Over the past few years, the ongoing 3D video card battle between NVIDIA and ATI has raged. The usual scenario was one of the popular GeForce-based cards being introduced and ATI boldly nipping on their heels with a Radeon model to challenge. The sheer speed at which NVIDIA released new 3D video chips is quite staggering, and even a very impressive Radeon 8500 was not quite enough to stem the GeForce4 tide. That was then, and this is now, and ATI has finally bucked the trend and looks to beat NVIDIA to the punch.
ATI has formally introduced two new products today: the evolutionary Radeon 9000 and the revolutionary Radeon 9700. Both chips are important products for ATI, but it is the Radeon 9700 that will receive the lion's share of the attention, and may be the first next-generation ATI part that offers a significant advantage over the current crop of NVIDIA products. Timing is everything in this business, and just as the Radeon 8500 might have made a serious impact had it debuted a little earlier, the Radeon 9700 is looking to make hay while the sun is shining.
One of the most important boosts for ATI was when 3D game guru John Carmack chimed in with his support for the Radeon 9700 technology, and even went so far as to use it as a demonstration base for DOOM III. Carmack could probably sell a S3 Virge to his loyal followers, but due to his incredible hit rate in predicting dominant 3D video technologies (or self-fulfilling prophecies, depending on your point of view), the Radeon 9700 shot up considerably in terms of awareness.
Have no doubts about this, the Radeon 9700 is truly a next-gen video chip, and not simply an exercise in marketing or promotion. If the final retail product fulfills the promise of the paper specs, then gamers will likely be joining Carmack in praising the Radeon 9700. Taking into account the breadth of its architectural and core enhancements, it is as much a technological leap, as theoretically moving from the GeForce 256 straight to the GeForce3. ATI's angle with the Radeon 9000 is quite a bit different, as this product is more a shot at the entry-level market, while still maintaining a true DirectX 8.1 core.