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In the two-player GPU race, it should come as no surprise that ATI and nVidia throw rocks at each other—a lot of rocks. After all, who else are they going to throw rocks at, other than Intel’s underwhelming integrated cores?

In the desktop GPU race, each company ultimately has to put its GPU where its mouth is, and may the best GPU win. With mobile GPUs, direct comparisons have usually been much more difficult, owing to system-level component disparities like chipset, CPU type/speed and amount of system memory. Most laptop makers decide on a single mobile GPU, and forego the competitive alternative from the other GPU maker. In the new era of upgradeable mobile GPUs, some laptop makers are differentiating their systems by letting you choose which mobile GPU you want to power your laptop. One such outfit is Eurocom, whose D900 series of high-end gaming laptops let you choose between ATI’s Mobility Radeon X800 and nVidia’s GeForce Go 6800. Putting the choice in the hands of end-users is a very good thing indeed. The other upside is that we’re able to directly compare the performance of these two mobile parts, and see who the real deal is, and who the real dog is.

If you’re looking at a high-end gaming laptop, then you’re staring down a $3,000+ purchase, and will want the very best of everything. So which of these mobile GPUs will deliver that to you? Continued…

Here’s the tale of the tape between these two GPUs:

nVidia GeForce Go 6800 ATI Mobility Radeon X800
Engine (MHz): 275, 300,* 450* 400*
Memory (MHz, effective): 300, 600* 400*
Transistor Count (millions): 190 ~135
Vertex Pipes: 6 6
Pixel Pipes: 12 12
Peak Pixel/Texel Fill Rate: 3.3-5.4Gpixels/sec* 4.8Gpixels/sec*
Peak Memory Bandwidth: 19.2-38.4GB/sec* 25.6GB/sec*


Eurocom is shipping each GPU option in the D900 at the following clock rates:

nVidia GeForce Go 6800 (DDR1) nVidia GeForce Go 6800 (DDR3) ATI Mobility Radeon X800
Engine (MHz): 250 330 400
Memory (MHz, effective): 300 (effectively 600MHz) 500 (effectively 1GHz) 350 (effectively 700MHz)

As of this writing, Eurocom is shipping only the DDR1-based nVidia module. The GDDR3-based module will be available within about two weeks, according to Eurocom.

Comparing nVidia DDR3 part with ATI’s latest Mobility Radeon X800, ATI has a considerable 21% core clock advantage, while on the other hand nVidia holds a considerable 43% advantage on the equally important memory clock side. Will the two disparities effectively cancel one another out? Only our test results can tell that tale.

We tested both nVidia’s DDR3 and DDR1 modules, and if you’re considering this system and putting the GeForce Go 6800 in it, you would want to opt for the DDR3 module, since it offers significantly higher clock rates (330/500) versus the DDR1 module, which is only (250/300). Again, it’s a case of: if you’re going to spend this much money on a portable system, then get the whole nine yards.

The GeForce 6800 Go impressed us with its performance when we previewed it late last year. In that same article, we also had a chance to preview ATI’s competitive answer, the Mobility Radeon X800, which also turned in some solid numbers. Since that story ran, nVidia seems to have gotten more design wins in the high-end laptop market, with customers including Dell, Alienware, and VoodooPC. That said, systems using the Mobility Radeon X800 from system makers like Rocktron and Hypersonic PC have only just begun to ship, and ATI may pick up additional design wins. nVidia appears to have done a better job delivering its current high-end mobile GPU to the market, while ATI seems to be playing catch-up. Continued…

We ran a subset of our 3D GameGauge test suite, focusing on the three most graphically intense games: Doom 3, Far Cry, Half-Life 2, and Unreal Tournament 2004 (UT2004).

We went back and re-recorded two timedemos for Half-Life 2, a procedure which was made necessary by a recent game engine patch issued by Valve effectively broke our (and many analysts’) previous timedemos.

We also tested with Futuremark’s 3DMark05.

For this round, we tested only at a resolution: 1680×1050 with 4xAA and 8xAF. This may seem severe, especially for a laptop, but with a system cost of $3,500, the word “compromise” should not be in this system’s vocabulary.

Rarely are we able to test head to head where all the other system components are identical.

This Eurocom D900 system had the following load-out:

  • CPU: 3.6GHz Pentium 4 (Northwood)
  • Chipset: Intel 915
  • Memory: 1GB DDR SDRAM
  • Audio: Realtek integrated HD Audio codec
  • Hard drive: 80GB
  • Operating system: Windows XP Pro w/SP2 (DirectX9.0c)

Driver Info TK

Note that this driver didn’t have the Catalyst Control Center built into it, although this driver build did have the A.I. optimizations enabled. Because the Catalyst Control Center UI was not in this driver, the A.I. optimizations were forced on, with no way to disable them. Continued…