ATI has launched its next-generation X800 graphics processor, giving gamers and PC enthusiasts another choice for advanced PC graphics technology, ATI said.

The Radeon X800 chip is available in two graphics cards, the high-end Radeon X800 XT Platinum and the Radeon X800 Pro. The X800 XT Platinum will be available later this month for a suggested retail price of $499 (around £275) in the US, and the X800 Pro is immediately available through ATI and other retailers in the US for a suggested retail price of $399 (£220).

ATI improved the compression technology used in older versions of the Radeon chips with the new releases. Game developers can now create better-looking characters and scenery without sacrificing performance, ATI said.

The new graphics cards will also support GDDR3 (graphics double data rate 3) memory, and run at faster clock rates than their predecessors, ATI said. The X800 XT Platinum runs at 520MHz while the X800 Pro runs at 475MHz. Other than increased speed, new features on the processor will mainly be of benefit to the gaming community.

Nvidia announced the GeForce 6800 chips in April, but graphics cards with the chips are not expected to ship until later this month. A number of third-party reviews were released Tuesday comparing ATI's new chips with Nvidia's products, and while most reviewers thought the performance of the two products was similar depending on the game or benchmark, several reviewers such as HardOCP.com and The Tech Report gave the nod to ATI's technology.

However, Nvidia's chips support Shader Model 3.0, an advanced method of rendering life-like flesh-tones and other complex graphics. Shader Model 3.0 is part of Microsoft's DirectX 9.0 graphics APIs (applications programming interfaces), and several games are under development that will take advantage of the performance enabled by Shader Model 3.0 when they are released, Nvidia said.

ATI's new chips support Shader Model 2.0, which is the standard for high-end graphics performances in currently available games and games that will be released in the near future.