ATI isn't exactly a leader in 3D, but it does
have two cards worth mentioning. ATI aims their cards at the
consumer, and is thus concerned with DVD performance, so if you use your system to
play DVD movies all the time and are less concerned about game
speed, have a look at ATI's cards.
Rage Fury MAXX: If you are a hardcore viewer of DVDs on your computer, this card
might interest you, but with the advent of the GeForce2 MX there's little reason
to get one of these unless it's for significantly less than $120 as its
performance is similar. Also, unless they added Windows 2000 support and I
didn't notice it, this card runs only in Windows 98. I think ATI is giving
generous manufacturer rebates on these now, so they might be worth getting while
those are in effect. Price (before rebate): $130-$150.
Radeon 256 (unreleased): If this is as good as ATI says
it will be, it will be competitive with the faster GeForce2 GTS cards.
Personally, I have found that ATI's cards are never as fast as they say they
will be, so we'll have to wait and see some benchmarks before we know for sure.
The Radeon 256 is supposed to use 200MHz DDR memory for a bandwidth of 6.4
gigabytes per second, and will have dual pixel pipelines and render three
textures per pixel per pass. So, at 200MHz it'll have a theoretical fill rate of
1200 megatexels per second. Not shabby, but that's already slower than the
GeForce2 GTS's theoretical 1600 megatexels per second. It'll support hardware
T&L and a slew of other new stuff. ATI seems to have problems releasing this
card, so it may be a while before we see it on store shelves. I've seen it
available for pre-order with an expected ship date of August 1st, but I'll be
surprised if it ships then. Price: <= $270 for the 32-megabyte version, <
=$350 for the 64-megabyte version.
Radeon 256 MAXX (unreleased): This will be a dual-chip version of the standard Radeon 256. If it's offered at a reasonable price, and released in the not too distant future, it should be competitive with whatever else is at the top of the performance chain, given its theoretical 12.8 gigabyte per second memory throughput and 2400 megatexel per second fill rate. Price: I haven't seen any MSRP estimates, but I'll just guess $450+.
Imagination Technologies/STMicro: These guys have an upcoming card, the third-generation
PowerVR-based KYRO. It uses tile-based rendering, thus avoiding unnecessary
drawing of parts of a scene that won't be seen since other things are in front
of them. KYRO (unreleased?): This is aimed at gamers on a budget, and its
performance is respectable considering its price. Its speed relative to other
cards depends on the resolution used, and the drivers were clearly immature and
limiting, but overall it performed somewhere between the GeForce 256 SDR and
GeForce 256 DDR. Interestingly, it renders everything in 32-bit color
internally, so its 16-bit color setting looks better than other cards' 16-bit
color. Not surprisingly, this incurs a performance penalty. It will support
hardware FSAA, but how fast it will be is yet unknown. I haven't seen this card
available anywhere yet, but hopefully it will be released soon, as its
price/performance ratio compared to other cards is decreasing as other cards get
cheaper. If it's not out very soon, it will be pretty much obsolete upon its
debut. Price: under $200 for 32-megabyte version, a little over $200 for