In September last year, ATI kick-started the next round of graphics war with the release of their Evergreen series of graphics cards. Spearheaded by the awesome Radeon HD 5870, which is powered by the massively powerful Cypress XT GPU, ATI's Evergreen heralded a new generation of graphics performance and efficiency.
Not only that, with Evergreen, ATI also introduced something called EyeFinity, which allowed for multi-monitor setups. Right out of the box, all Evergreen cards from the flagship Radeon HD 5970 right down to the Radeon HD 5450 are all capable of driving up to three displays simultaneously. There were also the special EyeFinity6 versions, which allowed a single card to drive six monitors in tandem. EyeFinity, though possibly niche, was much welcomed, especially by gamers who wanted a more immersive experience; as well as corporate users, who wanted an affordable means of expanding their desktop real estate.
With so much coming from the red camp, we were naturally intrigued to see what NVIDIA had to offer. Shortly after ATI announced Evergreen, NVIDIA countered with their own GPU Technology Conference in San Jose, California. At the conference, NVIDIA CEO Jen-Hsun Huang, unveiled the new architecture, codenamed Fermi, that would be the driving force behind NVIDIA's latest graphics cards.
Needless to say, the event generated a lot a bit of buzz. And who could forgot the incident where eagle-eyed tech journalists the world over noticed something amiss in the PR photos NVIDIA sent out. In the end, NVIDIA had to admit that the card that was shown on stage wasn't real. However, they did insist that all demos ran at the event were in fact powered by Fermi cards. That created quite a stir, of course, but one that is not entirely unexpected since it just goes to show how far we are from seeing the cards on store shelves. To be fair, NVIDIA never promised anything anytime soon and it was just a showcase of the new GPU technology that was shared at the event. That said, the tech media elsewhere and the enthusiasts were really debating over nothing in our opinion.
Two months later in December, we posted news with regards to 40nm yield issues at TSMC affecting supplies of both ATI and NVIDIA graphics card. Back then, word on the street was that Fermi would have to wait until March to see the light of day. With the benefit of hindsight, they were right on the money.
It's March now, and Fermi is finally here - nearly six months after NVIDIA CEO Jen-Hsun Huang first showed the world the new Fermi architecture; and after ATI has released their entire line-up of Evergreen cards. To say that NVIDIA was slow to the competition would perhaps be a bit of an understatement. But as the old saying goes, “better late than never”, so what exactly can we expect?
Head over to the next page to find out.