Now that we have examined each vendor’s approach to this standard in detail, we are left searching for the best choice for the average consumer. Unfortunately, each vendor has grounds to make a convincing argument for their approach which makes picking an ultimate winner nearly impossible. That is, at least until we have access to these cards to test them in action and see whether these vendors’ claims are true.
Taking a few steps back and looking at the big picture, we realize that neither vendor disputes the benefits nor potential performance increases PCI-Express brings to the industry. Rather, the main point of issue here seems to be when these appreciable performance increases will become evident. As it stands, the only application which we currently know of which will have any noticeable and immediate performance enhancements from PCI-Express is HDTV editing. Although this is definitely a legitimate application and an area which will surely be capturing more interest over the next few years, this is hardly a mainstream area of focus. What our audience wants to know is, ‘will framerates for the latest and greatest games be contingent upon having a native PCI-Express card?’ Like all things in life, there is no simple answer as the real answer is dictated by your upgrade plans and time of reference.
At this time, those looking to upgrade their entire system are the only ones who have the liberty of selecting any graphics card they want. Even in this scenario, we have no convincing argument to recommend a native PCI-Express solution over an HSI-solution for the upcoming generation of graphics cards. Granted, this scenario will change over time as mainstream applications begin taking advantage of the potential of PCI-Express. However, we must realize that even once NVIDIA joins ATI with a native PCI-Express solution the benefits in gaming and mainstream applications will likely not be seen for quite some time. Until then, it will become a marketing tool to sell more cards and hype new products. In essence, you’re buying a new convertible in start of winter. You’ll be driving around with the top up for months until you get the chance to really use it. And once summer does come, there is a chance that a newer model of that convertible would have come out and will be faster and more appealing.
With all this in mind, we must realize that the comments and perspectives illustrated within this article are a result of the information we have been provided by each vendor. Since no physical hardware has been made available for testing, these views must be categorized as speculation until we can verify the claims for each vendor’s architecture. Once reference samples are available, we will post a follow-up article outlining the performance results from each design in an effort to provide you with the final piece of the perspective you’re looking for.