If you’re one of those sadists who love to see 31 flavors of graphics cards slicing the market into $10 increments, then today is your lucky day. Not only do you have ATI’s new Radeon HD 4890 1 GB sliding into the $249 price point, but Nvidia is also launching its GeForce GTX 275 at the same price, set in between the GTX 285 and GTX 260 Core 216—decidedly closer to the GTX 285, as we found in our testing.
We won’t pretend that the simultaneous timing of these two unveilings is in any way coincidental. It’s certainly easy to understand the two companies’ line of thinking here, though.
On one hand, you have ATI coming off successful launches of its Radeon HD 4850, 4870, and 4870 X2 cards. The red team is out to show everyone that it still has the moves, and that its re-timed RV790 architecture is worth as much now as RV770 was 10 months ago.
On the other hand, you have Nvidia, which took a beating early on in the ATI RV770 GPU's life cycle—until it lowered prices on its own boards to compete a little more evenly. We have to imagine the green team is out to show that it can do battle based on performance and an attractive price tag right out of the gate this time around.
Filling In The Gaps
Nvidia has already tried the “let’s disable one thread processing cluster” angle with its GT200 architecture—that resulted in the GeForce GTX 260 Core 216. The GeForce GTX 260 Core 216 is about on par with the Radeon HD 4870 1 GB already. So, Nvidia needed something newer, something faster.
The only thing short of a GeForce GTX 280, which is being phased out in favor of the GTX 285, is a GeForce GTX 280 with the GTX 260’s back-end—the 28 ROPs and 896 MB of GDDR3 on a 448-bit memory bus. Incidentally, that’s the same GPU doubled up and slapped on Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 295. Now there’s a concept that works.
Nvidia is playing its price card very close to its proverbial chest. Set a target too early and ATI finds out, using price and performance data to re-orient the Radeon HD 4890. Loose lips sink ships and all of that. But by withholding the GeForce GTX 275’s price tag until the very last minute, comparing the card to its competition becomes a tricky matter.
With that said, early murmurs from Nvidia fall right around $249—right at ATI’s suggested retail price on the Radeon HD 4890 1 GB. Moreover, cards are expected to start trickling out shortly after launch in Europe and be widely available to the rest of the world by April 14th, so you very likely won’t be able to buy a card right away (in contrast, the Radeon HD 4890 should be available at launch). Finally, the drivers with which we’re testing are in beta, and will be posted to Nvidia’s download site as betas on April 2nd. Combine those three factors and we’re a little more comfortable calling this a preview. The hardware is final, but some of the other particulars could be subject to change between now and when the GTX 275 shows up for sale--especially once ATI and Nvidia find out what each other are charging and start jockeying for position.