ATI Radeon X800 XT Platinum Edition review: ATI Radeon X800 XT Platinum Edition

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CNET Editors' Rating

4.5 stars Outstanding
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good Fastest available graphics performance; low power requirements; uses only a single expansion slot.

The Bad Expensive.

The Bottom Line Unequivocally the most powerful graphics card on the market, ATI's Radeon X800 XT Platinum Edition hands Nvidia's new card a stunning defeat.

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After years of finishing second to Nvidia in the race for graphics supremacy, ATI has finally handed a defeat to its rival. Frankly, we were shocked at the difference in performance between the two top-of-the-line, next-generation cards. The 256MB ATI Radeon X800 XT Platinum Edition trounced Nvidia's new GeForce 6800 Ultra so soundly in our tests that there is no longer any question: ATI's new graphics card is the best product of its kind.

Like many classic dramas, power and greed are at the forefront of this heated competition. When we first spoke to Nvidia about the GeForce 6800 Ultra, we were astounded at the power requirements. A minimum 480-watt power supply? Not one but two power connectors? Unaware of ATI's new specs, we feared these extreme wattage demands represented the beginning of a cumbersome new era in performance computing, one bristling with heat sinks, nitrogen cooling, and minivan-size PC cases. Thankfully, the X800 XT allayed our fears. It requires only a single power connection to a 300-to-350-watt power supply, which is the same requirement as that of ATI's previous high-end card, the Radeon 9800 XT .

Until now, power consumption has not been a significant factor with graphics cards because most PCs had enough oomph for a CPU, a graphics card, multiple hard drives, and other components. But given the 6800 Ultra's extreme power requirements and the fact that new CPUs have intense wattage demands of their own, the X800 XT has a clear advantage. Do you plan to upgrade the graphics on your current desktop? Since the vast majority of current PCs have 450-watt power supplies at most, you'll need to drop another $50 to $200 for a 480-watt or greater power supply if you choose the 6800 Ultra card. Not so with the X800 XT.

If you want to build or buy a fast small-form-factor (SFF) PC, ATI's new card is your only high-performance option because thermal issues are especially problematic in cramped SFF interiors. Another design edge: the X800 XT uses only one expansion slot. The massive fan on the 6800 Ultra makes the card hog two slots, making it even more unsuitable for an SFF PC or any system in which expansion room is limited.

The next-generation cards from ATI and Nvidia include architectural advancements as well, the most notable of which is the 16 pixel-rendering pipes found on both the X800 XT and the 6800 Ultra. That's the most 3D graphics-processing headroom to date from either company. As always with image-quality improvements in new graphics cards, most of the new capabilities are not demonstrable at launch since game developers usually need some time to code software that takes advantage of the new features. Two new features to note with X800 XT are a new texture-compression technology called 3Dc, which improves the image quality of surface details, and temporal antialiasing, a new strategy for improving overall image smoothness with less of a performance drain. You can find tech demos on ATI's &siteid=7&edid=&lop=txt&destcat=ex&destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Eati%2Ecom">Web site that highlight these new features, but real-world examples are a ways off.

New features are always appreciated, but what every gamer wants to know is how the new cards perform. Our benchmarks show that the X800 XT is far and away the winner, beating Nvidia at every step. The results from our new 1,600x1,200 Far Cry benchmark illustrate the difference most dramatically. Far Cry presents an extremely challenging graphics engine that is representative of the type of 3D graphics we will see in the near future. Testing with Far Cry at the highest detail settings, the X800 XT was able to display roughly 40 percent more frames per second than the 6800 Ultra. Both cards make it possible to play new 3D games with the best image quality and fast frame rates. The shocking difference is how much better the ATI Radeon X800 XT Platinum Edition performs. It's not only the undisputed performance leader, it's also the best-designed graphics card out right now.

Unreal Tournament 2003 test: Flyby-Antalus (in fps)  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,024x768 with 4X antialiasing and 8X anisotropic filtering  
1,600x1,200 with 4X antialiasing and 8X anisotropic filtering  
ATI Radeon X800 XT Platinum Edition (Beta Catalyst 4.5 driver)
227.6 
126.9 


Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell test (in fps)  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,024x768 with medium-quality settings  
1,024x768 with high-quality settings  
1,600x1,200 with medium-quality settings  
1,600x1,200 with high-quality settings  
ATI Radeon X800 XT Platinum Edition (Beta Catalyst 4.5 driver)
92.6 
88.5 
91.9 
79.4 
ATI Radeon 9800 XT (Beta Catalyst 4.5 driver)
89.1 
59.9 
58.3 
42.2 


Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004 (in fps)  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,024x768 with 4X Antialiasing and 8X Anisotropic filtering  
1,600x1,200 with 4X Antialiasing and 8X Anisotropic filtering  
ATI Radeon X800 XT Platinum Edition (Beta Catalyst 4.5 driver)
37.6 
34.6 


Far Cry (in fps)  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,024x768 with 4X Antialiasing and 8X Anisotropic filtering  
1,600x1,200 with 4X Antialiasing and 8X Anisotropic filtering  
ATI Radeon X800 XT Platinum Edition (Beta Catalyst 4.5 driver)
79.7 
53.8 


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Where to Buy

ATI Radeon X800 XT Platinum Edition

Part Number: 100-435210 Released: May 21, 2004

MSRP: $499.99

See manufacturer website for availability.

Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date May 21, 2004
  • Interface Type AGP 8x
  • Max Monitors Supported 2
  • Graphics Engine ATI Radeon X800 XT
  • Size 256 MB
  • Compatibility PC