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The summer season being over in the northern hemisphere, we all get back from our vacations back to work or study and of course to playing our favorite games. There’s always summer in the virtual jungles of Far Cry after all!

An appropriate graphics card is needed to get the full satisfaction from newest game releases and we, at X-bit labs, are offering you the results of our comprehensive test session with 17 graphics cards and 30 benchmarks. This review was conceived to be a shopper’s guide for the time being and to make your choice of a graphics card in any price category easier. But before we see how fast popular games run on currently available graphics hardware, we want to remind you in brief what happened in the first half of this year.

Calm Beginning of 2005

The first half of 2005 began quite peacefully, despite the fact that the development of new-generation solutions was underway at NVIDIA Corporation and ATI Technologies. The excitement about the last-year releases of GeForce 6800 and RADEON X800/X850 had already calmed down and the first release of 2005 occurred only on the 28-th of February when ATI Technologies introduced its R481 graphics processor which was in fact an AGP modification of the R480 core.

The Canadian company was also preparing an answer to NVIDIA SLI technology which allowed using multiple GPUs as a single graphics subsystem. SLI was already commercially available then and had even become popular to some extent among the PC enthusiasts crowd. Two GeForce 6800 Ultra or GT cards outperformed the fastest solution ATI offered, RADEON X850 XT Platinum Edition, but the price of the SLI configuration was still rather high.

Thus, there was no obvious leader in that market in early 2005: ATI offered the fastest single graphics card and a wide range of GPUs for both PCI Express and AGP platforms, but NVIDIA solutions were somewhat more advanced technologically, supporting Shader Model 3.0, HDR, etc, and could work in the SLI mode, delivering the highest performance then possible.

The new-generation processors developed by both companies had given rise to numerous rumors and speculations, as usual. First samples of ATI’s new chip, codenamed R520, were made back in October or November of 2004, but it is only this fall that the product will be available commercially because ATI met problems trying to clock the 90nm GPU at high enough rates. So we will only know the real technical characteristics of the new solution at the time of its official announcement. One thing is certain so far – ATI Technologies’ chip will support Shader Model 3.0 and will thus be equal to NVIDIA solutions in this respect.

As for NVIDIA, it rolled out its G70 exactly according to the schedule and its characteristics are not a mystery anymore. We’ll give you a brief summary of the new-generation GPU from NVIDIA in the next section.

 
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