Let’s be honest for a moment, shall we? For a year or two, nVidia kicked butt. It engineered superior products, marketed itself better, and most importantly, executed with machine-like precision. That caught a lot of other companies quite off guard. Naturally they’d tell you they weren’t caught off guard, and who can blame them for attempting to save face. But the bottom line remains that, over the last few years, nVidia has performed better.
Effectively, this has raised the bar for other graphics companies. And when the bar is raised, those companies have one of two options; either rise with it, or fade slowly into the background.
We’ve seen many examples of the latter: What was left of the once mighty 3dfx was consumed by the nVidia machine over a year ago. Until recently, Matrox’s best offering was a 4-year old design, and Trident and S3 have been nullified as well.
We haven’t yet seen one example of a company competing on nVidia’s level, although the one that has come closest is ATi. More importantly, and what should be of the greatest concern to nVidia, is that ATi is getting better at it. Much better.
The Rage128, Fury, and MAXX products were respectable, but outmatched by nVidia. The original Radeon core was again a very promising and respectable design, but was ultimately unable to compete with nVidia’s lineup. The Radeon 8500 improved upon the shortcomings of its predecessor, and has enjoyed marked success, nicely deflating nVidia’s dominance, though hardly destroying it.
But that’s not going to be enough. If ATi is to compete, it needs to demonstrate that it can engineer products capable of competing with nVidia’s best, and it needs to demonstrate that it can deliver as promised on those products. And as you’re about to see, ATi’s new Radeon 9700 Pro has done just that.
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