Although we all love to debate about ATI’s RADEON 9800 PRO/9700 PRO and NVIDIA GeForce FX 5900 Ultra/5800 Ultra on the high end, we all know by now that the real bulk of sales for both companies come from the segments below that. According to a survey conducted by NPD last summer, 44% of sales came from graphics cards less than $100, while 39% spent up to $149. 9% of sales were between $150 and $249, while just 1% came from graphics cards above $350. In the grand scheme of things, clearly we’re talking about a very small portion of the graphics market.
It’s partially because of this that NVIDIA has maintained their share in PC graphics. Even the most diehard NVIDIA fan will admit that ATI has had a technology and performance advantage over NVIDIA for consecutive quarters. But largely thanks to GeForce4 MX 440 and GeForce4 Ti 4200, NVIDIA has continued to ship GPUs by the truckload. Just look at the extraordinary level of participation NVIDIA is getting from its board partners. MSI, NVIDIA’s biggest graphics customer, has 10 Ti 4200 variants available alone, not including Ti 4400 and Ti 4600 cards. Do you want your MSI Ti 4200 card with dual DVI outputs? MSI’s got that. 64MB or 128MB? MSI’s got you covered there too. Why don’t we throw in a VIVO module while we’re at it? MSI has one of those as well. In fact, you can get a different combination of all three! In comparison, many of ATI’s board partners only offer two or three products based on one family. As the Burger King commercial goes “you can have it your way” thanks to MSI.
From NV28 to NV31
NVIDIA now has the difficult task of replacing a perennial best seller in the GeForce4 Ti 4200 (NV25/28). To accomplish this they’ve constructed the GeForce FX 5600 and GeForce FX 5600 Ultra, previously known by the codename “NV31”. Today we’re looking at the GeForce FX 5600 in the form of MSI’s FX5600-VTDR128.
Before we go any further, we’d like to clarify NVIDIA’s product positioning in comparison to ATI, as there’s a lot of confusion out there regarding the topic. In all honesty, NVIDIA hasn’t done the best job of making things clear as they’ve done in the past. This is partially because ultimately retail cards are shipped by their board partners, rather than directly themselves, another problem is NVIDIA’s nagging GeForce FX supply issues. We’ll try and lay everything out as we see it.
According to NVIDIA documentation, GeForce FX 5600 prices should start at roughly $150. This is right in line with ATI’s official price for the RADEON 9600. At the $200 price point lies GeForce FX 5600 Ultra, this again, corresponds with RADEON 9600 PRO. (A lot of our readers don’t know this, but RADEON 9500 PRO still lists for $220 according to ATI.) When you look at street prices however, things get pretty muddy. GeForce FX 5600 currently starts at $153 on Price Watch but the 9600 PRO can already be found for as low as $176 ($160 for RADEON 9500 PRO).
Since GeForce FX 5600 Ultra hasn’t arrived on the market, the GeForce FX 5600 is essentially competing against RADEON 9600 PRO, and the limited supply of even regular 5600 cards is keeping prices artificially high: while six pages of Price Watch listings exist for the 128MB GeForce FX 5600, there are 11 for the GeForce FX 5200 (12 if you include the Ultra model). Due to the lack of GeForce FX 5600 Ultra availability, card manufacturers are scrambling for something to fill in against the 9600 PRO until its arrival – enter the GeForce FX 5600 256MB.
As supply increases, we believe the situation will eventually settle itself appropriately. RADEON 9600’s will be priced competitively with GeForce FX 5600’s. Just above those cards, the RADEON 9600 PRO and GeForce FX 5600 Ultra will duke it out. But is the GeForce FX 5600 a worthy successor to GeForce4 Ti 4200? Read on to find out!