While ATI slowly climbed back into the reckoning with further revisions to the R580 core and the release of 80nm GPUs like the ones used on the Radeon X1950 PRO and Radeon X1650 XT, NVIDIA managed to keep up with its own updates. The GeForce 7900 and 7600 series in particular were for the most part, competitive with ATI's offerings and they were popular and widely available also. Our own mid-range graphics comparison article found this large segment to favor NVIDIA's products due to their better value, even if ATI may have the performance edge at times. Prices were falling as the competition heated up with products for virtually every major price point while both sides fuelled the rivalry with tidbits about their next generation products, with DirectX 10 support obviously one of the key talking points.
This time round, it was NVIDIA's turn to produce a new architecture that would have all the latest features necessary to support DirectX 10. The resultant GPU, the 90nm G80 took the industry by storm, as once again NVIDIA was first out of the blocks, with a radical design that's completely different from the GeForce 7 series. The chipmaker had held its cards closely for so long that most of us were quite surprised when the G80 came out ahead of ATI's equivalent R600.
It featured a new unified shader architecture with a more efficient and multi-threaded utilization rate for its general processing units and new anti-aliasing and HDR rendering modes that bring it on par with ATI's Radeon X1000 series. More was to follow with the mid-range and lower end variants, all boasting a new video processor (VP2) that takes over the majority of tasks for decoding high definition videos from the CPU. Although power consumption could be a problem for the high-end cards, the performance and the street availability were impressive and with ATI struggling with the R600, NVIDIA had the head start again.
Adding to the turmoil surrounding ATI was its multi-billion dollar purchase by AMD in the middle of 2006. The proceedings of the acquisition were not completed till October but it probably had some effect on the launch of the R600, which finally came to light in May 2007, roughly six months after the G80. Yet again, ATI lead the standings with the size of its GPU, packing in around 700 million transistors and despite an 80nm manufacturing process, it's a large chip by any standards. As expected, ATI has had to change their architecture to a similarly unified shader model but the company went for a superscalar design with parallel instructions executed by SIMD arrays of shader processors. A new dispatch processor to feed these arrays was implemented while the Radeon X1000 lived on in some form, with a similar but improved ring bus memory architecture on the R600.
Like the GeForce 8 series, a new video processor (UVD) was added for the mid-range and entry level graphics products, the Radeon HD 2600 and 2400 series but due to the vague marketing materials, most of the media and end users were led to believe that the UVD was also found on the high-end Radeon HD 2900 XT when it was not. Performance wise, ATI grasped that its best graphics card, the Radeon HD 2900 XT, even with its fast DDR4 memory speeds, could not compete against NVIDIA's big guns and hence the chipmaker priced it competitively below the GeForce 8800 GTX, meaning that it competed against (and mostly excelled) the slower GeForce 8800 GTS instead. Like the R520, only the top SKU, the Radeon HD 2900 XT was available for sale in May/June, with the lesser cards like the Radeon HD 2600 and 2400 launched later in July.
Which finally brings us to now, with both ATI and NVIDIA having played all their cards and though DirectX 10 games are mostly delayed, at least there are some viable choices from the entry level to the high-end when it came to DirectX 10 compatible graphics cards. In just a short while, we'll be bringing you the benchmarks of all the graphics cards featured so far or you could skip the test setup page and jump straight to the numbers.
|GPU/VPU||Core Code / Manufacturing Process||Stream Processors (NVIDIA) / Stream Processing Units (ATI)||Clock Speeds (Core/Memory)||DDR Memory Bus|
|NVIDIA GeForce 8800 Ultra 768MB||G80 (90nm)||128||612 / 2160MHz DDR||384-bit|
|NVIDIA GeForce 8880 GTX 768MB||G80 (90nm)||128||575 / 1800MHz DDR||384-bit|
|NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GTS 640MB||G80 (90nm)||96||500 / 1600MHz DDR||320-bit|
|NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GTS 320MB||G80 (90nm)||96||500 / 1600MHz DDR||320-bit|
|NVIDIA GeForce 8600 GTS 256MB||G84 (80nm)||32||675 / 2000MHz DDR||128-bit|
|NVIDIA GeForce 8600 GT 256MB||G84 (80nm)||32||540 / 1400MHz DDR||128-bit|
|NVIDIA GeForce 8500 GT 256MB||G86 (80nm)||16||450 / 800MHz DDR||128-bit|
|NVIDIA GeForce 8400 GS 256MB DDR2||G86 (80nm)||16||450 / 800MHz DDR||64-bit|
|ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT 512MB DDR4||R600 (80nm)||320||743 / 1650MHz DDR||512-bit|
|ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT 256MB DDR4||RV630 (65nm)||120||800 / 2200MHz DDR||128-bit|
|ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT 256MB DDR3||RV630 (65nm)||120||800 / 1400MHz DDR||128-bit|
|ATI Radeon HD 2400 XT 256MB||RV610 (65nm)||40||700 / 1400MHz DDR||64-bit|