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Market shares of NVIDIA Corp. and ATI Technologies in the high-end segment of add-in graphics cards may be under question, as Mercury Research treats all graphics processors that contain more than 100 million transistors as “high-end” no matter the price and performance of those products is.

100 Million Transistors Means High-End, Says Analyst

“Mercury’s current estimates on DX9 and DX9c accelerators differentiate value and performance by transistor count, with devices at and about 100 million transistors being considered high end. This is the mythology used in the most recent data set that NVIDIA cited, and was developed for the original DX9 series of products from NVIDIA and ATI, such as the GeForce FX 5x series and the RADEON 9500/9700,” Mercury’s principal analyst Dean McCarron told X-bit labs.

Enthusiasts and media typically consider pricing and performance as two main measurements of a products’ market positioning. Currently $399 - $499 price-range is occupied by NVIDIA’s GeForce 6800 GT/Ultra as well as ATI’s RADEON X800 PRO/XT products. Additionally, ATI and NVIDIA ship GeForce 6800, 6800 LE and RADEON X800 SE products respectively for $250 - $300. Those products offer performance similar or higher to the RADEON 9800 XT, a previous high-end offering from ATI.

GeForce 6800, RADEON X800 Shares Unclear

NVIDIA Corp. last week announced it had managed to ship approximately 1.5 million of high-end DirectX 9.0 visual processing units during the third quarter of the year, which is 64% of the whole high-end market during the quarter. ATI Technologies, in contrast, supplied around 800 thousand of high-end DirectX 9.0 high-end graphics processors, which is 36% of the market. A quarter earlier NVIDIA’s share was only 26%. Among 63.8 million of mainstream and value DirectX 9.0 GPUs market share commanded by NVIDIA was also slightly higher compared to ATI’s: 51% versus 49%, it was indicated by sources with knowledge of the Mercury Research numbers.

NVIDIA’s products that incorporate more than 100 million of transistors and that are all likely to be shipping in volume are GeForce FX 5900 XT,  GeForce PCX 5900, GeForce FX 5900, GeForce FX 5900 Ultra, GeForce 5950 Ultra, GeForce 6600, GeForce 6600 GT, GeForce 6800 LE, GeForce 6800, GeForce 6800 GT as well as GeForce 6800 Ultra. NVIDIA’s GeForce 5900 and 5900 Ultra are unlikely to be officially supplied by NVIDIA. Graphics processors like the GeForce 5900 XT and GeForce 6600 are typically considered as mainstream offerings due to their speed being similar to ATI’s RADEON 9600- and X600-series, GPUs that contain about 75 – 80 million of transistors.

ATI’s visual processing units that contain more than 100 million of transistors are RADEON 9800 SE, RADEON 9800, RADEON 9800 PRO, RADEON 9800 XT, RADEON X800 SE, RADEON X800 PRO, RADEON X800 XT, RADEON X800 XT Platinum Edition. RADEON 9800 SE should also be considered as mainstream since the speed it provides is close to the RADEON 9600 XT.

Mainstream Products Impacts NVIDIA’s, ATI’s High-End Shares?

Some analysts believe that widespread popularity of the GeForce 5900 XT in the retail segment as well as early deliveries of the GeForce 6600 to white-box manufacturers may significantly impact NVIDIA’s performance in the high-end. NVIDIA said it had ramped the GeForce 6600 and GeForce 6200 GPUs only in October, which is outside of calendar Q3. However, certain amount of the GeForce 6600-series products were still sold in Q3, according to the company’s other claims.

It is hard to estimate the impact of products like ATI RADEON 9800 SE and similar cut-down flavours of the 9800-series products on ATI’s market share in the high-end according to Mercury Research. ATI did not supply its mainstream/performance-mainstream RADEON X700-series in Q3 2004, even though there were promises to start deliveries of the RADEON X700 PRO in September.

The situation with high-end market shares can get even more complicated in Q4 2004, as ATI's and NVIDIA's new mainstream graphics processors - RADEON X700 and GeForce 6600 - contain 110 and 143 million of transistors.

Full market share report and analysis from Mercury Research can be purchased via its web-site.

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