Nvidia’s newest product, the GeForce4 Ti4600 is an expensive and super fast video chip that is unrivaled by anything else currently available. The GeForce4 or “GF4” as it is commonly known amongst enthusiasts, is close to six months old now but has been the reigning champ of all video cards since its release earlier this year. ATI has slowly moved into the enthusiast, with the ATI Radeon line of video chips, but ever iteration of the Radeon has fallen just short of the corresponding Nvidia product and most embarrassingly so with the GF4. The top of the line GF4 versus the top of the line Radeon is no contest in the eyes of enthusiasts – GF4 wins in every benchmark available by a comfortable margin.
Nvidia’s comfort may be their undoing. ATI’s slow and steady pace will produce the R300 video chip in August, commercially available under the name “Radeon 9700.” The R300 video chip was endorsed by game programming guru John Carmack at this year’s E3 game expo in Los Angeles as the “fastest card” for his upcoming Doom 3 video game. Initial tests conducted by enthusiast hardware websites show the R300 chip commanding a 35%-50% performance gain over the GF4 Ti4600 in nearly every benchmark, with higher quality images to boot. History suggests that in the next month, near the end of the six month cycle, Nvidia will release their NV30 and the R300’s reign as performance king will abruptly end.
However, Nvidia is faltering on their self-imposed six month product cycle. The NV30 chip won’t be released until Christmas or possibly early 2003, giving ATI’s R300 chip month’s worth of good press and time to build a loyal following. When the NV30 chip is finally released, its specs and performance will likely be similar to the R300 but at a slightly higher price since ATI will undoubtedly lower the price of their five to six month-old R300 chip, especially when Nvidia’s NV30 hits the market. What is the cause of Nvidia’s slipping on the release date? Speculation suggests that when Nvidia bought their rival 3DFX, they have suffered the same problems integrating the disparate groups together under one umbrella
History will not be kind to Nvidia if the NV30 is a dud compared to ATI’s R300 and neither will the enthusiast crowd. The enthusiasts are a fickle bunch – just ask any 3DFX shareholder.