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AMD Graphics Games Hardware

A $99 Graphics Card Might Be All You Need 618

Posted by kdawson
from the market-beater dept.
Vigile writes "With the release of AMD's latest budget graphics card, the Radeon HD 4770, the GPU giant is bringing a lot of technology to the table. The card sports the world's first 40nm GPU (beating out CPUs to a new process technology for the first time), GDDR5 memory, and 640 stream processors, all for under $100. What is even more interesting is that as PC gaming has evolved it appears that a $99 graphics card is all you really need to play the latest PC titles — as long as you are comfortable with a resolution of 1920x1200 or below. Since so few PC gamers have screens larger than that, could the world of high-end PC graphics simply go away?"
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A $99 Graphics Card Might Be All You Need

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  • Once upon a time (Score:4, Insightful)

    by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @04:05PM (#27749945)

    I used to have a top-of-the-line 3dfx graphics card. It was all I ever thought I'd need.

    Today, that kind of power is available in my scientific caluclator.

    Just goes to show that today's technology will become yesterday's technology in a very short period of time.

    • Re:Once upon a time (Score:5, Informative)

      by Idiomatick (976696) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @04:17PM (#27750157)
      That is NOT what he's saying at all. He's saying that 'high end' will be reasonably priced. We will surely continue to move forwards but the market is targeting a 100$ video card group and will continue to do so in future. Less games like crysis will be released that require you to spend 300$ on a video card.

      Personally I think this is true. And I think most game companies have targeted 100$ or less video cards for a while now. But there will always be games like crysis that will allow you to make use of your cutting edge 500$ card. Games can easily be built to 'work' on a 50$ card and still with a few settings tax a 500$ card. There is minimal coding investment compared to other features so people will always want it.
      • by Kneo24 (688412) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @04:33PM (#27750421) Homepage

        Less games like Crysis? The majority of PC games aren't like Crysis in their demands at the high end anyway. So what are you trying to say exactly? Crysis has always been the exception, not the rule.

        • Re:Once upon a time (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Idiomatick (976696) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @04:38PM (#27750523)
          Yeah it is a shift that has already happened. 6years ago you were expected to spend more on a video card to properly game than you are now. I'd say the average amount a gamer spends on his video card has halved in that time.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by hattig (47930)

            I remember buying my Radeon 9500 when it first came out because it was the cheap option at the time - it meant I could play then-current games at medium resolution and medium settings. It cost twice as much as this card that can play most current games at very high resolution and high settings. Even two years ago the 9600GT upon release couldn't achieve that. Whilst TSMC's 40nm process isn't the best, it allows for great die shrinkage and hence for a competitive price. This is definitely the best $100 card

          • by timeOday (582209) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @08:20PM (#27753655)
            Not just video cards. Once it was common to spend $3000-$4000 on a PC, now hardly anybody does that, and no software really requires it. The high end has disappeared. So the same happening to video cards isn't at all improbable - and as you, to a large extent it already has.
        • by kimvette (919543) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @10:05PM (#27754417) Homepage Journal

          Crysis today is like Quake and Hexen II when they first came out. It's a game based on a bleeding-edge graphics engine that won't be truly playable (at high quality) on commodity hardware until another generation or two of graphics chipsets come to market.

          There are always going to be a few bleeding-edge games that break the rules. Most people who want to play them without breaking the bank will buy the console version. Others will just wait until hardware gets better.

      • Re:Once upon a time (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Bigjeff5 (1143585) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @05:33PM (#27751609)

        I remember when "high-end" meant $800-1000, this was particularly true when SLI first came out. At it's peak, maxing out your graphics capabilities meant spending up to $1400. $500 was maybe high side of mid-range, and you could get by with low settings on any game with a $300 card. The $300 level was where I spent most of my money, as I couldn't afford the high end stuff, and there were -always- settings I could not turn on because I didn't have the power. And this was when "High-resolution" Was in the 1600x1400 range (at the time of SLI we started seeing higher), monitors that went higher than that were prohibitively expensive.

