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Another new chip moves onto the block

A week after Nvidia's launch of the GeForce FX graphics chip, Taiwan's SiS introduces its latest entry for price-conscious gamers: the Xabre 600.

A week after Nvidia's launch of the GeForce FX graphics chip, Taiwan's Silicon Integrated Systems has brought out its latest entry for price-conscious gamers: the Xabre 600.

SiS, which is known for its low-cost products, on Tuesday updated its graphics processor line, the Xabre, with a new chip that boasts a more advanced manufacturing process and a higher clock speed than its predecessor.

The Xabre 600 is destined for the mainstream market, eschewing direct competition with companies such as ATI Technologies and Nvidia that target high-end gamers. However, the new chip uses the same 0.13-micron manufacturing process as Nvidia's GeForce FX, which was unveiled last week at the Comdex trade show. ATI is expected to switch its Radeon graphics chip from a 0.15-micron process to 0.13-micron process early next year.

Reducing the chip geometry improves performance, lowers heat emission and power consumption and makes a processor less costly to manufacture. However, it is an expensive and complex transition--the GeForce FX was delayed partly because of difficulties with shrinking the manufacturing process.

Running at 300MHz, the Xabre 600 has a faster clock speed than its predecessor, the Xabre 400, putting it on par with Nvidia's 325MHz GeForce4 Ti 4600. That chip remains Nvidia's fastest, to be replaced by the GeForce FX, which is due to arrive in stores in February. ATI's Radeon 9700 Pro also runs at 325MHz and, like GeForce4, is based on a 0.15-micron process.

The new SiS chip has a memory speed of 300MHz, compared with 325MHz for the GeForce4 and 310MHz for the Radeon 9700. The speed at which memory can be accessed can be a performance bottleneck for graphics-intensive applications such as games.

SiS said the chip is aimed at customers who want high performance but are sensitive to price. "Those computer gamers who are particular about combating experience, speed, and image quality will be able to enjoy the unprecedented optimal speed and performance at a very competitive price tag," Chris Lin, vice president of SiS' Multimedia Products Division, said in a statement. Prices, however, are not yet disclosed.

Although the top-end graphics cards costing up to $470 (300 pounds) command the interest of influential high-end gamers, most people buy the technology once it has been on the market a bit longer and the price has been lowered.

The Xabre 600's performance is at least 20 percent better than the 400 on the 3D Mark 2001 test, according to SiS.

Products will be on the market by the end of November, SiS said. Graphics card makers that have adopted the chip include Chaintech, C.P. Technology, DFI, ECS and Triplex.

ZDNet UK's Matthew Broersma reported from London.