It’s next to nothing left in the current year of 2003 – just the time to make summaries and predictions. Let’s try to sum up everything the past year has brought into the graphics card market. I guess this year was one of the most interesting periods in the history and development of consumer graphics processors as we’ve seen solutions with support of Microsoft’s DirectX 9 API gaining their ground throughout it.
I am not only going to talk about the historical significance of the year 2003, but will also offer you a comparative testing of the graphics cards that have appeared in the market. This will help you refresh your memory, form your own opinion and get positive about the graphics card you are going to buy for this Christmas.
Q1 2003: Failure of GeForce FX 5800 Ultra, Renewal of ATI’s R300
NVIDIA starts the new year screeching at the joints. The company has problems with the launch of the new graphics processor codenamed NV30. According to the promises NVIDIA is lavish to throw about the chip is going to be a real revolution. Meanwhile, the Canadian ATI Technologies, an immediate rival of NVIDIA, already has a whole series of DirectX 9.0-compatible solutions based around the R300 VPU. This graphics processor appeared back on July 14, 2002, about 6 months before the formal release of the NV30 – that’s an unprecedented term for the graphics industry.
The abominable RADEON 9700 PRO meets a resistance from NVIDIA’s somewhat out-dated GeForce4 Ti series chips that don’t support the new API from Microsoft. Although NV25-based products show an acceptable performance and sometimes outperform the RADEON 9500/9700/PRO across a number of applications in the so-called “raw speed” mode, the reviewers are sure this is not for long – ATI’s chip will step on top. Meanwhile, the customers were making their own choices. According to Jon Peddle Association, a bulk of the graphics cards bought for the Christmas of 2002 was based on NVIDIA’s GeForce4 Titanium chips, first announced around the end of February, 2002.
GeForce4 Ti series processors don’t suit for full-screen anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering where the RADEON 9700/9500 beats them black and blue. Anyway, they remain the sales leaders in the performance-mainstream and high-end segments until the middle of Q1 2003.
The end of February, 2003, and it is three months since the formal announcement of GeForce FX technology. The publication of the benchmarking results for the GeForce FX 5800 Ultra (NV30) is bad news for NVIDIA, while ATI’s R300 becomes a star in the market compared to the unlucky chip from Santa Clara. NVIDIA had nothing like that to offer to the user. Some analysts suggest that it won’t be able to do that in the near future, either.
However, the Markham, Ontario-based ATI is not riding the gravy train as they use the same graphics processor (R300) for both mainstream and high-end solutions. This is not profitable and cannot go on forever. The most logical move is to create two independent graphics processors, for two different market segments. We’ll see the second solution appearing in the second quarter of 2003.