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Video card chipsets go through cycles where every year or so a new video card is released from the major manufacturers AMD and NVIDIA. This has been the case for over 10 years since NVIDIA launched the Riva 128. AMD is rumored to launch their next generation HD 6 series of cards later this year, while NVIDIA is still releasing products based upon Fermi. They generally start off with a high end and release a variety of chips with lesser performance at different price points.
NVIDIA launched their Fermi architecture late last year with cards based upon that architecture reaching store shelves earlier this year. The first card in their lineup was the GeForce GTX 480 and GTX 470 which had 480 SPs, a 512-bit memory bus and support for DirectX 11 features such as Tessellation and DirectCompute. These cards were launched at the $499 price point and are the high end of NVIDIA’S current lineup.
NVIDIA’s second group of Fermi launches includes the Quadro series of cards and the GeForce GTX 465. The 465 took the same 3 billion transistor chip as on the 480 and disabled some of the parts. The issue with that is while the card was less expensive; the chip die was the same as the more expensive parts, meaning that costs for producing the die was the same as on the $500 card. The power consumption of the GTX 465 was the same as on the 470 as well, making it an also-ran. They launched the GTX 460 for the $200 price point and it has been successful.
The vast majority of video card sales are not based upon $500 super cards like the HD 5970 or GeForce GTX 480, however. According to Mercury Research, a company that specializes in tracking sales of video cards from the various manufacturers, NVIDIA sells 24% of their chips in the $100-200 price point, while AMD sells 35% of their chips in that price range. The high end of over $300 has a market share of 5.2% and 9.7%, while the 200-300 price range has market shares of 3.8% and 3.3% from the two companies. In Q2 of 2010 over 4.485 million units were sold in the $100-200 price range while only 1.496 million units were sold in the $200 and above category. It is quite clear from those numbers that the $100-200 price range is the sweet spot for most people that want a new graphics card. The value segment ($0-$100) is the largest portion of the market with over 50% of the sales but gamers wanting decent performance out of their cards will want to stay away from that market.$100-200 is where most of the sales are made to true PC gamers. Today NVIDIA is launching their newest graphics chip, the GeForce GTS 450 and I’m reviewing the GIGABYTE version of this card. GIGABYTE is a well-known motherboard and other computer component manufacturer that sells video cards as well.