NVIDIA GeForce FX 5800 Ultra: It's Here, but is it Good?by Anand Lal Shimpi on January 27, 2003 3:50 AM EST
- Posted in
So there you have it, NVIDIA's response to ATI's Radeon 9700 Pro - but does anyone else feel unfulfilled by the GeForce FX? A card that is several months late, that is able to outperform the Radeon 9700 Pro by 10% at best but in most cases manages to fall behind by a factor much greater than that. Granted the problems that plagued the launch of the FX weren't all up to NVIDIA's control, after all the decision to go 0.13-micron was made 1 - 2 years ago based on data that was available at the time. ATI took a gamble on producing a 0.15-micron part and NVIDIA did the same on their 0.13-micron NV30, and it looks like ATI guessed right.
While we were reviewing the FX, looking at its performance and investigating its image quality, we found ourselves reminiscing of ATI's launch of the Radeon 8500. A card that was long overdue, but in the end unable to outshine the top performer at the time. Although the current state of the GeForce FX is much better than what we had with the first Radeon 8500, the word impressive isn't what we'd use to describe it. The performance is an improvement over the Ti 4600, without a doubt, but it does not place NVIDIA back in a position of dominance, which is what everyone was expecting from NV30. This isn't the end of NVIDIA, the company is quite healthy and they've got a number of products in the pipeline with great potential (GeForce FX included) but it does mean that the road to regaining dominance in the market will be an even more difficult one to traverse.
ATI has not been sitting idle all this time, and progress on the R350 core has been coming along quite well. We proved early on that the 0.15-micron R300 core could reach speeds of up to 400MHz, and with the GeForce FX NVIDIA has established that shipping cards with 800MHz - 1GHz memory is feasible, if ATI can put together a R350 with specs close to what we're implying then even a driver-tweaked FX will not stand a chance. NVIDIA has told us that the GeForce FX will be in stores next month, and we'd expect R350 in about a month following that. It will be a close race, but what ATI has going for them right now is a much more mature driver set than NVIDIA for their flagship GPU. The 3+ month advantage ATI had in bringing the R300 into production and to market gave ATI a much bigger advantage than just being the king of the hill for a while, it gave them quite a bit of time to fine-tune and optimize their drivers for this very occasion; this is a luxury that ATI has not had previously but they have made excellent use of it today.
NVIDIA's focus at this point is NV31 and NV34, after all, that's where the money is. The small percentage of the market that will go after the NV30 will not make or break NVIDIA, but should ATI compete like this in other market segments then there will be cause for worry. As we mentioned at the start of our GeForce FX Preview - "Kudos to ATI."