Future Opportunities For VGA Vendors
Question: As Intel and AMD integrate more functionality into their host processors, what opportunities remain for VGA vendors to add value or differentiate their products?
- Host processors won’t enable a compelling 3D visual experience. A better gaming experience also requires a powerful discrete GPU.
- 3D visual reality applications
- Host processing power is never enough. Applications are always asking for more CPU and GPU power. We will add more fancy functions whenever the processing power is ready.
- Integrated [graphics] does not offer enough power to play games.
- Better performance, more unique features, our own custom-designed PCBs and coolers.
- I think making sure the industry takes advantage of the parallel processing capability found in a discrete graphics card with new software will be the best way for VGA vendors to show the value of a more powerful discrete graphics card.
- Performance and reliability will always be the key. Improved cooling technologies, PCB layout, and individual component selection all improve performance and reliability. Added value comes with pushing this quality into the mainstream and also by adding additional functionality on the graphics card--we already see this with different output connection options for media devices or multi-monitor support, for example, and we will continue to see other functions added to the basic graphics card.
- Great parallel computing capability is the major advantage discrete graphics have. Providing a more interactive gaming experience such as Nvidia's PhysX or AI (in the future) is what VGA vendors should do in the future.
- OC stability of a discrete card is better than CPU/GPU hybrid.
- Using stable thermal solutions or passive solutions.
- Share CPU loading to get better performance.
- Introduce high quality and better performance for the game.
- Basically, VGA still performs the unique function that a hybrid can't replace. As to the end user, VGA does have the "simple to replace" capability when the user feels the need to upgrade. They don't have to swap in a new processor; simply change a VGA card for access to the desired performance level.
- Yes, we admit, the hybrid solution might affect low- and mid-range graphic cards, since this range is normally for the home/office user. But there are still users that mainly play games, and these are the users that VGA vendors will need to focus on.
- For VGA vendors, we can add value to our graphic card by giving the user a more refined performance product on mid- to high-end market. Besides, hybrid motherboards still support external graphics cards, and this helps too. With customized product and specialized features, discrete graphics will still have a place in the market
As far as value goes, we are a bit surprised that stereoscopic 3D wasn’t discussed more often, from its anticipated role in PC-to-TV output or 3D-on-PC. Only two people explicitly mentioned 3D. This is maturing technology, and may simply be in its infancy in a similar way HD output was back in the early 2000s. Nvidia (more so than AMD) seems to be really be pushing this technology. This may prove to be a boon or dead weight, depending on how the market moves forward. Stereoscopic 3D adoption for the home television still seems slow. At the moment, this has more to do with a cost premium tempering the degree of consumer interest. And if our own coverage of 3D Blu-ray has told us anything, it’s that the most vocal of our readers currently see the technology as gimmicky, rather than something they’d regularly use.
AMD has its own specific challenges with their upcoming APU designs. Moving forward, the company needs to find a way to position its integrated graphics performance, while finding the right balance for graphic card vendors. Past Radeon users cannot be traded for APU adopters, which means the company needs to take its own customers plus the competition’s. At the same time, AMD will need to carefully lay out its long-term plans. This includes weighing the cost of alienating the company’s discrete board partners with a potentially-superior APU-based graphics solution.
Since Nvidia still doesn’t have an x86 license for chipset production and has no plans for a CPU/GPU hybrid, it probably feels pressure on two fronts: the potential loss of its chipset business and the need to remain competitive in graphics. The company will have to come up with a few more ups on the blackboard if its video card vendors are going to be up to the challenge in 2011 (losing BFG doesn’t help there, we imagine). Nvidia has a very rare opportunity to try delivering a superior feature set and set the stage for compelling competition against Intel and AMD. Our behind-the-scenes talks with a few Nvidia engineers make us excited, but the proof is in the pudding. We'll find out more in 2011 as the company's plans unfold.
What does this mean for third-party video card vendors? Their offerings in 2011 will not really look any different than they did in 2010. We should expect more evolutionary design: improved performance and, as a byproduct, innovative cooling solutions. In the end, discrete graphic cards can still deliver a more complete feature set, better performance, along with lowering the total cost of ownership as users take advantage of component modularity.
In our opinion, video card vendors need a more serious commitment to GPGPU advancements, ultimately becoming the leading evangelists toward the software community. Unlike previous IGP solutions that may have been aimed at replacing the need for discrete solutions, GPGPU is AMD and Nvidia’s way to coax graphic card partners. It is their way out of the argument that their partners will eventually be obsolete or even marginalized. Video cards add serious computing power even to an IGP platform. So rather than competition or a conflict of interest, discrete solutions serve as a powerful performance solution, even for IGP platforms as the industry moves forward.
In the next year, the underlying battle between graphics vendors won’t really change, except for maybe the weapons they use to fight. Hopefully, they will be very powerful weapons indeed. The game is on.