        $100 cards that max settings on most games with most monitors is pretty significant. Granted I didn't RTFA, so I don't know if that's exactly what they are saying, but either way it is significant. In fact, $100 cards that can play new games with most settings on high at 1080p resolution is pretty frickin impressive, even if it can't max it out. Makes me want to buy a new card.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by sexconker (1179573)

        Crysis is shit.
        It's a shitty game.
        It has shitty AI.
        It's buggy as fuck.
        And it's so demanding because it's so unoptimized.

        Benchmarking your computer against Crysis is like seeing how much feces your new blender can handle.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @04:19PM (#27750185)

      "...today's technology will become yesterday's technology in a very short period of time."

      Yeah, in only one day.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Threni (635302)

      Point is, though, there was probably a time where each generation new scientific calculators came out with more (useful) features or more (meaningful) speed increases - but that nowadays what's out there at the lowest price point is probably good enough for practically everyone. Certainly that was the way things were about 10 years ago in the 2d world of graphics cards. The makers kept cranking the drivers and improving the hardware but I don't think anyone cared because no-one was waiting around for 2d tex

    • by peter303 (12292) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @04:35PM (#27750459)
      Less powerful than these cards.
    • High-end what? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mcrbids (148650) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @04:42PM (#27750621) Journal

      I've been 'into computing' since a '286/20 was described as 'lightning fast'. I've never, ever spent more than 100 dollars on a video card. I've always bought last-years' high flyer for 60-80 dollars and I've never hurt for lack of fun games to play at resolutions that I've ever noticed as a problem.

      Last years' CPU on last years' mobo costs 100 dollars for the pair. HDD upgrades for sale at 60 dollars - who isn't happy with this? Your average computer lasts about 4 years, by buying 1 year late you get 3/4 the performance life at 1/4 the cost while staying within the range of the target platform for most of the latest games.

      Why is this even a question?

      • Re:High-end what? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by GiMP (10923) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @05:21PM (#27751397)

        I would have said that until 1-2 years ago, the best "value per dollar" for video cards was about at $200. This is how much I spent on my first Voodoo2 card and my Geforce 6800. This past year, I spent less than $100 for a card that is arguably better performance per dollar, relative to the demand of the games on the market. So I would agree, $100 is the old $200 in terms of video cards.

      • by Locke2005 (849178) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @06:21PM (#27752295)
        It's the chicks, man! Gamer groupies only go home with the Alpha Geeks who buy a new $1000 CPU and $500 video card every year. At least that explains my inability to impress the chicks at LAN parties. Of course, the complete lack of any females whatsoever at LAN parties may also have something to do with it... hmm.
      • Re:High-end what? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by sexconker (1179573) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @07:15PM (#27752961)

        Let's use ye olde law of Moore:

        Let's assume a 6-month release cycle for hardware and games (pretty close to reality - these things do tend to come in batches around twice a year), and average the performance out over 4 years of ownership.

        At 1 year old, your shit is at 71% of the new, hot shit.
        At 1.5 years old, your shit is at 59%.
        At 2 years old, your shit is at 50%.
        At 2.5 years old, your shit is at 42%.
        At 3 years old, your shit is at 35%.
        At 3.5 years old, your shit is at 30%.
        At 4 years old, your shit is at 25%.
        At 4.5 years old, your shit is at 21%.
        At 5 years old, your shit is at 18%.

        That's an average (over your 4 years of ownership) of 39%.

        If you buy brand new shit:

        Brand new, your shit is at 100% of the new, hot shit.
        At .5 years old, your shit is at 84%.
        At 1 years old, your shit is at 71%.
        At 1.5 years old, your shit is at 59%.
        At 2 years old, your shit is at 50%.
        At 2.5 years old, your shit is at 42%.
        At 3 years old, your shit is at 35%.
        At 3.5 years old, your shit is at 30%.
        At 4 years old, your shit is at 25%.

        That's an average (over your 4 years of ownership) of 55%.

        If you plan 4 years of ownership (plus some slight overlap at the end) then waiting a year is beneficial if you can save just 29% on the price.

        I chose to use specific points and average them since moore's law doesn't apply to retail prices smoothly, nor does the desire for performance (that tends to line up with hardware and software releases).

