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Both leading GPU manufacturers have a habit of announcing their new-generation solutions at the beginning or end of a year and they both usually do that simultaneously, with a difference of just a couple of months. We had this scenario in 2003: the ATI R350 was announced on March 12 while NVIDIA unveiled its NV35 on May 12. The next year, NVIDIA introduced its NV40 on April 14, and ATI Technologies retorted with its R420 on May 4. This tradition was broken this year, however.

Until the last summer ATI managed to be the performance leader with its RADEON X850 XT and XT Platinum Edition graphics cards which outperformed the GeForce 6800 Ultra in a number of applications. NVIDIA’s only argument was the multi-GPU SLI technology. But the tables were turned on June 22, 2005: the NVIDIA G70 processor officially marked the birth of the GeForce 7 product series (for details see our article called NVIDIA GeForce 7800 GTX: New Architecture Exposed ). Not into any revolutions, NVIDIA based its GeForce 7800 GTX graphics card on the best qualities of the GeForce 6 architecture. Thanks to its 24 improved pixel pipelines and 8 vertex processors that card was instantly the fastest consumer 3D solution. Also important was the fact that NVIDIA could provide the new chip in mass quantities and this strengthened its position in the high-end sector. NVIDIA even grabbed some OEM contracts from ATI’s hands, particularly to supply the GeForce 7800 GTX to Dell for use in high-performance computers. A little later the company also rolled out its GeForce 7800 GT graphics card which did superbly in our tests, too (for details see our article called NVIDIA GeForce 7800 GT: Full-Throttle Graphics for $449).

No answer came from ATI Technologies, although anxiously awaited by the public. With GeForce 7 products coming to market in a billow, the balance between the two manufacturers was shaken. NVIDIA got on top as ATI didn’t try to challenge it with a new product. ATI’s new-generation graphics processor was first expected at June, then in July and August and September.

This long delay was due to manufacture-related problems. First prototypes of the new GPU, codenamed R520, appeared as far back as December of 2004, but ATI had to spend some time perfecting the new product to achieve an acceptable chip yield.

Each change in a complex electronic chip takes a lot of time and money, usually a few months and a few million dollars, so the delay of the R520 seems a natural, even though regrettable event. But all the problems being finally solved, we can at last hear ATI answer to NVIDIA today, on October 5, 2005. Can ATI dethrone NVIDIA or the GeForce 7 family remains unrivalled? Has ATI become superior from the technological point of view with the release of the new GPU series? You’ll learn everything right now, in this review!

 
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