Retail GPU wars: No contest?

I was at Best Buy the other night, and I saw an intriguing selection of graphics cards. At the high end, there was a GeForce FX 5900 (non-Ultra) for $399 and a Radeon 9800 Pro for the same price. There was no GeForce FX 5900 Ultra to be found. At the supposed mid-range of the market, things were a little more even. The new GeForce FX 5600 Ultra cards with 400/800MHz core/memory clocks were available, priced at $249. However, ATI's Radeon 9600 Pro card was selling for only $199.

In other words, the NVIDIA Ultra cards are not competing head to head with the ATI Pro cards on price. That's especially bad news since, as the euphoria has worn off after the intial FX 5900 Ultra reviews, benchmarkers have become much more wary of possible driver tweaks, and performance expectations for the FX 5900 Ultra are being revised downward. In many cases, the FX 5900 Ultra looks no faster than the Radeon 9700 Pro.

Judging by the situation at our local retailer, NVIDIA's struggles with the ill-fated NV30 seem to have extended throughout the FX lineup. This development should be no great surprise, since all the NV3x chips are largely based on the same basic technology. Still, the persistence of problems with availability and competitive pricing seems a little jarring. Are you guys seeing the same thing at your local shops?

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