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Radeon, Radeoff - it's a devil, innit

Réflexions Graphiques Missives from Paris
Thu May 10 2007, 13:26
MANY INQ READERS have queried my relatively perculiar surname. For what it's worth, it's pronounced 'furray', as in 'beret', and preferably in a haughty French accent, as my father was so prone to. My family fled France in the late eighties, but I am back here now, tapping away to you from the glittered streets of Gay Paris, having fled the technical press corps for which London is legendary.

If only escape was so easy for DAAMIT, which has backed itself into a corner over the arrival of its new Radeon graphics boards. Having made such a hoo-ha about its bitter rivalry with Nvidia in the past, the launch situation for the X2k series of cards looks simply incredulous. The green team probably couldn't have written it better themselves, had they had the audacity to try. As the Mageek once told me, AMD is at its worst when it's backed into a corner.

Indeed, almost everything seems to be going wrong for DAAMIT at the moment, caused not in the least by the awkward fusion of the two companies, deigned favourable by the dual gods of Ruiz and Orton. The event in Tunis and its NDA shenanigans is largely regarded as a farce in post-mortem, with eager red spinners, desperate to prove that they hadn't been sat on their butts for the past twelve months running around clucking excitedly. Any internal friction might be easily addressed. of course, as DAAMIT coninues to cut jobs.

The merger saw techs everywhere take their eye off the silicon. And this is the reason for the astounding launch situation we are about to see foisted onto the Interwibble.

When the X2k launch day comes, next Monday, a single major SKU will be tipping up - the Radeon HD 2900 XT. Those journos nominally bound by EhnDeeEhs have been playing with the card for a few weeks now, and the results don't look good.

The card goes tit for tat with the GeForce 8800 GTS, winning some and losing some in a vaguely equal proportion, whilst coming in at the same price point. DAAMIT is hoping the DRM infection of HDCP and HDMI will be a selling point, but don't count on it.

Meanwhile, the XTX languishes in no-man's land, available only to system builders stupid enough to pay for a 1GB DDR4 card with barely better performance. With 8800s in ready supply, and with performance besting the 1GB beast, any SI going with the high-end Radeon will be purely in it for novelty and/or fanboy value.

Of course, any fule no that the big money in graphics is made in mid-range, the mainstream. The delay of the Radeon series was, at the last check, designed to enable a top to bottom launch of the series. Forgeddaboutit. We're hearing from multiple sauces that the 2400 and 2600 are both delayed until the beginning of July, as the metal goes back for another respin. The silicon just ain't there, yet.

So come launch day, DAAMIT will have one major SKU, which is notionally no better than anything Graphzilla has on offer, with no high-end halo-maker in sight and no mid-range money-maker on the horizon. It's a far cry from the fierce competition the pair saw over the last few generations. Many have likened the Radeon X2k to Nvidia's GeForce FX. But at least Nvidia made a bit of an effort to at least pretend like the FX was a decent card, and managed to push out a stonkingly successful low-end part off the back of it. No danger of DAAMIT managing that, we think.

But lest this be greeted as just another bAAshing article, let us point out , thanks to avid reader MUFC, that an anagram of the recently chummy Nvidia and Intel is A Devil, Innit. Matière à réflexion, non? µ


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