I'll first say that the new GeForce GT 220 and 210 represent class-leaders as far as power usage is concerned. They also add some new-to-Nvidia features, such as DirectX 10.1, enhanced video decode capabilities, and an integrated audio controller that can handle eight-channel LPCM audio over HDMI (from a discrete card).
Having said that, these features are all things that the Radeon HD 4000-series has offered for more than a year. Sure, these new cards offer Nvidia-exclusive features like CUDA-based GPU computing acceleration in a few applications, and the GeForce GT 220 is powerful enough to provide menaingful PhysX acceleration, but the bottom line is that these cards have to be able to deliver the right performance at the right price. That will be a really difficult thing to do in an extremely crowded sub-$80 arena due to compelling competition.
Let's consider the new GeForce GT 220 GDDR3 as far as value is concerned. It performs better than the GeForce 9500 GT GDDR3 and Radeon HD 4650 DDR2, but not quite as well as the Radeon HD 4670.
With the GeForce 9500 GT GDDR3 and Radeon HD 4650 available for about $50, and the Radeon HD 4670 retailing for about $70, that means the new GeForce GT 220 GDDR3 would be a recommended buy at about $60.
The DDR2 flavor of the GeForce GT 220 would be an appropriate competitor to the Radeon HD 4650 and GeForce 9500 GT GDDR3 if the card were at $50. It would probably make sense for Nvidia to drop production of the GeForce 9500 GT GDDR3 version if that happens, or at least lower its price.
The new GeForce G 210 is a more difficult proposition. At these prices, the margins are so small that it is difficult to deliver value. The Radeon HD 4550 makes a compelling argument at a low $45 cost. It offers better gaming performance and superior HD video playback at 1080p with noise reduction enabled. It also does all of this while only using three more watts of power.
What about the GeForce 9600 GSO? We have the feeling that this one will be phased out in favor of the new GeForce GT 220, which doesn't perform as well but likely costs much less to produce. Nvidia may count on the GeForce 9600 GT to woo customers to a slightly higher $85 price point, or perhaps if the GeForce 9600 GSO is finally EoL'ed, it will lower the GeForce 9600 GT’s price slightly. Aside from its power usage, the 9600 GSO is a very compelling ~$70 card right now, so we'd be sad to see it go.
On a final note, we'll mention that although Nvidia has listed the GeForce 210 and GT 220 on its Web site as an OEM-only product, it was only a matter of time before both models made it to the retail channel.
We couldn't help but notice another item listed there: the GeForce GTS 240 with 112 cores, which is the same number as the venerable GeForce 9800 GT. It's not unreasonable to think that the GeForce GTS 240 will be a 40nm, DirectX 10.1 part like its GeForce 210 and GT 220 brethren. A card like that could make things very interesting in the sub-$100 market. And let's also not forget the rumors of AMD's mid-range next-generation Radeon HD 5700-series cards arriving in the near future (Ed.: like, tomorrow). Indeed, the graphics card world is always an interesting place to be.