The never-ending struggle between the graphics market giants, ATI Technologies and Nvidia continued through all of the year of 2006. In January ATI announced its highly successful R580 GPU that was an improved version of the earlier R520 chip. Notwithstanding its then arguable architectural concept, the new GPU made the company a technological leader. Nvidia responded in March, rolling out its G71 chip, a successor to the earlier G70, which helped restore the balance. There was another exchange of blows after that.
In early June Nvidia strengthened its positions by releasing its G71-based dual-GPU graphics card called GeForce 7950 GX2 and ATI answered to that in August with its Radeon X1950 XTX. Anyway, there has been some kind of balance between ATI and Nvidia up to this day. While the Radeon 1950 XTX was worse than the GeForce 7950 GX2 in terms of pure performance, it was considerably better in terms of image quality and compatibility.
As a matter of fact, Nvidia was long improving its graphics processors by bringing merely evolutional changes into their architecture. The G70 and G71 chips are in fact descendants of the NV40 GPU that was announced over two years back, on April 14, 2004. Notwithstanding their much higher performance, the newer chips have all the typical features of their ancestor. The NV40 was undoubtedly a revolutionary solution in its own time, but the example of ATI’s Radeon X800/X850 series suggests that old technologies cannot be improved upon indefinitely.
At some moment the resources of the current architecture become depleted and you can squeeze not a jot more performance out of it. The GeForce 7950 GX2 graphics card was itself an indication of such depletion, too, because Nvidia could only surpass ATI Technologies’ flagship solution based on ATI’s new architecture by using two G71 processors together.
So, the need to release a new architecture was becoming ever more urgent and Nvidia was of course working on it. Now that this work is over, Nvidia introduces its new GeForce 8graphics architecture embodied in the GeForce 8800 graphics processor. It’s this revolutionary architecture that is expected to bring the technological leadership back to Nvidia that we will be talking about in this overview.