A new year has dawned and who knows what tech marvels lies in wait to delight us. We do know some of what you can expect though, by extrapolating existing products and looking at roadmaps for the coming months. For consumer graphics, NVIDIA can realistically hope for two months at most before ATI's next generation R600 is released and start vying with it for the graphics performance crown (with the soonest expected timeframe to be around Windows Vista's launch). NVIDIA's head start will also mean that the mid-range variations of the GeForce 8 series will be selling in stores before the ATI equivalent.
The greater competition and choice in discrete graphics by then will hopefully lead to more users buying them, though we think that the key adoption factor will be Windows Vista and DirectX 10 games. Eagerly awaited titles like Unreal Tournament 2007 will be another catalyst for system upgrades but we could also see more PC gamers defecting to the console for various reasons. What's unlikely to change is the never-ending flames between hardcore supporters of ATI and NVIDIA over which is the top dog.
The other constant in this changing environment is the cost of these new gadgets. You can bet that they won't be cheap when launched. Hence, for those with a modest budget, looking at current graphics offerings is a more practical approach. For those intending to upgrade to a decent high-end graphics card, ATI's recent Radeon X1950 PRO is an offer hard to miss. After reviewing a number of custom designs from various manufacturers, today we turn our sights on a standard clocked Radeon X1950 PRO from MSI, though it does use a non-reference heatsink and fan. Here's the technical lowdown on the MSI RX1950PRO-T2D256E: