Nobody likes being second place, especially Nvidia. Back when the company launched its GeForce GTX 260 and 280 boards, AMD was huffing fumes with its Radeon HD 3870. Not surprisingly, the GT200-based gamer cards extended Nvidia’s lead. Nobody would have guessed that AMD would come back with its Radeon HD 4850 and 4870 boards—neither of which was actually faster than Nvidia’s flagship, by the way—and still steal the spotlight away from the massive, monolithic chip.
Having already professed its preference for smaller, more scalable graphics processors, AMD didn’t take long to unveil its Radeon HD 4870 X2, a single board boasting two RV770 chips, 2 GB of GDDR5 memory, and a PCI Express (PCIe) bridge over which to communicate. Suddenly, the tables had turned and AMD was the one with the fastest individual card on the market. Not only that, but it's been a full six months and a full lineup of RV770 derivatives have taken the battle to Nvidia’s once-untouchable mainstream armada, headlined by the G92.
From there, things only get messier, and the hardcore gamer can spend thousands of dollars in an effort to procure the best graphics performance. Want to beat a 4870 X2 with an Nvidia solution? Buy a couple of GeForce GTX 280s. Want to beat that with an AMD solution? Buy another 4870 X2 and run four-way CrossFireX. Want to go faster still? Add a third GTX 280. And now you’re talking about an expensive motherboard and a powerful CPU able to keep up with all of that graphics horsepower. Aye carumba. Where does the madness end?
That single-card classification seems like a good place to dig in and determine a winner for now. Just know that, right up to four-way CrossFire and four-way SLI, there’s always room to spend more money, eat up more power, and enjoy an extra 10 or 20 percent performance boost.
2009 Resolutions: Nvidia Wants Its Crown Back
Nvidia really hasn’t done much about the Radeon threat in 2008, save updating the GeForce GTX 260 to compete more aggressively against AMD’s 1 GB HD 4870. According to the company, all GTX 260s will employ the 216-shader processor configuration in the future. The 192-SP card will disappear as the channel exhausts the remaining inventory. Given a similar price point, Nvidia expects that the new GTX 260 standard will be enough to usurp fascination over AMD’s current value.
But more pertinent to today’s piece, Nvidia wants its single-card performance crown back and has invested substantial effort in making sure that happens. What we have here is a preview of hardware Nvidia plans to launch during CES. The GeForce GTX 295 is Nvidia’s answer to AMD’s Radeon HD 4870 X2, and it employs a similar construction as the company’s GeForce 9800 GX2.