The frustration has been building at ATI for years now; every GPU they’ve released and every inch of progress they’ve made has been spoiled by NVIDIA. One month after the Radeon first launched, updated Detonator3 drivers gave the GeForce2 GTS the performance boost necessary to outperform the Radeon. And who could forget the release of NVIDIA’s Detonator4 drivers, strategically circulated right before the preview release of ATI’s Radeon 8500 that completely tilted the performance in NVIDIA’s favor.

Every single time we would talk to ATI, they would always tell us that the next time things would be different, that the next time they will beat NVIDIA and as you all know, that next time never seemed to happen.

With the GeForce4 release, NVIDIA extended their lead by a very healthy margin. ATI’s flagship Radeon 8500 could barely keep up with NVIDIA’s entry-level $200 Ti 4200, not to mention the beating that the top of the line Ti 4600 delivered.

When ATI started talking about R300 and hinted that it would be significantly faster than anything NVIDIA had up their sleeves, we were understandably skeptical. The progression from there is best summed up by what our own Matthew Witheiler had to say about the R300:

“It all started with Carmack's endorsement of the card; that was huge for them. Now it has erupted into something that I didn’t think was possible”

Matthew’s final statement sums up the feelings all of us at AnandTech had about the R300; we were impressed that John Carmack provided such a glowing endorsement of the technology back at Quakecon, but we were floored once we actually saw working silicon in action.

As you’re about to see, ATI has finally released a GPU that is not only the unequivocal performance leader but also the first to market with the DirectX 9 features that NVIDIA will not be delivering until November.

Before we dig into the architecture behind the R300 we need to get something out in the open: the Radeon 9700, the first R300 based card from ATI, will be in stores no later than 30-days from now. The card retails for a MSRP of $399 and with all that ATI has been able to show us that far, we have no reason not to believe them on this.

It’s time to crown a new king, let’s have a look at the head we’re placing it on today.

The Chip behind the Name

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