Just five days before the official ATI announcement regarding its R420 chip and it seems that the company have had to perform some tweaks in fear of losing out to rival, nVidia. The latest news from the Canadian camp suggests that the X800XT boards will be clocked higher than expected, in fact close to the chips theoretical limits. So come May 4th it is expected that ATI will confirm that their flagship board and the GF 6800 Ultra's rival, will sport a core running at 525 MHz and memory speeding at 1120 MHz.
This, last minute, change is the strongest sign yet that ATI are feeling the pressure following the latest news from the nVidia front but also a sign that the company has been playing a wily game with its rival, waiting for them to make their move and then attempting to match it.
With the new speeds ATI is expected to match and better, in most cases, nVidia's offering in real world games but is likely to lose out in 3DMark 2003. It is strange how the times have changed with nVidia now relying on its former adversary, Futuremark, in order to impose its product on consumer conscience. In any case it is unlikely that either chip will outperform the other by enough of a margin to cause a stir so nVidia inclined gamers will dish out their hard earned cash for the GF 6800 Ultra and ATI friendly players will do the same for the X800XT.
What seems to be worrying for ATI however, is that as things stand they seem to have stretched their R420 chip for most, if not all, it's got while the NV40, reportedly, still has some juice left in the old core. There is a slight possibility, that nVidia may decide to clock their GF 6800 Ultra higher than announced before it hits retail. It is more likely though that the company may speed up the release of an intermediate board before announcing the NV45.