A year after the release of ATI's Radeon line of graphics chips, have things changed much in the 3D graphics industry?

The Radeon is now segmented enough to be a vertical solution for the market, tailoring to the needs of the entry level users with the Radeon VE and the performance gamers with the Radeon DDR.  The Radeon has almost completely replaced the Rage 128 Pro in ATI's product line.  The All-in-Wonder series is now Radeon-powered and soon there will be Radeon-driven notebook displays as well. 

Thankfully, on the driver side, ATI is improving.  Windows 2000 performance is virtually on par with Windows 98 performance in games, and compatibility with games has been improved tremendously.  When meeting with ATI in New York a few weeks ago, we were informed that they would be transitioning to a unified driver architecture, which would hopefully put them on par with NVIDIA when it comes to driver quality, release frequency and performance. 

The one thing that hasn't changed is that NVIDIA still carries the performance crown.  In spite of the fact that we never recommended the GeForce3 as an affordable solution to buy today, you cannot argue that it is the single fastest graphics chip on the market.  Not only does NVIDIA carry the performance crown, but since the chip was released last March the GeForce3 has also been the only graphics card offering DX8 Pixel and Vertex Shader support. 

Today, just over a year after the release of the Radeon, ATI is finally ready to introduce its successors (note the plural).  The core that has been referred to as 'R200' all over the web has finally surfaced in the form of the Radeon 8500.  The little known 'RV200' is also making an introduction today as the Radeon 7500.  And alongside both of those cards is ATI's first foray into the professional 3D market with their FireGL 8800. 

New drivers from NVIDIA yesterday and not one but three new cards from ATI today -- who said the industry was getting boring?  Let's get dirty…

The Chip
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