ATI Radeon X1800 GTO vs Nvidia GeForce 7600 GT
Sub-£150 cards from Gecube and Gigabyte
GeCube X1800 GTO 256MB
Let's start with the ATI-based X1800 GTO card, which until recently was closer to the £200 price point than the sub-£150 price point most 7600 GT cards have been sold at. ATI recently decided to drop the price on the GTO part and you can now pick up the GeCube board for less than most 7600 GTs.
Although it might be based on previous-generation technology, the X1800 GTO has one advantage over the 7600 GT: there has been several reports of users successfully modding their X1800 GTOs into X1800 XLs.
ATI's codename for the X1800 GTO was R520LE whereas the fully featured X1800 GPUs where called R520. The GTO and the XL share the same core, but certain elements have been disabled in the BIOS. The X1800 XL has 16 pixel pipelines while the X1800 GTO has 12. The 'missing' four pipelines can in some cases be re-enabled. There's no guarantee the process will work, but the possibility is there and you will gain a fair performance jump if it works.
The clock speed of the GTO is 500MHz on the core and 500MHz (1GHz effective) on the memory just like the X1800 XL, though less than the 7600GT. It has 12 ROPs and eight vertex shaders. To its advantage the GTO has a full 256-bit memory interface, which gives it a performance boost without having to use a higher memory clock speed. As this is a mid-range product, once you could have presumed that it would have less memory than the XL, but so far all the GTOs have 256MB too.
It is a rather large card and as I mentioned in the introduction this can cause a problem if you have a small case or not enough clearance between the motherboard and the hard drive cage. Far more annoying is the cooler, as the fan kept changing speed throughout the benchmarking process. It got really frustrating really quickly. ATI needs to come up with a better stock cooler. I'd be happy to pay another £5 for my graphics card if I got a low-noise cooler as standard.
According to ATI, you can buy two X1800 GTO cards and run them in CrossFire mode over the PCI Express bus, rather than having to invest in a master card.
The X1800 GTO is worth the new asking price and it's a very good mid-range product from ATI. The possibility of modding it to a fully fledged X1800 XL is also an intriguing option for some users. A quieter cooler wouldn't go amiss, but this is the only real downside to this card.