AMD Faces Nvidia With Dual Chip Plan

Nvidia and AMD today each launched two graphics chips for the PC market — but the two companies are pursuing divergent strategies. Both share a recent focus on high-end graphics, which underlines how important visual computing has become; but the different approaches taken by each firm may cost Nvidia market share if its monolithic high-end chips can’t deliver the graphic punch to compete with a multi-GPU strategy embraced by AMD and Intel.

Nvidia launched its GTX 280 and GTX 260 chips, which are larger multi-core processors on a single chip. AMD on the other hand, has taken a bottoms-up approach with smaller, multi-core chips that can be harnessed to a second graphics processing chip on a board to deliver higher-level performance. Lower-end PCs can rely on one AMD processor and those needing more power can turn to two AMD chips or Nvidia’s single, high-power chip.

The real question is how the graphics will look on the screen. And, as in most chip releases, the proof will be a while in coming. Nvidia already has HP signed up to use its new chip in a new Voodoo desktop especially for gaming. That makes sense. Nividia’s chip will rock the high-end application, while AMD’s is designed to provide compelling imagery for cheaper, power-efficient PCs and laptops at a large scale. The real battle will be whether AMD’s dual-chip strategy takes business away from Nvidia for specialty graphics computers and high-performance technical computing. If that occurs, Nvidia will have to be on guard: Intel’s planning to follow the same dual-chip path with its Larrabee GPUs.