Articles: Graphics

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Resting on one’s laurels is a pleasant but risky pursuit in the world of gaming graphics hardware where the market situation can change diametrically in just a moment. Nvidia learned this lesson well when it suffered from the sudden all-out attack launched by ATI with its new RV770 architecture. Nvidia should be given credit for not giving up the fight then, though. The company’s first serious countermeasure was the transition of the G200 architecture to 55nm manufacturing process. The result was good: as we learned in our tests, the new version of GeForce GTX 260 Core 216 not only beat the Radeon HD 4870 1GB across a majority of tests but also featured far lower power consumption. This opened the way to creating a solution that would be not only competitive to the Radeon HD 4870 X2, but better!

This solution had to be a dual-G200 graphics card. Of course, this is a kind of a deflection from Nvidia’s principle of developing highest-performance single-core cards, but at war every means is good if it leads to victory. A single G200 just would not be able to challenge the RV770 duo working in CrossFire mode however high its frequency potential might be after the transition to the newer tech process. ATI’s development principle has proved its worth, so Nvidia has to use the same means. The company could not do so earlier because a dual-chip solution based on the 65nm G200 would have been too hot and uneconomical. The 55nm tech process made this effort plausible.

As a matter of fact, top-performance expensive graphics cards bring in but small profits for their developers (it is the mainstream solutions priced at $200 and lower that account for the bulk of sales), yet they have an important role other than just being profitable products. One knows a squadron by its flagship, and premium graphics cards are a kind of a visiting card of the developer company, telling everyone, including the potential customer, of his technological ability. This has an effect on the company’s market share, too. We can recall ATI’s position prior to the release of the Radeon HD 4000 series: ATI did offer interesting products in the mainstream sector, yet it was losing its market positions quickly due to the lack of a competitive flagship.

Although the G200, even in its 55nm version, is not a very suitable graphic core for building a dual-core graphics card, the release of the GeForce GTX 295 is a necessary countermeasure for Nvidia to deal with the long-lasting superiority of the Radeon HD 4870 X2. Some reviewers suggest that Nvidia’s refusal to develop premium-class single-chip cards is only temporary, but we guess that the company will stick to this strategy in the future. Our point is confirmed by the preliminary data we have on our hands about the new-generation graphics cores currently developed by Nvidia.

So, in this review we will discuss the new flagship solution from Nvidia and pit it against the Radeon HD 4870 X2 in a number of popular games to see who the king of gaming 3D graphics is now.

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