Articles: Graphics

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The market of desktop graphics processors these days resembles the market of luxurious cars, the main difference is obviously the number of designers: there are tens of car makers offering expensive and luxurious vehicles and there are two developers of graphics chips capable of creating truly high-end products.

In all other ways everything looks the same: a developer creates a flagship high-end offering that should attract attention to the whole lineup (just like BMW, whose bulk of revenue comes from the 3-series, but whose flagship 7- and 5-series get the most attention). Then the developer creates a breed of chips using the same micro-architecture (in case of cars they tend to share technologies and design innovations across the family) and about a year later they do slight redesign, add minor features and so on (in our example they do restyling every couple years or so) in order to sell people a product, perceived as new. People tend to look at the high-end when choosing a brand and this is why both ATI Technologies and NVIDIA Corp. fight fiercely to offer absolutely the fastest desktop graphics accelerators to maintain the image of the leader.

Mobile computer graphics doesn’t fall under this cliche: power consumption is among the main features that computer makers pay attention to when choosing graphics chips for their laptops. Hence, performance can be compromised in favor of longer battery life, lower price and some other things. At the end of the day, not that many consumers actually play resource-demanding 3D games on notebooks, therefore, they hardly need the truly ultimate performance.

But since there is demand for high-end graphics even in notebooks, both leading graphics chips designers have a tendency to offer mobile flavors for laptops of their top-of-the-range products. When it comes to high-end, no one cares about power consumption, heat dissipation and other disadvantages of high-end graphics processing units (GPUs), the only intention is to make sure it actually works and does not overheat.

However, there are some exceptions in this case: design wins by the GeForce Go 7800 GTX, proximity of the code-named R580 GPU launch and excessive power consumption of the RADEON X1800 XT made ATI to decide that the mobile flavour of the R520 is not needed now, even though it is listed in some of the company’s roadmaps. Instead, right now ATI wants to attack on the mainstream market by introducing the Mobility RADEON X1600, the product that brings ATI’s latest feature-set to mobile computers.

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