Fight card: AMD Radeon 4800 vs. Nvidia GTX 200

Fight card: AMD Radeon 4800 vs. Nvidia GTX 200

Summary: The high-end graphics card market isn't the straightforward, mano-a-mano battle it used to be. Graphics cards with dual GPUs, systems with multiple cards in CrossFire or SLI implementations, and most recently hybrid graphics have all muddied the picture.

TOPICS: Processors

The high-end graphics card market isn't the straightforward, mano-a-mano battle it used to be. Graphics cards with dual GPUs, systems with multiple cards in CrossFire or SLI implementations, and most recently hybrid graphics have all muddied the picture. Meanwhile, Intel has improved its integrated graphics and has long-term plans in Larrabee to challenge AMD and Nvidia in discrete graphics.

But next month we should get a good, old-fashioned GPU showdown when AMD and Nvidia release entirely new, high-end GPUs. Details of these GPUs, AMD's RV770 and Nvidia's G200, and the graphics cards based on them, are trickling out.

The RV770, or ATI Radeon 4800 series, will launch on June 16, according to several sites. Graphics cards based on the first GPU in the series, the Radeon 4850 with 512MB GDDR3 memory, will be available immediately for $230. This GPU is the follow-up to the current Radeon 3850. Higher-end cards based on the Radeon 4870 with 512MB GDDR5 and the dual-GPU Radeon 4870 X2 with 1,024MB GDDR5--a first--will be announced on June 23. The Radeon 4870 cards won't ship immediately because of the lack of availability of GDDR5 memory, but when they do show up prices should be around $350. The Radeon 4870 X2 cards won't show up until early 4Q and will cost about $550.

One of the more intriguing specs of the Radeon 4800, according to the site TGDaily which has many details on the 4800 series, is "physics processing capabilities." Physics is used to define how objects in a game move and interact. It can deliver a more realistic, compelling experience, but few games are designed to take advantage of physics.

There are really only two players here: Havok, which makes software for game developers and movie editors, and Ageia, a competitor best known for pioneering the PhysX Accelerator boards for gamers. Intel purchased Havok in September 2007, and Nvidia completed the acquisition of Ageia in February and plans to integrate the PhysX Accelerator into its GPUs. ATI previously worked with Havok on physics (and AMD reportedly considered buying Ageia late last year), but it is unclear where AMD is getting the physics technology now. (There have been some reports that AMD borrowed a programming language developed at Stanford University for the GPUs that power the Folding@home research project and extended it to support game physics.)

Nvidia's G200 will reportedly launch on June 18 (some sites put it in early July). This GPU family was previously known at the GeForce 9900 series, but several sites are now reporting that Nvidia will switch to a new naming scheme: the GTX 200 series. Initially this should consist of two products, the GTX 280 and GTX 260, but otherwise there are few details aside from the fact that G200s supposedly contain more than 1 billion transistors (not including memory), use GDDR3 memory with a 512-bit interface, have an updated Unified Shader architecture, and will be in cards that cost $450 or more.

With the massive Computex tradeshow in Taipei coming the first week of June, I suspect we will know a lot more about these new GPUs before the rumored announce dates.

Topic: Processors

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  • still boycotting AMD/ATI

    What good are the chips when they refuse to write drivers? Still waiting for Vista drivers for All-In-Wonder 9600 graphics cards. Over a year later and they won't supply drivers, nor will they actually admit that they have no intention of ever supplying them. Customer support does not reply to inquiries on the matter. Instead, they leave (former) customers hanging. Until they supply the drivers I will not purchase ANY AMD/ATI products.
    • Dump the stone wheel.

      A 9600 is crap. Get over it and buy a HD2600XT (Shader model 4.0, DX 10) for $90 and dump that stone wheel. I would rather Ati/AMD focus their development on hardware that is appropriate for the operating system. I can't get drivers for a Voodoo 2 anymore and your card isn't much better. Starting with the X series (e.g. some pretty old hardware) Ati/AMD does provide good Vista support but your hardware is just too old.
    • I seconded BP314!

      Stop boycotting AMD and GTF over it!

      Everybody will laugh at ya for trying to boycott AMD/ATI with your ATI Radeon 9600! Even an X600 or 1600! :)
      Grayson Peddie
      • Five Generations Old

        After the fact, I wished I had pointed out that when the 4000 series launches then a 9600 will be *five* generations old! I'll be three when it comes out and my card (HD2600XT) is fully supported under Vista!
    • I use a X800XL with AIW driver in my Vista; WDDM ofcourse.

      Nvidia will give you more trouble in the long run. They require breakin on some models :). Though it was their very 2008 driver pack that discarded my RUN.DLL while overwriting and removing the DRIVER PAC from programs. My last NEW! XP computer. Ati Technologies all the way I have had five of them and wrote into my 200 decoder for great results but sour handling of video racing games; vid cards are cool. I want to keep my offline racing experience alive, though.
  • Hybrid Crossfire and AMD Radeon HD 4470

    Hi. I'm wondering if an AMD 780G chipset will support the 44x0 cards? I'd like to see some improvements to integrated HD 3x00 graphics chip--maybe bump it up to HD 3400 or 4200 (or 4400 perhaps)?
    Grayson Peddie
  • Not exactly a fight card, more of a preview <NT>