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ATI vs. NVIDIA: The next generation

GeForce4 cards tangle with revamped Radeons

BOTH ATI AND NVIDIA HAVE recently updated their graphics product lines. Now even a heapy-cheapy graphics card is more powerful than anything you could buy a couple of years ago, and the really high-end cards are absolutely hoss. Packed with 128MB of RAM, these cards are faster than a French surrender. Today, we've rounded up a total of nine—count 'em—different graphics card configurations, ranging from the Radeon 7500 and GeForce4 MX to the new 128MB Radeon 8500 cards and GeForce 4 Titaniums. We've tested them all together in a massive, teeming, silicon-based pack, and we're here to show you who's fast—and who's faster.

Because we're dealing with a whole lotta cards here, we're going to limit our focus to performance. We'll address the newest wrinkles in image quality and anti-aliasing in more depth in a future article, where we can devote more attention to how every mip gets mapped. And we've already covered most of the highfallutin' 3D theory in our previous articles. We've already compared the GeForce3 to the Radeon 8500, and we've charted the changes contained in the GeForce4. Not only that, but we've dug deep into the Radeon 8500's GPU to see what makes it tick. So we'll dispense with the theory here. If you're not up to date on that stuff, do yourself a favor and go read our previous articles before you go on.

Now, let's take a look at some of the cards we'll be comparing and see what we've got.

ATI's Radeon 7500
The ATI Radeon 7500 occupies the top rung of the low end of ATI's retail video card lineup. (Repeat that fives times fast.) This card is based on ATI's original Radeon GPU, but in this implementation, the chip is clocked at 290MHz—over 100MHz faster than the original Radeon. Similarly, the card's DDR memory runs 230MHz, or 460MHz in DDR-speak. To put these numbers into perspective, the original Radeon chip was a little more advanced than the GeForce2, so this combination of elements is nothing to sneeze at. With 7.4GB/s of memory bandwidth plus ATI's Hyper-Z suite of bandwidth-conserving technologies, this thing ought to outclass a GeForce2 Ultra.

The price? About 75 bucks from online retailers.

ATI's Radeon 7500 card

Pick your jaw up off the floor for a second and consider this: the Radeon 7500 comes complete with dual video outputs: a VGA-out port and a DVI-out connector that can double as a second VGA output. (ATI includes the DVI-to-VGA adapter in the retail box.) With ATI's HydraVision software, you can drive a pair of monitors in tandem. Not a bad deal for a "budget" card.

The Radeon 7500's outputs: S-Video, DVI, and VGA