On our tests, the ATI Radeon X800 XL turned in fast frame rates even at extremely high detail settings. On our 1,600x1,200-resolution Half-Life 2 test, the X800 XL achieved a virtual tie with the more expensive 6800 GT card, with the X800 XL clocking 53 frames per second (fps) vs. 52.9fps for the 6800 GT. The X800 XL's score was also just 7.1fps slower than that of the high-end Radeon X850 XT Platinum Edition--a card that costs nearly twice as much. The X800 XL even bested Nvidia's high-end 6800 Ultra in our Far Cry test, turning in 51.8fps to the 6800 Ultra's 47.2fps and the 6800 GT's mere 41.9fps. Doom 3 (an OpenGL game) typically runs better on Nvidia cards, and that's true here as well. Dropping down to 1,024x768 resolution, the X800 XL clocked 55.1fps vs. 73.4fps for the 6800 GT.
Despite its lower price, the X800 XL's graphics-rendering features mirror those of the top-end X850 XT Platinum Edition, with full support for DirectX 9.0, Pixel Shader 2.0 (SmartShader HD, as ATI calls it), and 16 rendering pipelines. The most significant difference is that the X800 XL's GPU and memory run more slowly.
Though its lower clock speeds mean you'll sacrifice some frame rates in 3D games--on the order of 10 to 20 percent, depending on the game--the X800 XL also has significant benefits, particularly in its price, which is about half that of the X850 XT Platinum Edition.
Despite its XL moniker, the X800 XL is not a large card at all; it's downright diminutive compared to its X850 XT Platinum Edition big brother. Where the X850 XT Platinum Edition card requires the space of two expansion slots (making it difficult to fit into some systems) and needs a connection directly to a PC's power supply, the X800 XL is a single-slot solution that gets all of its power from the PCI Express slot. This makes it a better candidate for computers with tight interiors, such as small-form-factor units and living room-friendly Media Center PCs.
Further, the X800 XL's large 70mm fan spins slowly and quietly, making it a good candidate for a PC in your stereo rack or in other noise-sensitive environments. The S-Video connector allows you to output to a TV or a VCR, and the X800 XL also includes a digital DVI output and one analog VGA output. The Catalyst drivers offer excellent dual-monitor support, but the lack of dual DVI ports means that you'll have to run one display in analog mode. If you have a pair of digital LCDs, you'll sacrifice some image quality on one monitor as you convert the digital signal to analog.