Between midrange and high-end graphics cards lies a barren wasteland where products known as “tweeners” go to die. Historically, there have been two main price-points for 3D cards: $200 and whatever else the market would bear for the top-end, bragging-rights-be-mine “glory SKU.”
Squeezed from both sides, products in the $250-400 price-range rarely, if ever, have fared well in the market. This time around, with top-end cards approaching $650, these relatively lower price points start to look attractive for those initially seeking bragging-rights until sticker-shock sets in. This trend is part of what nVidia CEO Jen Hsun Huang calls “using the whole cow.” This means creating more “yield buckets” on the fab lines to ship more GPUs at their highest possible performance settings. Previously, if a GPU could stably clock up to 390MHz with a high-end part spec’ed to be 400MHz, and the next part down was 370MHz, there was 20MHz worth of engine clock that went unused. To the guy who does the bean counting, that’s money left on the table.
Another side-effect of the very high prices of current generation high-end 3D cards is that GPUs like nVidia’s GeForce 6800 GT have garnered considerable interest, and today, ATI brings its competitive answer, the Radeon X800 XL. We put the X800 XL up against its big brothers to see how it would fare, and we came away pretty impressed. How impressed? Click next to find out.