Fresh from the launch of its GeForce 8800 GT graphics card, Nvidia is preparing yet another graphics card launch. The company's next card is a variant of the GeForce 8800 GT with half its memory chopped off, its official price range reduced from $199-249 to $179-199, and otherwise identical specifications. This GeForce 8800 GT 256MB is scheduled to become available some time in the next two weeks, which should allow Nvidia to counter AMD's Radeon HD 3800 offensive expected in mid-November.
Speaking of which, Nvidia is laying the groundwork for its counter-attack by generating skepticism about the usefulness of the DirectX 10.1 application programming interface and Shader Model 4.1 feature set. Support for DirectX 10.1 will be introduced for the first time in the upcoming Radeon HD 3800 series, but it's absent from the GeForce 8800 lineup.
In its e-mail announcing the GeForce 8800 GT 256MB's imminent release, Nvidia opens with a quote from Microsoft Games for Windows Senior Global Director Kevin Unangst that says, "DX10.1 is an incremental update that won't affect any games or gamers in the near future." Nvidia adds that it doesn't expect most developers to support DirectX 10.1, a claim supported by Crytek CEO Cevat Yerli. "We've looked at [DirectX 10.1] and there’s just nothing in it important enough to make it needed. So we have no plans to use it at all, not even in the future," Yerli explains.
AMD, in stark and unsurprising contrast, seemed quite a bit more enthusiastic about DX10.1 in a paper that slipped out into the wild last month. The paper says DX10.1 will allow developers to implement global illumination efficiently and in real time via cube map arrays and geometry shaders. In addition, AMD says the API will allow custom antialiasing filters to improve image quality "in certain cases where standard MSAA can have issues, such as with HDR lighting and deferred shading techniques."
Of course, with the GeForce 8800 GT 256MB and the Radeon HD 3850 looking set to compete in the same price range, performance and availability—and not API features—look likely to be the primary concerns for shoppers.