Final Thoughts: To ATI or not to ATI?
Priced at $400, the Radeon HD 2900XT becomes a very good value as this price tag places it alongside the GeForce 8800 GTS 640MB graphics card, which it appears to dispose of in almost every game we tested. This ASUS version that comes with a game bundle is priced around the $450 mark, making it slightly more expensive. Yet still, at this price point we would take the new Radeon HD 2900XT over the GeForce 8800 GTS. This is all good and well, but what about the GeForce 8800 GTX? Sure its $100 more expensive, but its also faster in the majority of games out there.
Breaking it down with the games we tested, the GeForce 8800 GTX was significantly faster in F.E.A.R, Company of Heroes and Supreme Commander. Then there were a few games such as Far Cry, S.T.A.L.K.E.R and Lost Planet where the GeForce 8800 GTX was only slightly faster than the Radeon HD 2900XT. Two other games, Prey and X3: Reunion, actually saw the Radeon HD 2900XT overtake the GeForce 8800 GTX for the lead. So if you are happy to spend GTX money, should you? Or is it a better choice to save the $100+ by settling for the Radeon HD 2900XT?
This is a tough question and there are a few things you have to take into consideration. First and foremost the Radeon HD 2900XT is a brand new product and is going through a number of teething issues. There is a good chance the performance of the Radeon HD 2900XT will improve in time and we may well see it surpass the GeForce 8800 GTX in almost all games. Then again, things could stay the way they are, so we wouldnt buy the Radeon HD 2900XT banking on it becoming a hell of a lot better than it is now.
The GeForce 8800 GTX is a very well established product and although you will pay more for it, you know exactly what you are getting. Furthermore, the GeForce 8800 GTX uses less power, generates less heat and overclocks well without needing an 8-pin power connector. Availability is also much better and picking up a GeForce 8800 GTX graphics card should not be much of a challenge. Nevertheless for $400-450, the Radeon HD 2900XT provides a ship load of performance and at this price it is hard to refuse.
For now the ASUS Radeon HD 2900XT looks to be a solid enough product and while you may have to pay a little extra for this version, it comes with a nice bundle which includes a full version copy of S.T.A.L.K.E.R.
The biggest problem with the Radeon HD 2900XT is thermal output. We really hope ASUS and other manufacturers can address this soon with special editions featuring an upgraded cooling solution of some sort. The Radeon HD 2900XT turned out to be slower than we hoped for, but it is also significantly cheaper, so its not all bad news!
Additional tip: At this point I wouldn't find it difficult recommending to wait for a few weeks, if possible, for buying a new videocard on this price range. Don't be surprised if we start to see at least a few 8800 GTS (640mb) cards selling well below $400, and closer to the $300 price mark. Don't you love competition?