Although we almost always tend to focus on the high-end, the GeForce4 Ti 4600s, of the market it's quite the opposite from the perspective of ATI and NVIDIA. While it's always nice to have a performance leading part from a PR and brand-recognition perspective, those high-performance GPUs are often only found on cards priced between $200 - $400. If you were to look at a breakdown of the add-in graphics card market you'd find that over 80% of the market won't pay a penny over $199 for their graphics card, making cards like the GeForce4 Ti 4600 very low volume products.

Then why produce them? Since they are low volume products it is easy to outfit them with extremely fast memory (325MHz DDR), a very large PCB (almost the size of a Voodoo5 5500) and a complex die also running at a high clock speed (300MHz). The culmination of all of these efforts satisfies the very small percentage of the market that is composed of people like us. In turn, we brag about our incredibly fast video cards and help to educate the rest of the masses to buy one brand over another. When everyone else goes out to purchase a video card they don't spend the $320 on a Ti 4600, they buy whatever NVIDIA card they can for $199 or less. Well if you can't get a GeForce4 Ti 4600, then a GeForce4 MX will do just fine, right?

There isn't a single knowledgeable member of our community that hasn't expressed extreme distaste with NVIDIA's GeForce4 MX line. Little more than a glorified GeForce2 MX with a GeForce4-derived memory controller, the GeForce4 MX has been called everything from NVIDIA's first major screw-up in years to 99% marketing and 1% product. From NVIDIA's perspective, the GeForce4 MX is perfect. The entire line of MX cards falls below the $199 mark making it a product for the masses, the GPU is noticeably less complex than the GeForce4 and thus boasts a smaller die size making it cheaper to manufacture, lower memory clocks give NVIDIA the ability to offer ample supply to the market and it carries the GeForce4 brand which is associated with the very highest performance graphics cards around. In terms of performance, we've proven that the cards run the majority of today's games very well so what's all the fuss about? In the end, the biggest compliant from our community and developers alike is the use of the GeForce4 brand name on a part that has the same amount of DirectX 8 features as a GeForce2 thus deliberately misleading the consumer. In fact, had it not been for ATI the sub $200 add-in card market would probably be dominated by non-DX8 compliant cards.

Just days before NVIDIA's GeForce4 and GeForce4 MX launch, ATI introduced the Radeon 8500LE 128MB which would be priced below $200 and offer full DX8 compliance. NVIDIA of course knew very well of ATI's plans (little is kept secret in this industry) and was forced to produce a mass-market GeForce4, the Ti 4200. Neither the Radeon 8500LE 128MB nor the GeForce4 Ti 4200 were available when both companies were talking about them but it's the recent if not soon-to-be availability of both of those cards that makes this article ready for introduction.

If the vast majority of the market spends less than $200 on a video card then we had better round up as many sub $200 cards as possible. The only criterion for this roundup was that the card would carry a street price of $199 or less. Before we get to the benchmarks themselves lets have a quick look at the two new contenders that we haven't talked about in much detail before.

ATI's Radeon 8500LE: Let the people have DX8 compatibility
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