My head's all in a whirl, the graphics market is changing afore my very eyes.

In the final days of the big DX9 cards, all the competition between the red and green camps was about the high-end.

It was assumed that if a company bags the high-performance crown, then that would have a trickle-down effect on the rest of its range, urging punters to hurl their cash behind the top team in the low and mid-range sectors too. Now, with NVIDIA having the top end sewn up that's it, right?

Well no actually. AMD has conceded the top end to its green rivals, but is now concentrating
its might on getting things right in the budget-range, arguably where the most GPUs are shipped.

NVIDIA's gone for the typical monolithic approach, creating a massive, massively powerful chip that eventually, after undergoing more efficient (hence cheaper) manufacturing revisions will filter down to the lower tiers after time.

AMD though has changed tack, and thrown its lot behind the scalable approach of smaller, more efficient chips from the off with the eventual notion of bolting them together to create their own multi-GPU high-end boards.

You can get an awful lot for your money these days, but AMD's new card quite happily walks over them all.

Competitive performer

While it may not have the punch of NVIDIA's reasonably priced GTX260, even in Crossfire, it's still not lagging that far behind until you hit the 30" panel resolutions.

It does though manage to hold its own comfortably against the 9800GTX, a card that NVIDIA has thrown up against the HD4850 in terms of price by slashing nearly £100 from the original RRP.

Soon we'll see the 9800GTX+, the green team's first 55nm GPU, coming slap-bang in between the 4850 and 4870 price-wise.

The HD4850 also outperforms the last budget wünder-kard, the 8800GT, especially in the anti-aliasing department. At 2560x1600 it actually just beat the 9800GX2 in World in Conflict's highest graphics mode with 4x AA.

AMD hit the big time

So, now AMD finally has a competitive card:, it may be at the lower end of the market, but it's also the fatter end.

At the very top, money-no-object sphere, it's all about the GTX280; at the high-performance mid-sector there's the GTX260; and ruling the roost on the budget, price/performance side may we introduce to you the HD4850. It's about time, AMD.