Lets have a party... in the same place, on the same day!
We think it's fairly safe to say that NVIDIA dominated the mid-range last generation with the fantastic GeForce 6600 GT. ATI tried to compete on a number of fronts but it wasn't until the Radeon X800GT and Radeon X800GTO came along that we started to see some serious competition in that price range. However, by that time, NVIDIA had already sold several truck loads of cards to users wanting to jump onto the Shader Model 3.0 bandwagon.
After the launch of GeForce 7800 GTX, GeForce 6800 GT dropped in price quite considerably, and then NVIDIA launched the GeForce 6800 GS in order to fill the mainstream gap while it was waiting for G73 to get dressed up for the party on March 9th. March 9th, the first day of CeBIT, was a pretty big party too, as NVIDIA decided to launch not one, but seven different products including their new flagship GeForce 7900 GTX on that day. Meanwhile, ATI must've felt a little left out, as it decided to join the rather green party with the announcement of Radeon X1800GTO - a part that is designed to usher enthusiasts away from GeForce 7600 GT.
The GeForce 7600 GT is NVIDIA's replacement for the ever-popular GeForce 6600 GT and they've said that they're incredibly excited about the part - even more excited than they were when GeForce 6600 GT was launched. We spoke to a number of NVIDIA's developer relations team in 2004, just after GeForce 6600 GT had launched, and they told us that they thought that NV43 was the best GPU that their engineers have ever designed. Tony Tamasi, NVIDIA's Vice President of Technical Marketing, told us that the chip engineers are even more excited with what they've achieved in G73.
Radeon X1800GTO, on the other hand, isn't all that new in many respects because it's basically a crippled R520 with only twelve of the original sixteen pixel pipelines enabled. It's another one of ATI's dead-die SKUs that are designed to get rid of inventory that the company can't sell because there are damaged parts of the chip, usually in the pixel shader quads. Also, it's worth noting that it looks incredibly similar to the Radeon X1800XL, and shares many of the same characteristics - some of which aren't to our liking.
Doing things a little differently...
For this review, we decided to tweak the way we test the cards a little, and move away from best-playable settings and resolutions that are different across different cards.
LCD monitors are becoming cheaper and the technology is getting better too. This means that their popularity is increasing rather dramatically, too. The most popular LCD monitor resolution is 1280x1024 with over a third of bit-tech's readers using that resolution, and we think that's the most popular resolution that enthusiasts with £150-200 in their pocket waiting to purchase their next video card will be using. Taking this into account, we thought it'd be a good idea to evaluate the performance of BFG Tech's GeForce 7600 GT OC and ATI's Radeon X1800GTO on a 19" ViewSonic VX924 LCD panel in order to limit our maximum resolution to 1280x1024.
Also, when you move away from native resolution, the image clarity can often be a little below par. Many enthusiasts don't want to put up with below-par image clarity due to poor resolution scaling across the panel. As such, we felt that it'd be more realistic to fix our resolution at 1280x1024 to give the maximum image clarity while adjusting the in-game settings, along with antialiasing and anisotropic filtering in order to attain the highest playable quality.
The GeForce 7600 GT and Radeon X1800GTO represent NVIDIA and ATI's latest efforts to please mid-range buyers. However, gamers can also pick up GeForce 6800 GS and Radeon X850XT cards - the high end of last generation - for similar money. Are you better off buying current middle-range or previous generation high-end? That's another question we're going to be trying to answer.