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The X1900 launch mania: Are you sold?

What are they saying about the card itself?

The pundits almost universally love the X1900. ATI's PR and Marketing Manager in Northern Europe, Andrzej Bania, was able to string off a series of impressive quotes from reviews around the world within hours of the NDA lifting.

But then, that's not unexpected. A product like this is so tweaked and tested that the vastly increased transistor count would have to work hard to let us down. Increasing FPS and scores in benchmarks is expected of a card like this, and so anyone calling the X1900 the most powerful graphics card in the world is simply copying a pasting from a review of the X1800 before that, and the GeForce 7800 review before that.

The card has done particularly well to overcome Black & White 2 in all the benchmarks I've seen. The game stopped the X1800 dead in both single and Crossfire configurations. Both with and without AA at 1024x768, our benchmarks had the X1800 and Crossfire coming in at around 20fps in B&W 2; but the X1900 has rectified this, coming in only behind the 7800 GTX 512 SLI.

Almost everyone explains the new technologies behind the card, such as Fetch4, well but that's to be expected, as ATI engineers and PR types have been sure to brief on it and I've seen the same diagrams everywhere.

If there's one (no, two...) things I think we could do better around these parts with our graphic cards, it's feature lists and explanation of benchmark results. At the risk of getting beat over the head with the big editorial stick (notice I didn't say 'a') we did that bit pretty naff (though we weren't the only ones).

I like it all to be there in table form as we do in many of our other reviews. This time however it was a paragraph of text followed by a close-up of the board; another paragraph of text sometimes referring back to the previous paragraph of text, the contents of which you've forgotten about whilst looking at the picture.

Take a look half way down this page of Extreme Tech's review for some of that table lovin' action.

A lot of reviewers also stand guilty of tossing out benchmark results and not explaining what the numbers mean. For example, I had to search high and low for an explanation of the B&W 2 figures, eventually finding one on Anandtech:

"Black and White 2 is a god sim with a very sophisticated graphics and physics engine. One thing very interesting about this game is the advanced in-game Anti-Aliasing option. While, only offering "low", "medium" and "high" AA settings, the game's AA looks surprisingly good, as we will show under the image quality section.

Here with Black and White 2, Nvidia does quite a bit better than ATI. It would be an understatement to say that this game favors Nvidia over ATI due to the before-mentioned problem ATI has with this game. Not only do the 1900s perform much lower than the GTX (without AA), but the performance actually becomes worse when Crossfire is enabled. Keep in mind though that ATI has promised a patch, and this issue will hopefully be resolved soon.

Also, Black and White 2 just happens to be possibly the most graphically intensive of our games in this review, so Nvidia's parts struggle at high resolutions and with AA significantly. This game appears to put even the mighty 7800 GTX 512 sli setup to task, but we still see a playable framerate at the highest resolution with AA enabled. Note that we did not include maximum quality tests here, because the in-game AA did a far greater job at image quality with not nearly the same drop in performance."

So there. That's about where I let off on criticising our review, and otherwise it's one of the best and most comprehensive out there.

Bonus points have to go to Hexus however for their in-depth exploration of image quality.

As an interesting aside, some reviewers have started using the brand spanking new 3DMark 06, with Extreme Tech going so far as to make it the only synthetic benchmark they used.

This is an extremely stupid thing to have done. In our review we didn't use 3DMark 06 at all as our reviewers want to prod it a little more first, and so it's the swan song of 3DMark 03. Other reviewers used 3DMark 06, but also used the older and so "more reliable" 3DMark 05. This is the far wiser thing to do: We know how 3DMark 05 behaves, and while 3DMark 06 is the shiny new benchmark it's also far less tried and tested.

Most places still use 3DMark 03 alongside 05, so why Extreme Tech has seen the need to ditch 05 completely for this review I'm not sure; but they would have had a far stronger review if only for comparative purposes if we had had the 3DMark 05 results as well as the 06 ones.