While most people keep their eyes fixed on the exciting upper end of the graphics card development, the war which has been raging in the mid-range has been no less intense. Many users really can't justify the $500+ price tags which come affixed to the attractive high-end gear, so they look for a compromise unit - something which balances cost against performance.
The main chipset contenders in recent months have been ATI's Radeon X700 and nVidia's GeForce 6600. Cards based on these technologies have demonstrated the best bang-for-buck compared against their entry-level and kick-ass cousins.
The most interesting thing we've witnessed is that as the X700 and the GeForce 6600 are so close in terms of capabilities, the real battle has shifted to the card manufacturers. Who can pack the most onto the card? Who can put together the most attractive bundle? Who can come up with dynamic cooling and heat dissipation, and who can implement it the best?
The core chipsets have pretty well been maxxed out - no-one really believes that an X700 with 256MB RAM is worth the substantially higher price tag, and people have learned not to expect too much from their in-game performance. If you want impressive benchmarks, look to the high-end. So, manufacturers aren't concentrating on these aspects, and as a result these mid-range cards have become very buyer-focussed. Include good supporting technology and pack in enough into the bundle, and the product does well.
HIS have learnt this lesson well, so read on and we'll see how they've applied these truisms to their mid-range offering for AGP-based systems, the X700 IceQ 128MB AGP.