Before AMD bought out ATi in 2006, the company was already riding a wave of bad ideas in the form of the HD2000 series. While techinically capable, the HD2900XT wasn’t as powerful as Nvidia’s flagship at the time, the Geforce 7900GTX and couldn’t keep market interest once reviews of the card popped up in magazines and online sites. AMD’s buyout of the company allowed engineers a chance of doing some good again, and we have the HD3000 series as testament to the way things changed, bringing ATi back into the spotlight with the capable and cheaper HD3870 nearly a year later.
Since then, even with Nvidia’s G80 family taking over once again (and the 8800GT still widely in use today in older machines), AMD/ATi competed on the basis of a better price/performance margin and offered more to consumers who had less cash to spend. Sure, that didn’t stop them from charging top-dollar for cards such as the HD4870x2, but that’s because they simply could. Those of you who still own these cards are going to be chopped out of future driver support, though.
AMD is going to discontinue official driver support for these ageing titans and will completely drop support for the HD4000 series as well, even though they do well enough for modern titles. Starting with Catalyst 12.6, driver support by AMD will only be for graphics cards set over three generations. The company usually only releases a new family each year, so by the time your graphics card is three years old you should be looking at a replacement already, warranty notwithstanding.
However, there will still be legacy support in the form of a special driver package that Windows and Mac users will be able to download that includes driver improvements and bug fixes that have been implemented due to requirements by enterprises who still use the cards daily. Linux users will be out of luck and they’ll have to use open-source options to keep their rigs up to date from now on.
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