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ATI Answers Rival with New Graphics Chip

Graphics chipmaker ATI upped the ante in its battle with rival NVIDIA with the release of a new high-end processor: the RADEON X800.

Markham, Ontario-based ATI said it is offering the processor in two formats, the RADEON X800 XT Platinum Edition and the RADEON X800 PRO through its OEM partners. The chips are expected to compete with NIVIDA's GeForce 6800 processors, which were unveiled three weeks ago.

ATI regularly jousts with NVIDIA for leadership in the graphics processor marketplace, where processors can fetch close to $500 apiece. In addition to their usual battles for desktop and notebook platforms, workstation, set-top boxes and digital televisions, the rivals also compete in the gaming console marketplace.

Recently, it's been ATI out in front as the company has a lucrative contract with Microsoft supplanting NVIDIA as the graphics chipmaker that powers the Xbox.

NVIDIA's inroads with Dell and HP have helped it sell more of its GPUs and the GeForce 6800 chip is based on some of the same core specs as the RADEON line but some analysts and enthusiasts sites are already crowning the X800 as the faster of the two.

"Currently nearly 80 percent of high-performance DirectX 9 graphics cards shipping are powered by ATI's visual processors," said Dean McCarron, Mercury Research. "The new series demonstrates ATI's focus on the high-end segment of the PC graphics market."

ATI said its other advantage included in X800 is its new 3Dc compression technology. The advancement allows game developers to use high-resolution normal maps. Normal maps are used to give characters and scenes high levels of detail without the performance hit that would normally be associated with using high-polygon models.

Previously, developers had the option of using some kind of low-quality compression, or to cut back on the number and size of normal mapped assets. ATI boasted that gaming graphics running on its processors are equivalent to watching a sporting event on an HDTV.

Designed for graphics workstations and hardcore PC gamers, the RADEON X800 XT Platinum Edition ($499) will ship later this month. The chip will be powered by a 16-pipe pixel processing engine clocked at 520MHz and has been paired with high-speed 1.12GHz data rate GDDR3 memory and a 256-bit memory interface.

The company said its RADEON X800 PRO ($399) is shipping now and is powered by a 12-pipe pixel processing engine clocked at 475MHz, a 256-bit memory interface and GDDR3 memory running at speeds of 900MHz.

ATI has already lined up its usual OEM suspects. The company said its board partners include ABIT, ASUS, Celestica, Club 3D, Connect 3D, Creative, Diamond, Elsa, FIC, Gigabyte, Hightech Information Systems, Info-Tek, MSI, Sapphire, Tul, VisionTek, Xpertvision and Yuan. The company's current list System Integrators consists of ABS, Alienware, Falcon Northwest, Velocity Micro, VoodooPC and ZT Group.



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