Eight-pipe mid-range graphics cards coming?

If you thought the Radeon 9600 XT, X600 XT, and GeForce 5700 Ultra were going to remain the primary choices at the prices where people actually buy graphics cards, think again. We already know both ATI and NVIDIA are heading deep into 0.11-micron territory with TSMC, but we haven't known much about the chips they'll be producing. Fudo at The Inq has been digging around, as he has been known to do, for more info about what's cooking, and he has some possible answers.

ATI's replacement for the 9600 XT and X600 XT appears to be the RV410. The Inq says this puppy will have eight pipes and pull 7000 points in 3DMark03. If true, that should put it just ahead of the Radeon 9800 XT (default res in 3DMark is 1024x768), and that seems plausible given the pipeline count.

Meanwhile, NVIDIA is reportedly prepping the NV41, a cheaper version of the GeForce 6800. Fudo speculates that the NV41 will have twelve pipes natively, but I wouldn't count on that. He says NVIDIA's goal is to replace the stock 12-pipe GeForce 6800 (the $299 card) with a similar performer that's cheaper to produce. An eight-pipe chip with a higher clock rate could easily fill that role, and I'd put my money on that config.

If both companies really will soon have eight-pipe chips derived from their latest high-end GPUs, the battle for the middle could heat up very quickly.

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