During this time when nVidia is having a hard time coming out with anything supporting DirectX 11, and major problems with its top performers, it might be wise to ask why it is that AMD/ATi seems to be catering to the sub-$100 market, and in particular, they seem to cover every $10 increment from $50 to $100.

While it’s certain that Average Joe is not going to spend $500+ for the best offered, it would seem that he is not so tightly regulated that there need be a problem that requires $10 increments. If he is, perhaps a bit more saving and scrimping would do the trick.

The ten dollar increments would seem to favor the large system builder, yet we know that they all favor using built in graphics, and putting the graphics card money in the corporate pockets. If this move is designed to make them jump to a discrete solution, there must still be a reason to jump from one level to the next. Something clear, such as “plays Far Cry at 1680×1050” versus “plays Far Cry at 1440×900”. Other markers, such as small differences in some nebulous benchmark will not give the buyer a clear signal of the benefits of the better card.

Right now, with the overlap from the last generation from ATi, the choices are pretty full in the target price range. Today, on Newegg, there are 67 choices for ATi chipped cards in the price range. These include the 4350, 4550, 4650, 4670, 4770, 4830, 4850, 5450, 5570, 5670, and 2600XT, 3450, 3650, 3850 from three generations back. While the choice of coolers, memory configurations, and warranty are certainly nice for the builder that wants what he wants, and looks for the very best deal on it, for the Average Joe (which is where the market is supposed to be pointed, the fat part of the bell curve) it’s too much choice, with too little differences from one level to the next.

In the last week, we have articles from AnandTech on the 5570, Tom’s Hardware on the 5450, more mentions of ATi cards in a round up here, including 4670, 4850, 5450, 5570, & 5670, and yet another review of the 5570, hot on the heels of the 5450 the week before. Some manufacturers are devoting major effort to a single chip, delivering several cards using the same chip, but differing memory and cooling.

It is as if the graphics companies have decided that the $50 – $100 price point is the sweet spot, and they want to get as many people hooked on discrete graphics as possible before Intel and AMD put the wipeout to most of the market with Fusion offerings.

Will it work? The average reader here probably has a discrete graphics card, and remains unconvinced by the early efforts of Intel on a combo CPU/GPU. The Average Joe of the greater world thinks that if graphics isn’t fast enough, it can be taken care of with more CPU horsepower. It is going to take some re-education to achieve this, and will probably run counter to the ad campaign that is on an Intel drawing board right this second.

In this price range, I’d go with the XFX 4770, 512 MB memory, and the AMD reference cooler.


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