Although we had not performed a direct ATI RADEON and NVIDIA GeForce card comparison under Linux in quite some time, on countless occasions we have examined the driver performance for both the red and green companies. In our 2005 year in review articles for ATI and NVIDIA both companies have certainly improved substantially with their alternative OS support when it comes to features and reliability, along with some minor frame-rate improvements. However, in the event of NVIDIA their Linux Rel80 drivers are on track with its Windows ForceWare counterpart and in some of the benchmarks, the Linux drivers even ended up in the lead. Although this was not the case for ATI in 2005, their almost monthly releases were significant as they had appended such features as PowerPlay, x86_64 support, aticonfig, an entirely new installer, improved distribution compatibility, and initial suspend/resume support. Although many Linux users have been partisan to NVIDIA for their graphics needs due to poor ATI experiences long ago in the past, there is often flaming in the *NIX community when ATI and Linux are mentioned in the same sentence. However, the fact of the matter is ATI does indeed care about the Linux area and they are very much trying to take the gaming and workstation market share even though they may not have as many staff and resources as the guys in green. When it came to testing the ATI X800XL 256MB PCI Express part, its performance under Linux was certainly restricted. Using Microsoft Windows XP it is accepted that the X800XL is a rough equivalent to the GeForce 6800 series part, but under Linux, this simply is not presently possible. In fact the NVIDIA 6600GT 128MB was able to outperform the X800XL in the gaming and workstation benchmarks, and for reference, the X300SE results were also included. When it comes to the Power Color X800XL 256MB part itself, its PCB design follows ATI's reference R430 reference card with slight alterations to the video card heatsink. In addition, the video card packs in Samsung's K4J55323QF-GC16 IC's which are rated for 1.667ns and designed for a maximum frequency of 600MHz, which is 110MHz beyond what Power Color presently has the X800XL running at with its 490MHz speed. Certainly, there is much overclocking headroom that can be achieved but unfortunately, we were unable to perform any overclocking due to the lack of ATI Linux utilities. In addition, Power Color has put together a great package with a number of cables and accessories as well as including Ubisoft's Pacific Fighters game (for those Windows users). Another one of Power Color's highlights for this card is the use of dual DVI connections and VIVO capabilities unlike other X800XL products that continue to use a single analog and DVI connector. However, under Linux the ATI display drivers have tarnished the abilities of this exceptionally designed solution. For those that have been left with a sour taste of NVIDIA whether it be due to the whole Rel80 debacle with the almost four month void between driver releases and their developers attempting to pass a leak of the 1.0-8168 drivers off as the older 1.0-6111 drivers, or the poor 7800GTX performance for two months after its release due to dynamic clock issues, or any other problematic areas, the X800XL is an excellent choice whether it be for gaming or work. The X800XL brings to the table terrific image quality and support using the latest ATI Linux display drivers. However, for the frame-rate seekers, as the results do share, the X800XL has troubles competing with the GeForce 6600 and 6800 series under Linux at this time. When the X800XL R430 PCI Express part was initially unveiled its MSRP was approximately $299 USD, but with over a year since its inauguration, the Power Color X800XL can easily be found for under $200.
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Phoronix Product Rating: 8 / 10