The ATI Radeon X1800 XT will go down in history as one of the shortest lived flagship graphics products in consumer 3D history. Launched three scant months ago in October 2005, the lengthy delay in its introduction - mainly due to production problems with the R520 graphics processor that powers it - means that its set to be replaced this month, January 2006, by the next generation of high-end ATI GPU and associated product SKU.
In the bare quarter of its existence, however, the Radeon X1800 XT has gathered plenty of praise for its performance and feature set, meaning its legacy is cemented and the product that will replace it will have a strong base to build on.
Retail examples of Radeon X1800 XT have come from all corners of the ATI AIB collective, those partners eager to mate well received reviews with sales. We've even managed to tease out a review of Sapphire version, based on the ATI reference design. Tarinder bestowed the hardware with our Extreme Recommended award, indicating it's a fine purchase and worth your hard earned. I don't disagree.
However, when it comes to high-end graphics boards, we like to see the AIB go the extra extra mile. Great bundles are awesome, unique and improved new coolers are welcomed with open arms, factory-approved overclocking gets a pair of thumbs up. The little things like good manuals and instructions for installation never go amiss, either.
The daft thing is that, despite asking for hundreds of pounds or dollars for the product, most AIB partners don't tick all of those boxes and provide their customers with the ultimate bit of really desirable high-end hardware.
ASUSTeK - in my experience from looking at their products over the last few years at least - are the AIB partner most willing to have a go at pushing the high-end boat out, though. As the world's largest vendor of graphics hardware, serving up products with a twist from both ATI and NVIDIA, ASUS certainly have the resources to tackle the problem.
I had first-hand experience of that recently, for HEXUS.core. The ASUS Extreme N7800GT Dual pairs two NVIDIA G70 graphics processors in GeForce 7800 GT configuration, each with its own 256MiB allocation of high-speed graphics memory, on the same PCB. SLI then does its thing, combining the rendering ability of the GPUs and their memory to produce the daftest, and maybe fastest, ever single-board graphics product yet produced.
It even comes with its own power supply for Christ's sake.
Not stopping there, ASUS bundle it up nicely, use their own cooler and support overclocking the board to boot. Not bad, ASUS, not bad! Enhanced by its limited edition run of just 2000, it's as close as I've seen to the nirvana the enthusiast craves when shelling out the biggest bucks, in recent times at least.
Returning to the ATI Radeon X1800 XT, the company applies many of the same principles - in-house cooler, approved overclocking, mad bundle and presentation, etc - to the ASUS flagship version of that product.
It's that flagship, the ASUS EAX1800XT TOP, that this review is all about so, without further ado, let's have a peek and see how close ASUS get to really pleasing the enthusiast with muchos dinero to drop on the latest and greatest.