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AMD Launches Two-Chip Graphics Card For Gamers

The company hopes the Radeon HD 3870 X2 will give it a lead in both price and performance over rival Nvidia.
Advanced Micro Devices on Monday launched for PC gamers a two-chip graphics card that it hopes will give it a lead in price and performance over rival Nvidia.

The ATI Radeon HD 3870 X2 combines two graphics processors on a single board, giving it nearly double the performance of the single-chip Radeon HD 3870 introduced in November 2007, according to AMD. The latest graphics card tops a Teraflop, or 1 trillion floating point operations per second, which is the equivalent of a trillion mathematical calculations per second.

High-end graphics cards target hardcore gamers looking for realism in 3-D effects used in many videogames today. To get peak performance, game enthusiasts will use multiple graphics cards and use software tools to boost the clock speed of CPUs.

AMD's latest product would compete with Nvidia's GeForce 8800 Ultra that starts at $630. The Radeon HD 3870 X2 has a suggested retail price of $449.

AMD's new graphics card will also support the company's CrossFire X technology, which makes it possible to use up to four cards on a single computer to further boost performance. CrossFire X competes with Nvidia's scalable link interface, or SLI. AMD plans to release software to enable CrossFire X support for the HD 3870 X2 late in the current quarter.

Market researcher Jon Peddie, head of Jon Peddie Research, said AMD's new card is 70% faster than the single-chip HD 3870, making the new product faster than having two separate cards on a motherboard, which only increases performance by 50%.

With the card comparable in performance to Nvidia's highest end product, but selling for substantially less, the new card places AMD ahead of its rival, Peddie said. Nvidia, however, is likely to respond quickly to the competition.

"Now that they know what AMD has accomplished, Nvidia will go crazy trying to beat them," Peddie said. "AMD is king of the hill in price and performance for now, but the question is how long will they stay there."

Graphics performance is becoming increasingly important in entertainment PCs offered by manufacturers as consumers store and manage a growing number of video, audio, and picture files. To boost the performance of low- to mid-priced PCs, AMD and Nvidia are offering inexpensive graphics cards that work in conjunction with the companies' integrated graphics circuits embedded in motherboards. In the past, the integrated circuits would shut down and let the graphics card do the processing.

AMD's ATI Radeon HD 3400 series graphics card, for example, can complement the company's integrated chipset. The card has a suggested retail price of $49 to $65.

Nvidia introduced similar technology for its own integrated chipset. Called Hybrid SLI, the technology was introduced at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this month, and will be available in all graphics cards starting with the GeForce 8200.