Smaller, cheaper, faster, cooler. Just plain better in fact.
New graphics cards, such as the GeForce GTX 200-series and the AMD ATI HD Radeon 4800-series, are all well and good, but not all of us can afford the latest and greatest equipment – okay, we realise the 4850 is actually set to be pretty good value but that’s beside the point. nVidia knows this and is set to launch the 9800 GTX+ post haste, a 55nm die-shrunk version of the 9800 GTX.
The main ‘feature; of the card is its move to a new, smaller manufacturing process. A 55nm die means that the GPU will be cooler, less power hungry and cheaper to make. The latter assumption definitely holds sway as the MSRP on the 9800 GTX+ is down to $229 (~£115) which means that actual UK pricing will probably sit around £130-150 – exactly the same as the 4850 (although a price drop there is possible).
A fringe benefit of this is that all the cards in nVidia’s range below the 9800 GTX+ should also see price reductions and, hopefully, a shift to the 55nm process (incidentally the same one used by AMD since the 3000-series launched). The downside is that anyone who’s bought a 9800 GTX in the last few weeks is going to be decidedly annoyed that a, basically, better but cheaper card has been released with no warning.