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ATI's Radeon X800 XL Preview

by Ryszard Sommefeldt on 6 January 2005, 00:00

Tags: AMD (NYSE:AMD), ATi Technologies (NYSE:AMD)

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ATI's recent launch of its premier R480 graphics processor brought with it a variant on a different process technology, with all the same features, to satisfy lower-cost markets. Cheaper to produce, R430 is a native PCI Express part like R480, fabricated on TSMC's 110nm node. R430 therefore allows ATI to bring all the power of its R4xx range to many more price points on PCI Express, continuing ATI's push towards that interface completely across the board.

I've covered R4xx's technical features in the past and R430 doesn't implement anything different or new, compared to previous R4xx GPUs like R420, R423 or R480. Functionally equivalent bar their host interfaces and the process technologies used to create them, you can find information on R430's fragment processor, vertex units, memory bus, Shader Model ability and much more by checking out my original R420 review here.

Like all of ATI's other R4xx processors previously, R430 will be sold in a number of configurations born by the disabling of fragment processor groups by the board BIOS. With sixteen fragment processor units per R430 GPU, grouped into fragment quads (groups of four units), it'll be sold by ATI in three and four quad configurations to their AIB partners.

So you'll see the four quad R430 power Radeon X800 XL and a three quad implementation will power X800, both on PCI Express. Other configurations may appear in the future, especially with various OEM-only requirements, but three and four quad versions are likely all that'll appear at general retail.

With R480 and R430 both on PCI Express and both set to be available as a number of SKUs, pricing plays a large part in telling the various SKUs apart.

The USA MSRP (manufacturer's suggested retail price) for X800 XL is $299, down from the $349 ATI quoted on X850 XT PE's launch. Undercutting NVIDIA's MSRP for the X800 XL's likely competitor, GeForce 6800 GT, by some $100, X800 XL has price definitely in its favour if the MSRPs translate well into retail pricing.

So the $50 price cut and full four quad performance at 400MHz seek to make X800 XL arguably the most attractive PCI Express SKU for the gamer looking for serious performance punch. Partnered with 1000MHz GDDR3 memory with full 256-bit wide access to the GPU's memory controller, for around 32GB/sec of theoretical bandwidth, let's take a closer look at the reference board to see if the on-paper promise is fulfilled.