The King is dead! Long live the King! How's this for a plot-twist? The challenger Radeon - a real "Performeron" - has actually done it and usurped the throne from the former king! ATi has earned itself not only the performance crown in gaming environments, but also that of the technology leader!
The Radeon 9700 PRO proved to be superior in all possible categories, be it the framerate while the game was in progress, the triangle throughput, FSAA, anisotropic filtering, or pixel and vertex shader performance. NVIDIA's flagship trails the new champion in every discipline. And Matrox? In light of these results, the Parhelia looks even less attractive than before.
To put these results in perspective, keep in mind that the GeForce4 Ti is already half a year old. Then again, it is also still selling at $300 to $350, even today. The recommended retail price of the Radeon 9700 has been quoted as being $399. We expect to see retail prices even lower than that in computer hardware stores. Besides, the "normal" 9700 will be even less expensive. As a result, we should see the price of GeForce4 Ti boards drop very rapidly. This will present NVIDIA with another challenge: to readjust prices across the entire GeForce4 family (both Ti and MX) and justify the existence of some of its members. Of course, this all depends on ATi's ability to ship their boards in sufficient quantities - which is exactly where the Radeon 8500 failed.
Where 2D features are concerned, neither card offers a feature that would make it more desirable than its competitor. Both the R9700 and the GeForce4 Ti offer dual-monitor support, including a very comfortable management software as well as TV-Out functionality. However, the Radeon has a slight advantage due to its 10Bit DACs and the higher DVI resolution.
If you're looking for the fastest gaming card around, then you're looking for the Radeon 9700. NVIDIA's counteroffensive in the form of the highly anticipated NV3x won't be more than a rumor for at least a few more months. Currently, we expect cards to be on store shelves for the holiday season. As for the update to the GeForce4 family, code-named NV18 and NV28, these cards are still a few weeks off, and it is doubtful whether a simple update with higher frequencies would be sufficient to come anywhere near the 9700's performance levels. Even if it did (a big "if"), these parts would still lack the Radeon's DirectX 9 support.
Of course, NVIDIA will undoubtedly answer this challenge, and we are more than just a little curious as to the tricks that the Californians have up their sleeves which would help them reclaim the throne that they've occupied for the past years. ATi is also making preparations, though, and the next performance update in the form of DDR-II memory is already on track for the end of this year. The pared-down Radeon 9500 will put additional pressure on NVIDIA in the mid to low range market. On the whole, ATi's chances for success don't look bad at all. And the real winners of this performance revolution are the consumers. After all, the most important factor in deciding which product to buy is still price, not performance. Thanks to the ongoing and bloody feud between the big boys of computer graphics, we can expect prices to continue dropping. Whoever said it was right: "A revolution every now and then is a very healthy thing."
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