There is a big gap between technical characteristics of top-end and mainstream solutions currently offered by the consumer 3D graphics industry. Of course, there has always been that kind of gap, but it has never been as wide as between the ATI Radeon HD 2900 and ATI Radeon HD 2600. The same is true for Nvidia’s GeForce 8800 and 8600 families, but Nvidia offers a couple of in-between products: the GeForce 8800 GTS 320MB with its aggressive price of $299 and the GeForce 8800 GT can provide quite a high performance in modern games.
The former ATI Technologies, currently the graphics division of Advanced Micro Devices, used to be in a worse position because its Radeon HD 2900 series with advanced technical characteristics began with a $399 product while the Radeon HD 2600 XT GDDR4, the flagship of ATI’s mainstream series, was inferior to the Nvidia GeForce 8600 GTS. According to AMD’s original plans, the price range of $189-249 was to be filled in with a dual-chip solution based on two Radeon HD 2600 processors. Such solutions are doomed from the start, however, as we have had a lot of opportunities to see.
In the best case they can become an exotic rarity unable to provide maximum performance in all games, but in the worst case they are just completely forgotten. That was the fate of such products as the 6800-based dual-chip solutions from ASUS and Gigabyte, the unique ASUS Extreme N7800GT Dual, and the Nvidia GeForce 7950 GX2. Besides the main reason mentioned above, the high complexity and, accordingly, the high manufacturing cost of such products is a strong disadvantage.
There is no reason why the dual-chip Radeon HD 2600 should be different and the graphics card makers’ attitude towards it confirms our point. GeCube, PowerColor and Sapphire Technology were the only manufacturers to announce such products, but Sapphire supplies its solution only to the OEM market and system integrators while the versions provided by PowerColor and GeCube come with relatively slow GDDR3 memory. Thus, the Radeon HD 2600 X2 cannot be a good connecting link between the Radeon HD 2600 and Radeon HD 2900 families.
Poised for a forthcoming release of the ATI Radeon HD 3800, ATI decided not to focus on promoting the Radeon HD 2600 X2, but resorted to a good old trick of dealing with such situations. They have introduced a product that’s going to live only a few weeks on the market.