Nvidia’s six-month reign as sole supplier of DirectX 10 graphics hardware comes to an end this month, as ATi launches its long-awaited Radeon HD 2000 series. The range includes chips for both desktops and notebooks, all of which feature dedicated hardware for decoding HD content, plus measures to reduce power consumption.
The first card to appear will be the high-end HD 2900 XT, which should be in the shops imminently. Like Nvidia’s current GeForce 8000 range, it’s fully DirectX 10 compliant and based on a unified shader architecture. It features 320 stream processors and a 512-bit memory bus – impressive figures next to Nvidia’s top-end 8800 GTX, which has only 128 stream processors and a 384-bit bus.
The benefit is offset by slower clock speeds, however: stream processors and RAM run at 742MHz and 828MHz respectively, while the 8800 GTX uses 1.35GHz and 1.8GHz. Running our 3D benchmarks under Vista, the HD 2900 XT’s average frame rate proved around 20 per cent faster than an 8800 GTX in Company of Heroes, but only on a par with a lowlier 8800 GTS in Oblivion and Call of Duty 2.
The HD 2900 XT will be followed in July by the HD 2600 and HD 2400, each of which will be available in standard Pro and higher-specification XT variants. 2600 series cards will have 120 stream processors and a 128-bit bus, while the 2400 will have just 40 processors and a 64-bit bus.
High-end gamers will be disappointed that AMD hasn’t focused on raising the stakes in terms of performance, but the firm believes its new range will compete on value. UK prices are yet to be confirmed, but Vijay Sharma, AMD’s director of Desktop Discrete Products, insists European prices shouldn’t exceed the US price plus VAT: if this holds true, prices will start at just £60 for the HD 2400 Pro, rising to around £240 for the HD 2900 XT.