      • by Mashiki (184564) <mashiki AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @07:20PM (#27753013) Homepage

        What is it with all these newbies? 286s at 20mhz? Get away from my Vic20 at 1mhz! My glorious tape drive holds all the knowledge I need! Touch my patch cable and I'LL HUNT YOU DOWN!

        GET OFF MY LAWN TOO!

    • by _Sprocket_ (42527) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @04:49PM (#27750755)

      I used to have a top-of-the-line 3dfx graphics card. It was all I ever thought I'd need.

      I remember when this WHOLE website was nothin' but ORCHARDS; as far as the eye could see.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by wjousts (1529427)

      I disagree, I'm not saying this is it, but at some point you reach a point of diminishing returns. I'd say sound cards reached it several years ago such that only real audiophiles buy high end sound cards now days and on-board sound is good enough for most people.

      I think it's fair to expect graphics cards to reach a plateau at some point as well and that point maybe sooner rather than later. You can only boost the resolution and push more and more polygons for so long until it stops making much difference.

  • Agreed! (Score:4, Informative)

    by Lordfly (590616) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @04:07PM (#27749977) Homepage Journal

    I recently purchased an Nvidia 9800 for around 129 bucks. It came with two Call of Duty games, so I imagine the card is significantly cheaper than that.

    It runs everything without so much as a single complaint, on max details.

    And is it just me, or does FSAA have little real effect on visual quality? I never have it on, and even with it on (such as in WoW), I can't notice a bit of difference on a 19" LCD monitor. Turning FSAA can save you tons of money (and framerates!)

    • Re:Agreed! (Score:5, Funny)

      by Red Flayer (890720) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @04:11PM (#27750063) Journal

      Turning FSAA can save you tons of money (and framerates!)

      Yes, but turning japanese can save you child support payments. I really think so.

      Oh... I see... you accidentally the whole thing.

    • Re:Agreed! (Score:5, Informative)

      by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @04:25PM (#27750267) Homepage

      Well I'm not an expert of any kind, but AFAIK the point of antialiasing is pretty much to compensate for low-resolutions displays. If you have a high enough DPI or a big enough display (and so you can sit far enough away) then FSAA isn't going to make a huge difference anymore.

      • Re:Agreed! (Score:5, Informative)

        by DragonWriter (970822) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @04:39PM (#27750553)

        Well I'm not an expert of any kind, but AFAIK the point of antialiasing is pretty much to compensate for low-resolutions displays. If you have a high enough DPI or a big enough display (and so you can sit far enough away) then FSAA isn't going to make a huge difference anymore.

        It exists to compensate for rendering artifacts due to rendering points on a regular grid; having more pixels per steradian (whether due to higher resolution or greater viewing distance) doesn't eliminate the artifacts, though it will, for most kinds of rendering artifacts, make them less noticeable. AA tries to eliminate the artifacts by sampling additional points around the "real" location on the grid and blending them to create the actual value rendered for the pixel.

      • Re:Agreed! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by trentblase (717954) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @04:39PM (#27750557)
        True I think. Because if you have a "high enough DPI" then your lack of visual acuity is doing the down-sampling for you.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by aj50 (789101)

          Unfortunately, even with 1920x1200 displays, we're still not there yet. Anti-aliasing at a lower resolution will often look better because it smooths out the sharp edges, essentially blurring the image slightly.

  • Complexity (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sky289hawk1 (459600) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @04:07PM (#27749981) Homepage
    It's not merely a matter of what resolution you are running at, but how many polys you are pushing, how many texture passes you are doing, and what shaders you are taking advantage of. As long as artists can dream, we will require more and more power from our graphics renderers.
    • by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @04:08PM (#27750015)

      You're obviously wrong. This story is about how a $99 graphics card might be all you need.

      It's on the internet, so it must be true.

    • by Trigun (685027) <evil@evilempire.a[ ]cx ['th.' in gap]> on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @04:09PM (#27750025)

      Best argument for shooting artists I've heard all week!

    • Re:Complexity (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Red Flayer (890720) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @04:16PM (#27750149) Journal

      As long as artists can dream, we will require more and more power from our graphics renderers.

