NVIDIA is the only sole independent video chip maker left on the market, with ATI being purchased by AMD in the middle of last year. They released the GeForce 8800GTX in November of last year, bringing new levels of performance, features and image quality to video cards and leaving ATI in the dust. The 8800 was the first DirectX 10 compliant video card, supporting Shader Model 4.0 in hardware for the first time. NVIDIA has the habit of releasing a new card for the high end of the market segment every 6 months.
The beginning of this month saw NVIDIA release the replacement for the 8800 GTX card in the form of the 8800 Ultra. The 8800 Ultra is a slightly faster 8800 GTX card and is retailing for $829. I want to take a moment to give a commentary on the rising prices of video cards. The first high-end gaming card I ever owned was the Voodoo card from Diamond Multimedia which retailed for $299 almost 10 years ago. Over the last 10 years, video cards on the high-end have fluctuated in price from the $299 to $499 on the GeForce 2 Ultra, to $599 for the latest 8800 GTX. The trend of price increases has culminated in the 8800 Ultra, which costs twice as much as the 8800 GTS 640MB or the competition from AMD, the HD 2900XT. We'll have to see how performance of a single 8800 Ultra compares to two 8800 GTS 640MB cards or two HD 2900XT cards in Crossfire mode on a later review.