Amidst a torrent of leaks and rumors about NVIDIA's pending GeForce4 product announcements, the folks at ATI have preemptively countered with a pair of new products and some very aggressive pricing moves. The two new cards are 128MB versions of the Radeon 8500 and 8500LE. These cards have the same Radeon 8500 GPU as the 64MB editions, so the technology itself isn't anything new. However, the extra RAM is definitely going to help performance on the 8500, and ATI's new lineup looks very strong. Like so:
The really big news here is the fact the 8500LE (a product we helped name) will, for the first time, come packaged as a retail product from ATI. That $199 card is simply a Radeon 8500 with a 250MHz core/memory clock (versus 275MHz for the non-LE card). The only omission: the 8500LE card lacks the DVI output of the regular 8500 card, so the LE won't directly support digital flat panels or dual-monitor setups. Still, at that price, you get dual vertex shaders, the industry's most advanced pixel shaders, the best anti-aliasing, and plenty of performance.
ATI believes they have a good thing in this product, and they're right. If someone asked me last week what video card to buy for the best price/performance, I'd have recommended a GeForce3 Ti 200. Once the 8500LE 128MB hits the shelves, I'll probably be recommending it. That's a lot of card for $199.
Also, as you know, ATI released a new set of Radeon-series beta drivers this past week. This is their follow-through on a commitment made to us at Comdex this past fall. The beta drivers are version 7.66. In a couple of weeks, ATI will be releasing an official, WHQL-certified driver, version 7.65. As you can tell, the beta driver releases are indeed getting us newer code well before the older code makes it through the certification process. For those of us waiting on bug fixes, that's exactly what we want to see.
There's more to say about what's happening in graphics, but we'll save some of it for a little bit later. For now, let me recommend some background reading. First, to understand why vertex and pixel shaders are important, see my review of the GeForce3. Then go see our comparison of the GeForce3 Ti 500 and the Radeon 8500 to understand where ATI and NVIDIA match up right now.
And whatever you do, see Kert Chian's killer in-depth analysis of the Radeon 8500. Many of you guys probably missed this one over Christmas and New Year's.
Then, you'll want to check out some of the many GeForce4 leaks out there. T-break even got hold of a GeForce4 MX 440 and ran it through some benchmarks versus the GF3 Ti 200. The Ti 200 pretty much spanked the GF4 MX. The most intriguing bit of info in the t-break review is this tidbit:
One thing worth pointing out is that four of the sixteen 3D Mark 2001 benches did not run on the GF4MX440 and were reported as "Not supported by the Hardware." Two of these were the Nature tests, one was the Pixel Shader and the last one was the Environment Bump Map.You'll also want to see this story at the Inquirer about Asus's GeForce4 offerings.
Once you've read all that, you'll be ready for what's next.
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