ATI RELEASED its FireGL X1 cards back in December but reviewers saw few of them and we can't get sales figures on these cards. One thing that emerged from the initial reviews is that performance of the card is not acceptable. The cards are much slower than they should be. In initial reviews the X1, which is based on R300 chip and architecture, was losing against the nVidia Quadro 4 980, which is based on the GeForce 4. Certainly the gaming version of R300, the Radeon 9700 PRO, is significantly faster than the GeForce 4 TI 4600. The conclusion was easy to make, it is all about drivers. FireGL X1 is the card that has been shipping but we all know that it should run much faster.
The Starnberg, Germany based FireGL team is working hard to introduce new drivers. The next one that should increase the performance of the cards is, we learned, due around 10 February. We assume that these drivers should give FireGL X1 a decent performance increase in order to beat the Quadro 4 980. The R300 architecture easily has the potential for that. Still, ATI had a new card to compete with few days ago. The newly introduced Quadro FX that Nvidia is pushing aggressively but which is barely available. We've learned that it's hard to even get samples to test at press time.
If ATI writes decent drivers for R300, it can certainly give the 400/800 clocked Quadro FX 2000 and especially the 300/600 clocked Quadro FX 1000 a run for their money. We will know more after 10th February when these drivers should be available. We reckon they should appear not long after that date, but you never know with drivers.
News source: The Inq