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There's an old adage associated with automobile racing: "what wins on Sunday, sells on Monday." The idea is that if a car manufacturer's product makes it to the winner's circle on the "weekend," then that technology might lead to more sales at the dealership down the road.
The PC graphics card industry has demonstrated an uncanny parallel with the automotive sector in this respect. The manufacturer that delivers drool-worthy enthusiast hardware at the high-end gets a lot of positive momentum that trickles down to the guy who walks into the local computer store looking for a new entry-level graphics card.
Nvidia and AMD have engaged in a battle for supremacy for the top-performing graphics card for years now. But their bread and butter comes from the more pedestrian models that represent the boards most folks can actually afford. The sub-$80 market represents a very diverse model selection with the least price differential, along with the tightest margins. This space is often used as a test market for new technologies (most recently, ATI used the $100 price point to test its transition to 40nm manufacturing, for example).
Enter Nvidia's new GeForce 210- and GT 220-based discrete graphics cards. While these models aren't intended to represent the cutting edge of performance, they do represent some important hallmarks for Nvidia. Mainly, these are the first Nvidia GPUs to use TSMC's 40nm process and sport DirectX 10.1 support. Could this be foreshadowing of die-shrinks to come in the next couple of months? That'd likely be a very fair assessment.
You might also notice that these are Nvidia's first sub-$100 GPUs to migrate to the GT200 family's naming convention. Let's have a closer look at what they actually contain.