Prepare for the Graphics War

by Sandra Prior - Date: 2008-11-02 - Word Count: 399 Share This!

Funny how things change. It used to be AMD versus Intel, and ATI versus NVIDIA. But now it's Intel versus NVIDIA, as the two monolithic chipset companies tread further and further into each other's territory, and AMD and ATI take a back seat for the time being. It almost seems as if as soon as something is announced by Intel, NVIDIA announces its own version of that something. Mobile processors are obviously going to become big business in the next few years, thanks to the success of Asus's Eee PC and its army of clones.

Intel announced their low-power, high performance Atom chipset specifically for this market, and were closely followed by NVIDIA announcing the Tegra chipset. NVIDIA's chipset claims to be more powerful and draw less power, but the Atom is debuting in MSI's Wind notebook, whereas the Tegra, based on NVIDIA's APX2500 processor, has yet to be released.

Then Intel snapped up raytracing guru, Daniel Pohl, and NVIDIA acquired Rayscale shortly afterwards. Conceived by a team of scientists from the University of Utah, Rayscale specialize in ray-traced graphics not dissimilar to Pohl's projects.

Stiff Competition

Unlike Intel, NVIDIA is taking a more cautious approach to raytracing in games. David Kirk, NVIDIA's Chief Scientist jokingly said: 'Raytracing is the technology of the future and always will be.' NVIDIA is pushing in the direction of hybridizing ray-traced graphics with conventional rasterization, rather than putting all their graphical eggs in one GPU basket.

But the ultimate location of the Intel versus NVIDIA battle is going to be in the deep, dirty trenches of the graphics processing unit. NVIDIA's latest graphics card, the GTX 280 includes its latest GPU and promises 50 per cent more performance than its 9 series cards. But Intel have been pooh-poohing NVIDIA's advances, although Intel's Larrabee chip relies on a similar multi-threaded architecture. Both companies are focusing intensively on using the GPU for more than just graphics, and expanding the CPU's parallel power for intensive tasks, such as physics in gaming and media encoding.

Intel's current revenue is ten times the size of NVIDIA's, and although NVIDIA points out that its hardware is in a lot of PCs as well, Intel also have far more brand recognition, which could prove to be the clout they need to win the battle. But one thing's for certain: graphics will get a whole lot prettier in the coming years.

Related Tags: performance, graphics, amd, intel, ati, chipset, processors, nvidia

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