Graphics performance improves rapidly. We can be confident that each new generation of graphics chips will be faster than the previous one, and that AMD and NVIDIA will regularly surpass each other with new product launches. I've been watching this process professionally since 1996, when I began covering graphics technology for Microprocessor Report.
As of today, NVIDIA is on top. The new GeForce GTX 280 is the fastest graphics chip you can get. See the first part of this review for details of the chip itself.
If you can get one, anyway. NVIDIA says boards based on the GeForce GTX 280 and its companion GeForce GTX 260 will be available "in quantity" tomorrow (June 17), but if previous launches are any indication, those quantities won't be enough to satisfy everyone.
And you may not be able to afford one-- a GTX 280 board with 1GB of RAM will likely be priced around $649, while GTX 260 boards with 896MB will go for about $399. (The GTX 280 / 1GB board I tested was made by NVIDIA, so it isn't necessarily representative of commercial products.)
But avid gamers won't be discouraged by these prices. Both AMD and NVIDIA like to point out that an expensive graphics card is a much better investment than a high-end CPU or motherboard if you care about gaming.
The standard of comparison for gaming performance is the number of frames per second that can be rendered for a given combination of screen resolution and quality features... or, conversely, what resolution and features can be used without reducing the frame rate below a playable level.
So in my own testing, I used frame rate as a metric for games that could run acceptably with maximum quality at the maximum resolution of my monitor (1,600 x 1,200 pixels), and quality for other games.
I did my testing with four games:… Read more
Today, NVIDIA officially announces its new GeForce GTX 200 family of graphics processing units (GPUs) and the first two products in the family, the GeForce GTX 280 and the GeForce GTX 260.
The GeForce GTX 280 is the new flagship of NVIDIA's GPU product line, taking over from last year's GeForce 9800 GTX. (The change in the product-name format from "9800 GTX" to "GTX 280" is potentially confusing and doesn't seem that useful to me, but I'm sure we'll get used to it over time. I suppose NVIDIA's other choice was to go with numbers above 10,000, which might have been even worse.)
NVIDIA disclosed the details of these products at an Editor's Day conference in May, and most of the attendees, including myself, received GTX 280 graphics cards for editorial review. These cards are NVIDIA reference boards, not retail products.
I'll be doing this review in multiple parts, each addressing a different aspect of these products and the effects they'll have on the PC graphics market.
First, an overview of the GTX 280 chip itself.
This is a huge chip. NVIDIA won't say exactly how large, and I'm not going to bust open the chip package on my reference board just to find out, but NVIDIA VP of technical marketing Tony Tamasi says… Read more
Second only to Moore's Law as a source of story ideas for pundits in the computer industry, Rambus was back in the news again last week.
This particular verdict was favorable to Rambus, but it wasn't the final word, nor was it exceptionally important. CNET News.com didn't even publish a news article about it, though Tom Krazit did write a pretty good blog post on the subject and it inspired a good post on intellectual property development from former Rambus exec Steve Tobak on his blog. Rambus has been involved in a great many lawsuits. Some … Read more
Apple refreshed its MacBook and MacBook Pro product lines last week. I was hoping for more significant improvements, but the changes were minimal.
The updated models come with new Intel processors, larger hard disks, more main memory, and more graphics memory.
The new Penryn processor was expected to improve battery life, but I noticed something when I compared the specs for the old MacBook Pro to those of the new model. The new machine's stated battery life has dropped from six hours to just five. However, Apple now refers to five hours of "wireless productivity," whereas the … Read more
I recently mentioned my plan to get the new Eee PC laptop from Asus in spite of a price hike just before the product was introduced. The Eee PC is basically a low-cost subnotebook intended for developing markets, like the One Laptop Per Child project's XO, which I've also written about here--but unlike the OLPC, the Eee PC will be regularly available in commercial channels.