After getting off to a great start with a solid launch day, life has been tough for ATI’s RADEON X800 XT Platinum Edition.
The initial wave of cards was originally slated to hit retail at the end of May (May 21st to be exact), but that date quickly slipped back to June. The first batch of these PE cards turned out to be just that, a token release of cards that were quickly gobbled up by enthusiasts, more often than not with hefty price premiums. Even e-tailers that were well known for their competitive pricing were quick to slap an additional $30 or $40 to the price of the X800 XT PE cards they had available.
Shortly after the first trickle of cards went out, rumors began to fly that the X800 XT PE SKU was a limited edition product, much like the Extreme Edition GeForce 6800 Ultra cards some of NVIDIA’s board partners were releasing. ATI was quick to reassure the media that these rumors weren’t true, and that yields were good on all of their X800 products, including the flagship X800 XT Platinum Edition. Of course, by now we all know how this story played out. Supply problems continued to plague the X800 XT PE, while ATI’s less expensive (and less equipped) RADEON X800 PRO was forced to carry the torch against NVIDIA’s GeForce 6800 cards.
Eventually ATI announced a second 16-pipeline SKU for the PCI Express market only, the X800 XT, only to turn around a few months later and release an AGP version as well because the X800 XT PE was still in short supply. This was a good move in our opinion, as we’d asked for an AGP X800 XT card as early as June, but even these cards have been hard to find at retail. Clearly ATI needed an answer, and today they’ve found not one, but two different chips to lay their hopes on, internally codenamed R430 and R480.
Both of these chips are ATI’s Fall ’04 refresh parts. As a result, this means that they’re based on the same technology found in RADEON X800, including shader model 2.0b support, 16 and 12 pixel pipeline configurations, and a 256-bit wide memory interface supporting GDDR3 memory. Just as ATI replaced the RADEON 9800 PRO with the RADEON 9800 XT around this time last year, ATI is now refreshing their X800 lineup for 2005. The changes ATI have implemented on these parts are meant to increase production while at the same time beefing up performance. And if ATI has their way, the first cards should hit retail just in time for Christmas.