Thunderbolt logo

Building the next consoles: graphics cards

Graphics cards ‘do what they say on the tin’ – they’re a card inside the computer which handles the graphics. They process visual data and output it to your TV or monitor so you can see it. Like processors, they vary in performance and this can determine how good the graphics are. Having the superior graphics card will give one of the console manufacturers a major advantage.

Let’s remind ourselves of what’s already around. The Gamecube uses a chip designed by ATI (who make Radeon chips) and Nintendo, the Xbox uses a modified GeForce 3 from nVidia and Sony developed their own for the PS2. These collaborations are likely to continue onto the next line of machines.

Nintendo will probably use an iteration of ATI’s Radeon card, the current PC market leader, Microsoft are likely to use a GeForce 4 or a GeForce FX from nVidia and Sony may just program their immensely powerful ‘Cell’ chip to do the graphics as well as everything else. While the other chipsets might not have the massive calculation power of Sony’s cell chip, the PC-derived chips would be far easier for developers to get to gripes with at start.

What is certain is that the graphics on the next set of consoles will be outstanding; crisp and full of detail. For developers, the sky’s the limit.

The author of this fine article

is the Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in November 2000. Get in touch on Twitter @PhilipMorton.

Gentle persuasion

You should check out our podcast.