Hercules drops NVidia for ATI chips

Hercules Technologies has stopped using chips from NVidia Corp. on its graphics boards, announcing last week that it will use chips from ATI Technologies Inc. instead.

Hercules' graphics boards are sold by Amazon.com Inc. and Best Buy Co., as well as on its own Web site. The partnership announced with ATI last week means that Hercules will no longer offer boards using chips from NVidia, Hercules spokeswoman Tali Fischer confirmed.

"We're not going to be using NVidia chips anymore," Fischer said. "ATI will represent the higher end of gaming cards," she said.

Hercules decided to switch to ATI because the company's chips offer higher quality graphics, according to Fischer. However, one analyst said Hercules may merely be trying to distinguish itself in a market that is crowded with graphics boards based on NVidia chips.

"There are a lot of companies that sell NVidia graphics chips on their cards now," said Peter N. Glaskowski, senior analyst with MicroDesign Resources. "Also, ATI chips may be a little less expensive for comparable performance."

NVidia did not return repeated calls seeking comment.

ATI makes high-end graphics chips used in PCs as well as in Nintendo Ltd.'s Gamecube. At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week, the company announced that it would also begin making graphics chips for PDAs (personal digital assistants).

NVidia, meanwhile, recently was awarded a high-profile contract to use its chips in Microsoft Corp.'s XBox video game console.

PC vendors including Compaq Computer Corp. and Dell Corp. offer both NVidia and ATI-based graphics in PCs, while eMachines Inc. uses ATI-based graphics in all of its PCs. Apple Computer Inc., on the other hand, announced only last week that NVidia graphics chips are now standard across its Macintosh line of computers.

Hercules' first new boards following the announcement, based on ATI's All-in-Wonder Radeon 8500DV, will be available in Europe from February, with products to follow in the U.S. in the first half of 2002, Fischer said. The 8500DV is aimed at users who use their PC as the center of their home entertainment center -- it features a stereo TV tuner with 125 channels, support for digital camcorders, DVD video playback and TV-on-demand features, according to the company's Web site.

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Douglas F. Gray

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