      You mean, as long as the market supports ever-increasing poly counts etc?

      At some point we hit a point of diminishing returns on better graphics units... the human eye can only distinguish so much.

      Eventually we'll hit the point where there's simply not enough benefit to be gotten out of an expensive GPU. For me, that time is long past. For others, it may come in the next few years. For a small portion, the 'dreamers', it'll never come... but why would any company spend millions and millions developing new and better chips for such a small market?

      • Re:Complexity (Score:5, Interesting)

        by chill (34294) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @04:50PM (#27750783) Journal

        Or until they decide to abandon polys and go to true solid-object geometry. Computing the intersection of a ray and a flat poly is trivial. Computing the shading/reflection/refraction/etc. on a ray and an arbitrary curve takes significantly more horsepower.

        I remember using a program on the Amiga way back when -- Real3D from RealSoft -- that did this. Excellent rendering, but dog slow compared to Lightwave and some others.

      • Re:Complexity (Score:4, Interesting)

        by je ne sais quoi (987177) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @04:53PM (#27750817)

        Eventually we'll hit the point where there's simply not enough benefit to be gotten out of an expensive GPU. For me, that time is long past. For others, it may come in the next few years.

        I agree. I haven't played Crysis, but I'm on my second time through Far Cry 2, and playability issues aside, the game looks just astounding. E.g., 1) the human models are so realistic they're descended deep into the Uncanny Valley [msn.com] and creep you out. 2) While the various areas you can go into do have a lot of artificial constraints about where you can walk (cliffs in this case, in the original doom it was walls of hallways and rooms), there is plenty of areas that don't have that and there is no fog of war or limited sight distance needed. I remember there were some hacks to remove the limited sight distance for NWN 1, and it looked okay right up until you started moving around and then it would make the game laggy and crash a lot. 3) Segregated areas. Again, with NWN 1 and lot of other similar games you had to segregate various areas to keep the number of polygons manageable, but with Far Cry 2 they seem to scale things in the distance to a lower resolution so that it stays manageable. They do have distinct areas, but they seem to have made the transition between the two relatively seamless, you only notice a little stuttering when you cross from one map to the next.

        Anyhow, it seems that these sorts of games are very close to as realistic as you'd really want before you get diminishing returns for what can physically be portrayed on a 2-D screen. Now in FC2 they could have made a great game if only in addition to the graphics they would have worked on the AI of the soldiers and some decent factions instead of the 100% accurate aim, "x-ray specs vision" soldiers who are in separate factions but all hate you and instantly recognize you and will shoot you on sight.

      • Re:Complexity (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Dahamma (304068) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @05:10PM (#27751183)

        At some point we hit a point of diminishing returns on better graphics units... the human eye can only distinguish so much.

        But we're nowhere NEAR that argument yet. State of the art movie-quality CG is still not quite there, and you are talking rendering times of hours per frame, not frames per second.

        Eventually we'll hit the point where there's simply not enough benefit to be gotten out of an expensive GPU. For me, that time is long past. For others, it may come in the next few years. For a small portion, the 'dreamers', it'll never come... but why would any company spend millions and millions developing new and better chips for such a small market?

        Graphics are not the only thing a GPU is used for these days. Game physics on the GPU is still in the early stages, and game AI on the GPU is almost non-existent so far. 3D gaming is still pretty new (and will be niche until display technology improves) and (at least) doubles the GPU requirements.

        And who's to say 20-30 years from now we're not projecting stereo images directly onto your retina, or even your optic nerve? I sure hope that is at a better resolution than 1900x1200. We are orders of magnitude away from anything graphics and physics-wise that can fool the human brain.

        I can't believe there are so many people here who really think a technology like this is "good enough" today. Have a bit of imagination, and it's pretty obvious (to me at least) that we've barely scratched the surface of 3D computer graphics.

