It is no secret that Nvidia is currently the leading supplier of discrete graphics solutions with DirectX 10 support. The company’s products cover virtually the entire price range from below $100 to over $600. This firm standing comes largely as the result of a very aggressive marketing strategy. For example, the G80, Nvidia’s first GPU with DirectX 10 support, was announced as far back as November 8, 2006. Two G80-based graphics cards, GeForce 8800 GTX and GeForce 8800 GTS, were announced then, too (for details see our article called Directly Unified: Nvidia GeForce 8800 Architecture Review).
The arrival of the new family might have been called rather too hasty as it took place even before the official announcement of Microsoft’s new OS, Windows Vista. The first production batch of GeForce 8800 had the “wrong resistor” problem and was incompatible with some mainboards (for details see our article called 25 Signs of Perfection: Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX in 25 Benchmarks). The drivers called for improvements, too. But most of those drawbacks were eventually corrected and the GeForce 8800 GTX and GTS enjoyed the reputation of the best gaming graphics cards deservedly.
Top-end graphics cards accounting for but a small share of the total sales volume, Nvidia made inroads into the segments of more affordable solutions later on. February 12, 2007, it launched the rather successful GeForce 8800 GTS 320MB. Then a second attack followed on the 17th of April with the announcement of mainstream GPUs, G84 and G86, and graphics cards based on them (GeForce 8600 and 8500).
Like with the GeForce 8800 GTX, there were some problems with the newer models. Particularly, the GeForce 8800 GTS 320MB would suffer from inefficient memory management in the driver and it would sometimes have a performance hit even in those applications where 256MB of memory was quite enough. The GeForce 8600 GTS proved to be rather slow-performing for its class. Anyway, the new solutions took their places whereas AMD was only making ready to introduce its own DirectX 10-compatible GPUs.
On the 2nd of May 2007, Nvidia added another model into the GeForce 8 line-up. That time it was a top-of-the-line solution. The luxurious GeForce 8800 Ultra was not a breakthrough since its performance was not much higher than that of the GeForce 8800 GTX, yet it proved Nvidia’s ability to produce the world’s fastest DirectX 10-compatible graphics cards.
AMD/ATI finally responded on the 14th of May, but the Radeon HD 2900 XT laid no claim to the title of the king of 3D. Our tests showed that it was generally slower than the GeForce 8800 GTX and, in some applications, slower than the GeForce 8800 GTS even (for details see our article called Almost a Champion: ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT Gaming Performance Review). The new card from AMD proved to be a good, if not the best, solution in the $399 price sector, but its high power consumption, driver-related problems, and belated arrival didn’t allow it to shake Nvidia’s positions. The less expensive Radeon HD 2600 XT and Radeon HD 2400 XT were announced along with the Radeon HD 2900 XT, but the company began mass shipments of these GPUs only by the middle of June, which played into Nvidia’s hands again.
The release of inexpensive RV610- and RV630-based products can surely affect the situation on the market of discrete DirectX 10 compatibles, but it’s only nearer to the fall of this year that the consequences of this move by AMD will have become apparent. Meanwhile, Nvidia goes on strengthening its positions on the market of inexpensive DirectX 10 graphics cards. On the 20th of June, the GeForce 8 series was complemented by yet another model, this one belonging with the entry-level price segment. The GeForce 8400 GS is expected to cost less than $89 and replace the outdated GeForce 7600 GS and 7300 GT.