According to a DigiTimes report, Gainward, a longtime Nvidia add-in-board (AIB) partner, is cozying up with ATI in preparation to launch Radeon HD 4850 and 4870 series videocards, with HD 3800 series to follow soon afterward. If true, Gainward's decision to play the field could set the tone for other exclusive Nvidia partners to do the same, and there's never been a better time to consider making the jump.
AMD left themselves open to much criticism when it acquired ATI, and with good reason. With Intel taking back the reigns in the CPU war and AMD struggling with increased debt, jumping head first into graphics may have seemed a curious decision at the time. It didn't help matters when the suits in Santa Clara all but surrendered the high end market to Nvidia, and for a long time, many wondered if not only AMD would fall, but if it would take ATI down with them. Now it appears the tides are finally turning.
While AMD may have once been content to let its ATI branch wave the white flag and half-heartedly focus on the low- and mid-range markets, that's no longer the case. As Will Smith notes, "ATI's new Radeon 4850 and Radeon 4870 deliver stunning performance at an extremely compelling price point." What's more, we're also witnessing a much more aggressive AMD than what we're used to seeing in recent years. From releasing videocards ahead of schedule to giving partners the green light to overclock, AMD is clearly refocused on staying competitive. And it doesn't stop there. Bringing back the All-In-Wonder series could be viewed as a symbolic return to old ways, when ATI and Nvidia played leapfrog instead of follow the leader.
So how does Gainward play into all this? If ATI's recent success can convince exclusive partners to reconsider their allegiance, it opens up a whole slew of scenarios and 'what ifs.' For example, what if a company like BFG or XFX broke their ties and started offering Radeon videocards backed with coveted lifetime warranties? And whether them or someone else, will Nvidia try to sweeten the pot to keep AIBs on their side? If so, we could be looking at even lower prices in a market that's already considered advantageous for gamers. Never before has the GPU market offered so much bang for your gaming dollar.
Regardless of how the situation plays out with Gainward, the road won't get any easier for ATI. Nvidia is showing no plans of slowing down, and is doing everything in its power, like releasing a tweaked 9800GTX+, to steal the thunder away from ATI. And then there's the matter of in-game physics support and licensing issues. On that same token, how will chipsets affect the playing field? To this day, SLI remains tied to Nvidia, and CrossFire to Intel.
A lot of questions remain, but no matter how the different scenarios play out, we can be assured of good things to follow with ATI finally back in the game.