When one thinks of leadership within the computer graphics industry, Intel isnít a company that typically comes to mind. NVIDIA and ATI are usually the two companies that get all the attention, but in reality, they both are trailing Intelís lead in the overall graphics market. According to JPRís latest statistics, Intel currently holds more than 40% of the graphics market, ATI holding 25%, and NVIDIA holding about 22%.
Intelís market leadership is of course attributed to its integrated graphics solutions in their 845G, 865G, 915G, and now 945G chipsets. The bottom line is that most people buying PCís arenít willing to pay $400 for graphics cards, especially when brand-new computers can easily be found under $500.
There are two ways for NVIDIA and ATI to take some of Intelís market share in the graphics industry. One is by developing new chipsets with integrated graphics, which ATI now has with the RADEON XPRESS 200, and which NVIDIA is developing for this Fall with their C51G motherboards.
The other is through new discrete solutions (based on existing architectures) that hit new all-time-low price points.
Concocting a sub-$100 GPU
To hit these new $50 and $60 price points, both NVIDIA and ATI have had to drastically redesign their low-end graphics cards. Fundamentally, the new design from a hardware standpoint is quite simple, the cards now ship with less memory. This reduces manufacturing costs for ATI and NVIDIAís graphics card board partners.
In other words, with only 16MB or 32MB of graphics memory onboard the card, it costs considerably less for board partners to produce these cards.
As any gamer who follows that hardware scene however can tell you, todayís games usually need at least 128MB of frame buffer memory to run effectively, and in some cases 256MB. A traditional graphics card with 16MB of memory simply doesnít have the memory footprint to keep the graphics core fed with data. The result? Terrible performance, as the graphics card is constantly having to access system memory.
This is where NVIDIAís Turbocache and ATIís Hypermemory technologies come in. Both are designed to efficiently use your systemís system memory as additional frame buffer memory. How do they do it? Both techniques use the PCI Express interfaceís exorbitant amount of bandwidth to access system memory, keeping the graphics core from stalling, and thus preventing your games from turning into a slideshow.