      • Re:Complexity (Score:4, Insightful)

        by drsquare (530038) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @05:28PM (#27751499)

        Then it'll move onto rendering more things on the screen, like games with ten thousand characters on screen at one time, all completely unique, and a landscape with infinite draw depth, nothing popping up but for instance a tree appearing as a single pixel on the horizon, getting closer and bigger until you have a photo-realistic microscopic view of the bark.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nine-times (778537)

      Well we aren't yet to the point where a cheap card can produce completely photorealistic movies in real-time that are completely indistinguishable from real life. Until we get there, I'm sure people will keep pushing those limits.

      Once we get there, I'm not sure what will happen. Maybe they'll still want faster cards so they can offload some other kinds of processing (physics? AI?).

  • by spun (1352) <loverevolutionaryNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @04:08PM (#27750001) Journal

    Therefore, no. The high end will not be going away. Some folks will always feel inadequate and seek to compensate.

  • by Toreo asesino (951231) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @04:11PM (#27750053) Journal

    No is the easy answer.

    High-end graphics cards are rarely sold because of their real-world in game performance which is often insanely high; too high to notice in any game on release anyway. Nope, in my experience $600 graphics cards is all about bragging rights and benchmarks. It's the same category of people that buy water-cooling and ram chip heat-sinks & fans; they just want to squeeze that last 2% throughput out their probably insanely overclocked systems for the highest benchmarks possible.

    It's actually good fun if you're into that; what you learn in overclocking is quite astonishing, but the super-high-end graphics cards are all part of that game.

  • by creimer (824291) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @04:14PM (#27750097) Homepage
    First, why pay more than $99 USD for a video card?

    Second, Newegg lists the ATI 4770 as $109 USD [newegg.com] with a 128-bit memory.

    Third, the ATI 4830 are a better deal for under $99 [newegg.com] with a 256-bit memory.
    • by subsolar2 (147428) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @04:28PM (#27750305)

      First, the 4770 is running GDDR5 at approximatly the same clock rate as the 4830 running GDDR3 so they have the same effective memory bandwidth.

      Second, while they both have 640 universal shaders, the shaders on the 4770 are running ~40% faster.

      Third, so the 4770 has approximately the same or better performance than a 4850 that costs $130-150.

      So I think the 4770 is a deal at $109 ... the price will probably come down after the inital rush and the 4830 will disappear.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by LWATCDR (28044)

      From the 4830 uses 30 watts more power and runs 20 degrees hotter. It is a very good card for the money but it isn't much faster than 4770 and the 4770 is no so will only come down in price. Both are good choices but I think the 4770 has more value than you are giving it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mkettler (6309)

      Well, it's hardly clear cut to call the 4830 higher performing.

      The 4830 may have slightly better memory performance, but the higher core clock gives the 4770 higher processing performance. Also, quite a lot of the detriment of 128bit memory is made up for by much higher effective clockrates on the 4770's GDDR5 memory. You really can't look at bus width alone, bandwidth is a better measure.

      in general, the 4770 vs the 4830 has:

      29.7% more FLOPS (960 vs 740 GFLOPS)
      11.1% less memory bandwidth ( 51.2 vs 57.6 GB/s

  • by aceofspades1217 (1267996) <aceofspades1217.gmail@com> on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @04:18PM (#27750169) Homepage Journal

    Blow their money on hundreds upon hundreds of dollars on super high-end processors, super high-end video cards, and super high-end RAM.

    They will probably never learn that all those super high-end cards are such a waste of money. IMO the best thing to do is to shoot towards the middle to low high-end cards at most. In addition SLI is kind of stupid. Your better off using your money to get one high end video card. SLI/Crossfire doesn't double performance, it increases it substantially of course but it certainly isn't double performance.

    Also you won't see performance gains on most games for a while on your super-duper high end cards, and by the time you do your card would be a middle-end card.

    With how fast prices drop, the best thing to do is get decent stuff and upgrade it ever 1-2 years depending on your budget. Performance wise, Getting a 200 dollar video card ever 2 years is better than getting a 600 dollar SLI set of video cards ever 4 years.

    And this is why I choose to get a Clevo laptop when I got a gaming laptop, but I would rather pay a little extra for an upgradable solidly built upgradable laptop with quad core support because it will last longer than a slightly cheaper dell POS.

    • by tnk1 (899206) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @05:30PM (#27751543)

      We know that cards like that are a waste of money.

