand-new processor: the X1300 on the RV515, the X1600 on the RV530, and the X1800 on the R520.
Some key architectural features are consistent across the whole range of X1 cards, regardless of which chip is used for processing. All the GPUs are fabricated on a 90nm process, which means lower heat, higher efficiency and faster clock speeds. One crucial feature is Shader Model 3 compatibility – although it doesn’t guarantee better visual quality, it does ensure better software performance. It also allows more lights to be rendered per pass (up to four), as well as geometry instancing; that is, drawing a character or object once and then creating it onscreen multiple times. ATi’s previous generation of cards was only compatible with Shader Model 2.
This is the baby of the group, costing between £40 and £70 and the only card in the new line-up to support HyperMemory, ATi’s method of borrowing system RAM to augment onboard graphics memory. With just a pair of vertex shaders and four pixel pipelines, the latest games are a challenge too far. Half-Life 2 at 1,280 x 1,024 with no anti-aliasing or anisotropic filtering will be fine, but you can forget High Dynamic Range (HDR) rendering, as well as brand-new releases such as F.E.A.R..
There are three X1300 variants: the X1300 HyperMemory, the standard X1300, and the X1300 Pro, which boasts a 600MHz clock speed compared to the 450MHz of the other two. Memory clock speeds are set at 500MHz, 250MHz and 400MHz respectively, with the extra speed of the HyperMemory variant needed to shuffle data between the system RAM and the graphics card.
The X1600 is a step up. Priced in the £90 to £110 range, these cards will appeal to anyone more serious about gaming. It can handle this season’s latest crop of games (although not at higher resolutions or the best detail settings), thanks to 12 pixel pipelines. There are two variations: the X1600 Pro and the X1600 XT. Both cards share the same memory and processor architecture, but differ in frequency. The Pro has a core clock of 500MHz and a memory clock of 390MHz, compared to the XT’s faster speeds of 590MHz and 690MHz respectively.