One funny thing about our history as a site over the past ten years is that, as we've grown up, so have the chips we've covered. That's especially true in the case of the GPU.
When we first started back in 1999, graphics chips were relatively simple hardware implementations of a fixed-function graphics pipeline. They were spectacular for making Quake run smoothly, but they were also pretty limited. The market wasn't settled, either. A range of players like Matrox and Hercules were contending along with Nvidia and ATI for the developing GPU market. Some products were quite good, but many flopped.
It was an exciting time for graphics chips, though, because each successive generation brought huge, tangible leaps in image quality, performance, and capability. Notable milestones included the DirectX 9 generation, which brought a measure of programmability and floating-point datatypes that improved visuals in jaw-dropping fashion. In fact, that generation of technology, first hatched in 2002, forms the basis for today's game consoles, which speaks volumes. Even so, we were perhaps too optimistic about the DX9 generation's prospects in some respects, though our expectations were soon deflated in our tussle with the Dustbuster.
Nowadays, the GPU's disruption of the PC market is nearly complete. Not only are GPUs capable of producing amazingly compelling visuals, but they are also on the road to being data-parallel coprocessors and full companions to the CPU, a trend that led AMD to purchase ATI—or, as we put it at the time, "Red, green teams merge to form grayish-brown team." We're presumably in the latter stages of Intel's effort to re-enter the GPU market, a project code-named Larrabee. And Nvidia is executing a full-court press on GPU computing, as well. Many things still aren't settled, as CPU and GPUs look set to collide. But we're not finished, either, and we expect the next decade to be nothing if not interesting.
As we've chronicled the rise of the GPU, the folks at XFX have long been sponsors. We've watched them grow up, too, rising from a small brand hatched by Pine into a major supplier of GeForce cards—and then into a multi-vendor maker of graphics cards, motherboards, and power supplies. The good folks at XFX have decided to help us celebrate our 10-year milestone with a couple of primo giveaway prizes: a Radeon HD 5850 graphics card—yes, they are rare in the wild, but we have one to hand out to a lucky winner—and one of their sweet-looking 850W modular PSUs. Plus, hey, an XFX T-shirt.
We've chosen two winners, from the over-1,000 entrants we have to date, to receive these prizes. Our first-place winner today is Nathan Popravak. He gets his choice of either the 5850 card or the PSU, and he gets an XFX T-shirt. Second place today goes to Jason Lefson, who gets whichever piece of XFX hardware Nathan does not choose. Nathan and Jason, you have e-mail. Please respond to collect your prizes!
If you didn't win today, despair not. We still have a ridiculous total of 118 prizes, worth over $8000, to give away during the course of the week, culminating in our grand prize, consisting of the parts needed to build a reasonable approximation of the Sweeter Spot config from our latest system guide. Just be sure to go sign up for the giveaway in order to have a chance to win.