IntroductionI don't usually do retail and reference boards in the same article, since it means a preview and a review at the same time, which doesn't really jive with how we do graphics here at HEXUS. I'll make an exception today, though, for a pair of ATI SKUs on AGP, SKUs which have caused controversy in recent months by their notable absence at retail. Potential ATI customers, who don't want to make the jump to PCI Express as their graphics interconnect, haven't been able to pick up the same high-end boards that have been available on the other side of the fence, frustrating them immensely.
That the new AGP SKUs are arriving in two ways is another reason for the exception, too. Two chips, one native AGP and one bridged from PCI Express, gives me a nice extra avenue to explore to see if ATI's bridged offering holds any kind of performance difference, compared to a native AGP chip with the same capabilities.
It all started when ATI shook up its PCI Express line and brought forward the X850 range, with PRO, XT and XT Platinum Edition variants, to push out a couple of X800 parts and cement their position at the top of the very high-end in PC graphics with a single board. The range-topping X850 XT Platinum Edition sits pretty as the fastest single PCI Express solution money can currently buy, with the X800 XL really dominating the mid-range with performance close enough to the X850s, due to a full four-quad fragment unit setup, all six vertex units and a full complement of fast GDDR3 DRAMs on a 256-bit memory bus.
The man with an eye for a performance bargain therefore sits eyeing up X800 XL in the mid-range performance segment, and the man with a fat wodge to spend lusts after X850 XT Platinum Edition. With both arriving, complete with VIVO ability, to the AGP space via the medium of R481 and R430 with RIALTO, there's a fair bit for me to cover. I'll dive right in with a look at the pros and cons of native versus bridged GPUs.