New graphics chip enters crowded market

A week after Nvidia's launch of the GeForce FX, SIS has brought out its latest entry for price-conscious gamers: the Xabre 600

Taiwan's Silicon Integrated Systems (SIS) on Tuesday updated its graphics processor line, the Xabre, with a new chip that boasts a more advanced manufacturing process and a higher clock speed than its predecessor.

The Xabre 600 is destined for the mainstream market, eschewing direct competition with the likes of ATI and Nvidia for high-end gamers. However, the new chip uses the same 0.13-micron manufacturing process as Nvidia's GeForce FX, which was unveiled last week at the Comdex trade show. ATI is expected to switch its Radeon graphics processing unit (GPU) from a 0.15-micron process to 0.13-micron process early next year.

Reducing the chip geometry improves performance, reduces heat emission and power consumption, and makes a processor less costly to manufacture. However, it is a costly and complex transition -- the GeForce FX was delayed partly because of difficulties with shrinking the manufacturing process.

Running at 300MHz, the Xabre 600 has a faster clock speed than its predecessor, the Xabre 400, putting it on par with Nvidia's 325MHz GeForce4 Ti 4600. That chip is the fastest currently shipping from Nvidia, since the GeForce FX will not be in shops until February. ATI's Radeon 9700 Pro also runs at 325MHz and, like GeForce4, is based on a 0.15-micron process.

The new SIS chip has a memory speed of 300MHz, compared to 325MHz for the GeForce4 and 310MHz for the Radeon 9700. The speed at which memory can be accessed can be a performance bottleneck for graphics-intensive applications such as games. It supports DirectX 8.1 and AGP8X.

SIS said the card is aimed at users who want high performance but are sensitive to price. "Those computer gamers who are particular about combating experience, speed, and image quality will be able to enjoy the unprecedented optimal speed and performance at a very competitive price tag," said Chris Lin, vice president of SIS' Multimedia Products Division, in a statement. While the top-end graphics cards costing upwards of £300 command the interest of influential high-end gamers, most users buy the technology once it has been on the market a bit longer and is priced lower.

The Xabre 600's performance is at least 20 percent better than the 400 on the 3D Mark 2001 test, according to SIS.

Products will be on the market by the end of November, SIS said. Graphics card makers who have adopted the chip include Chaintech, C.P. Technology, DFI, ECS and Triplex. Prices were not disclosed.

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