Nvidia has all but rendered its existing high-end lineup of video cards obsolete with the unusual introduction of a new low-cost, high-performance part seemingly timed to roughly coincide with the release of Crysis.
Almost a year after Nvidia first introduced its DirectX 10-capable 8800 series of video cards, a slew of high-profile games that actually utilize the new protocol is due to hit shelves in weeks.
Some of the titles, such as Crysis, World in Conflict and Unreal Tournament 3 require hefty systems to perform well at high settings, and Nvidia's pricing on its 8800 series has not budged in six months.
To address the absence of a viable mid-range part, the company last week released the 8800 GT, a move that confused many gamers and analysts not only for its naming convention but its reportedly remarkable price to performance ratio.
The new card is based on the G92 chipset - earlier 8800 series are based on the G80 - and sports a shrunken die, integrated decoding and less power and heat consumption. Perhaps because there are no revolutionary changes from the G80, however, the card did not receive a 9800 series designation.
More important, though, has been its performance as revealed on several hardware websites: at $250, the part bests the $350 to $400 8800 GTS in most scenarios and even vies with the $500 8800 GTX at resolutions up to 1900 x 1200.
The card was hard-launched on Monday and was available at most major online retailers for $230 to $300, sometimes packaged with Enemy Territory - though it is now on backorder at some sites. Nvidia has said it should nestle into a $200 to $250 price range for the 512 MB version of the card.
Hardware reviewers at sites such as Techreport.com, Anandtech.com and Firingsquad.com pronounced themselves taken aback at the introduction of a video card that rendered Nvi's own existing lineup virtually redundant.
While speculation has abounded that the 8800 GT is a precursor to a full launch of revised higher-end G92-based parts, no hard information has been released to that effect.
However, ATI, which flunked out for most of this past year with its 2900 line, is due to unveil its own new graphics card in two weeks.