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Despite of the fact that one of the two major suppliers of discrete graphics processors – Nvidia Corp. – is late with its DirectX 11-compatible graphics processing units (GPUs), the transition to the new application programming interface (API) will be the fastest in the industry, believes graphics market analyst Dean McCarron.

“Over the last decade, graphics processors supporting each new version of DirectX have achieved high volume shipments earlier in their life cycles than their predecessors. Our forecast is that DirectX 11 capable GPUs will continue this trend with the fastest transition between technologies ever, resulting in shipments surpassing DirectX 10 GPUs in 2010,” said Dean McCarron, the principal of Mercury Research, in a recent report about the state of graphics processors market.

At present only ATI, graphics business unit of Advanced Micro Devices, ships ATI Radeon HD 5700/5800/5900-series graphics chips that support DirectX 11 API. While the company has managed to ship over a hundred of thousand of performance-mainstream ATI Radeon HD 5700-series graphics boards so far, the shipments of high-end ATI Radeon HD 5800/5900-series are limited by supply issues caused by low 40nm yields at Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company.

Early next year ATI is expected to release mainstream and low-end desktop ATI Radeon HD 5000-series graphics solutions in addition to the new generation of ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5000-series graphics chips for notebooks, which will allow AMD to offer top-to-bottom DirectX 11 lineup.

Meanwhile, exact plans of Nvidia are not completely clear. We do know that production of the next-generation code-named GF100 (NV60, GT300) chip will be ramped only in Q1 FY2011. Nvidia’s first quarter of fiscal year 2011 begins on the 26th of January and ends on the 26th of April, 2010. As a result, we do expect Nvidia to release its high-performance flagship GeForce “Fermi” GF100 consumer graphics card sometime between January and March. However, it is unclear when exactly Nvidia is able to release mainstream, entry-level and mobile GPUs based on the Fermi graphics architecture.

The main and obvious advantage of DirectX 11 graphics cards nowadays – whether it is ATI Radeon HD 5000 or Nvidia GeForce “Fermi” – is increased performance compared to previous-generation products. Video games that support DirectX 11 already exist and dynamics of their emergence is better than that of DirectX 10 games back in 2007. As a result, with increased performance for existing titles and additional features of DX11, newer-generation graphics boards will indisputably become very popular in the next couple of quarters.

The only question is whether TSMC will be able to make sufficient numbers of 40nm DirectX 11 graphics chips in the first half of 2010.

Tags: DirectX, ATI, Nvidia, AMD, Radeon, Geforce, Evergeen, Fermi, Cypress, Hemlock, Juniper, Cedar, Redwood, NV60, GT300, GF100

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