      We don't care.

      Money comes and goes, but owning some little punk with a sniper rifle in glorious realistic detail and hearing them cry about it in your headphones is worth every penny.

      Some people spend stupid amounts of money on cars that they won't even take out into the rain. Some people collect stamps. We collect the bitter tears of gamers who are confined to a budget.

  • by LotsOfPhil (982823) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @04:33PM (#27750431)
    I am going to build a new PC and am in the market for a card. $100 on the graphics card would give me welcome flexibility on other components. Does anyone know if this can run Nethack at full res? [bbspot.com] What if you overclock it?
    • not an answer :) (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Xtifr (1323)

      Technically, "Nethack at full res" would be the GL ports Falcon's Eye [users.tkk.fi] and its successor Vulture's Eye [lighthouseapp.com]. Despite the oddball names and fancy 3d graphics, these are Nethack. And it probably is possible to find a card that would struggle to run these versions of Nethack (though you might have to go to the used market).

      So...your question wasn't actually quite as dumb as you probably intended it to be. Still dumb enough that I won't waste your time or mine by actually answering it, though. :)

      cheers

  • by PingPongBoy (303994) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @04:37PM (#27750485)

    There are many untapped aspects of graphics. Showing a multiple-screens, multiple-angles viewpoint better is in immediate demand, but really high dpi, dots per inch, has yet to be available to budget PC users. Several years ago, IBM was reported to have monitors that have a resolution equivalent to what you find on the printed page. With that kind of resolution, a typical small laptop screen should fit inside 1 square inch with room to spare. I don't know if this is CRT technology rather than LCD, but higher resolution could be around the corner.

    After 2D, there's 3D, and real time 3D. So keep buying better graphics, and there will be even better graphics coming.

  • Uh, no. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by beavis88 (25983) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @04:43PM (#27750639)

    Well below 30 FPS average in Crysis 1920x1200 with only 0xAA and 8xAF? No thanks. Why would I buy a card that's underpowered on today's^H^H^H last year's games at far less than max quality?

  • by DnemoniX (31461) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @04:50PM (#27750779)

    Clearly not written by anyone who is very familiar with the graphics requirements of games like Crysis or Farcry 2. Can you run these games on a budget card? Yes. Is it possible to enjoy those games at a lower resolution or frame rate? Quite possible. Can either of those titles be enjoyed at their maximum potential? No

    There are plenty of idiots who say bigger this, bigger that == bigger e-peen. That is really just stupid. There is a large segment of the gaming population who actually enjoy playing their games in the way the designers intended. Using physix, anti-alliasing, etc to achieve a full cinematic effect.

    This goes for any enthusiast niche market. You have your audiophiles, your car guys, musicians, and artists, the list goes on. Why does a musician want a certain amp or guitar? Is it because he wants his peen to go to 11?

  • by warlock (14079) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @04:53PM (#27750823) Homepage

    640 stream processors ought to be enough for anybody.

  • Then it's time for (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Paul Slocum (598127) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @05:21PM (#27751391) Homepage Journal
    Realtime ray-tracing.
  • by Animats (122034) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @05:24PM (#27751433) Homepage

    The world of high-end graphics cards went away a decade ago. Evans and Sutherland, Dynamic Pictures, and Lockheed all had graphics cards for PCs in the $1000-$5000 range. Ten years ago, I had a $3000 graphics board from Dynamic Pictures. For a while I had something called a Fujitsu Sapphire graphics board on loan; Fujitsu gave up and exited the business before launching a product. And I'm ignoring SGI here.

    The high-end guys were run over by the gamer card industry, which had real volume and was "good enough" for high-end animation tools. "High end" today is a few hundred dollars, not a few thousand.

    The big headache for the animation community has been insufficient graphics memory. Gamer cards tended to stress fill rate over texture memory. Nobody in animation cares about frame rate once it passes 30FPS. What you need for animation is plenty of space for big textures. Game textures are shrunk to fit, but that happens late in the development pipeline. During content creation (and for movie and TV work) you need much larger texture maps. A few gigabytes of texture memory would not be too much. For most of a decade, you couldn't get that on PCs. Finally, you can.

