PowerColor Radeon HD 2900 XT graphics card
Worth the wait?
Review AMD/ATI has been working on its DirectX 10 graphics chip, codenamed 'R600', for an awfully long time, which is somewhat surprising when you consider that this is its second-generation DirectX 10 part. The first was the Xenos chip that powers Microsoft's Xbox 360 games console.
Although AMD is announcing a full range of Radeon HD 2400, 2600 and 2900 chips today, the only chip that is actually available is the Radeon HD 2900 XT. It won't make the mainstream HD 2400 and 2600 parts available until the end of June.
Priced at £249/$399, the HD 2900 XT is aimed squarely at Nvidia's GeForce 8800 GTS so we're in the upper ranges of gaming performance but this is the first time in living memory that a manufacturer hasn't claimed the 'Fastest Ever' performance crown with a new generation of chips.
The HD 2900 XT reference board measures in at 23.8cm (9.5in) in length and has an impressive specification. Feel free to imagine a Sid James laugh at this point. Fabbed at 80nm, the chip contains 700m transistors, no small number of which comprises its 320 'Stream' unified shader processors. The core's clocked to 740MHz, while the memory - 512MB of GDDR 3, connected across a 512-bit, eight-channel bus - runs at an effective 1650MHz. There are connectors for CrossFire and a second power port.
Quality and speed
Frantisek, HardOCP has done a bit of a demolition job on the 2900XT partly with regard to the different AA filters including the different tents.
They have included a number of screengrabs to illustrate the quality of AMD versus Nvidia and frankly they are pretty much identical in most respects however when it comes to AA the AMD card images look blurred. I have no intention of taking issue with HardOCP - in the main they do excellent work - however I have been in this situation way back in the days of Radeon 9800.
This was a time when AA was quite novel and I simply wanted to illustrate what it could do so. I used Microsoft Train Simulator as an example because the train tracks suffer from horrible jaggies as they converge towards the horizon. Enabling AA smoothed the image considerably so I set about taking screen grabs to illustrate the success.
In the images the rails looked good with AA but the trees that line the track looked like green lollipops with no distinguishing features and the grabs with AA therefore looked terrible. Much like the images on HardOCP..
Of course I was looking at stills from a moving image and was effectively missing the point. As you drive past a tree you can't see the leaves and branches. Stand under a tree in Oblivion and you get the benefit of all sorts of eye candy.
Ever since I have been very wary of taking screen grabs as they often show visual information that is out of context.
As for the most recent comment, yes it would have been 'fair' to run a pair of Ultras in SLI however I only had one Ultra - does anyone have two? - and simply wanted to illustrate how £500 of AMD hardware compared with £500 of Nvidia hardware.
Sli vs Crossfire?
Two things spring to mind:
- If you used Crossfire for the ATI, surely you should have included an SLi config for the nvidia setup, for a more balanced report?
- Is it just me or does Crossfire's performance benefits look feeble (on a %age increase in frame-rate basis) compared to typical performance gains from Sli?
Reply to ref Numbers, numbers
Fair enough, I respect your view and find it meaningful, thank you very much for reply.
I have seen some image quality comparisons lately and the usage of CFAA with Wide Tent in Oblivion with 2900XT seems to be useful a lot for overall quality, I'm looking forward to your further testing.