MSI RX1800 XT-VT2D512E review
With our A-Listed performance graphics card, the Inno3D 7800 GT, costing just £211 even including VAT, the X1800 XT has its work cut out to justify its price.
The X1800 XT is blessed with some phenomenal specifications: a 90nm GPU core clocked at 625MHz is joined by 512MB of onboard RAM at 750MHz. It’s the sort of specification PCs themselves had not long ago. As well as 16 pixel pipelines, there are 16 Render Output Pipes (ROPs), leaving an X1800 XT with plenty of weapons to face any game.
Amazingly, the X1800 XT scored 30fps or better in every single one of our extreme tests, including F.E.A.R. and Call of Duty 2 at 1,600 x 1,200. It also means the X1800 XT is around 12 per cent faster in our benchmarks than the 7800 GTX, with which it shares a similar price.
However, the X1800 XT has already lost its fastest-in-market status to the 7800 GTX 512, which just shows how quickly the market moves. But then the 7800 GTX 512 costs around £50 more and all that extra power is currently gratuitous – if money matters, the 7800 GT represents far better value.
Should you wish to splash out, the value of MSI’s card is bolstered with Colin McCrae Rally 2005, but we’d hold out for retail boards of the slightly slower, much cheaper X1800 XL to emerge.
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.