  • Diminishing returns (Score:5, Interesting)

    by obarthelemy (160321) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @05:49PM (#27751871)

    I think we've reached a point where

    - graphics are no longer a limiting factor for a game's enjoyment. Wireframe spaceships sucked. 100.000-polygons ones instead of 10.000-polygons ones probably don't make a huge difference. On the contrary, too many moving things actually distract. We can go "more lifelike", and blend (pun inteded) the boundary between games and films, but still...

    - graphics costs are ballooning, both in terms of creating the ressource files, and programming all the candy/actions. At the same time, the attention is moving to other topics (IA...), and budgets are tight.

    - there's probably a limit on how big a PC screen, and how small the dots on it, can be. Actually, most LCD screens don't even render all that many colors anyway.

    Which explains why nVidia in particular is desperately trying to find other uses for a GPU. They are the only of the big 3 that don't have much else in their portfolio.

  • by dave562 (969951) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @06:09PM (#27752149) Journal
    I read the article and looked at the benchmarks and thought to myself, I should pay $20 and just get the Nvidia 250 card. It beats the rest of the cards and only costs $20 more. I'm sure there are other people who read the same article and thought, "I can get nearly the same performance and spend $20 less."
  • by billcopc (196330) <vrillco@yahoo.com> on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @06:15PM (#27752215) Homepage

    It's nice that ATI keeps releasing value-conscious products for those cheap gamers, but it is rather short-sighted and sensational to say that "a $99 card is all you need". Ten years ago, a $99 card was enough to play Quake 3 in medium-res medium-graphics. The one thing these graphics companies are good at is marketing. They have figured out how to maximize their sales, and that meant crippling the used resale value of their products to capture the idiotic low-end market. They sell these crippled products in big box stores to people who don't know better, to get them hooked on the upgrade treadmill. Six months later, Joe Stupid is a budding gamer, wants to play Call of Duty 8 and drops another $99 on that month's cheapo card. After a couple of years, Joe has upgraded 3-4 times, while he could have spent the $300 up front for a good card that would still have some fight left in it.

    I have seen this cycle far too often. I dunno, maybe these people suck at math, but they're clearly not saving money in the end. Some people are happy with their $99 card and keep it for the lifetime of their PC, but those people would have been just as happy with "free" Intel integrated graphics. Gamers always want more.

    That's also why we've seen a ton of movement in the low-end segment, but very little progress at the top end. If you spent $500 on graphics two years ago, you're still within 10-15% of today's $500 graphics solutions, and that's just pathetic.

  • by Targon (17348) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @06:33PM (#27752459)

    One thing that this does is push the game developers to make games with better graphics faster/sooner than they would in the past.

    Developers need to look at the low end, the high end, and the average for CPU and graphics power for their target audience. In the past, we would see a ton of Intel garbage graphics in systems, and that was the baseline that developers had to code for. As time has moved on, more and more systems, even with integrated graphics have shown up with NVIDIA graphics on the Intel side, and AMD systems have always had either AMD or NVIDIA graphics, which raises the bar by quite a bit.

    With the level of GPU power in a $99 card, it shouldn't take too long for integrated graphics to show a significant improvement over the Radeon 3300 graphics on the AMD 790GX chipset. The question remains how long it will take, and how good or bad the integrated version ends up being.

    Now, that raises the bar. While resolutions may not increase, the detail and quality we can run at will go up. Yes, a $100 card may run fine with medium graphics settings, but can you really expect a $100 card to run every game at 1024x768 at max settings and AA? That is the key to why people will buy higher end cards, so they can see games in their full glory.

  • by Plekto (1018050) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @06:52PM (#27752737)

    The specs for DX11, such as they are at this point, call for real-time ray tracing. This will require a massive increase in power that frankly this new card is only starting to get close to being capable of. There's tons of new room to grow here. Perhaps it would be the last DX10 card you'd ever need, but not even close for future use.

    That said, there should also be a standardized ray tracing test in the video suites. IIRC, there is already a ray traced version of Quake 4 out.

    http://www.idfun.de/temp/q4rt/ [idfun.de]

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