AMD on Tuesday announced the availability of its ATI Radeon HD 4800 series graphics processing cards, one model of which the company describes as the world's fastest, and the first to exceed over one teraFLOPS of computing power. The Radeon HD 4800 series video cards utilize 800 stream processing cores and, in the case of the high-end ATI Radeon HD 4870, ultra high bandwidth GDDR5 memory, an industry first.

"The ATI Radeon 4800 series represents a 200 percent performance jump over the ATI Radeon HD 3800 GPU, the biggest generational increase since 2002," says AMD senior vice president and general manager Rick Bergman. "The ATI Radeon 4800 series sets a new industry standard in key metrics such as performance-per-watt, performance-per-mm2 of chip die size, and performance-per-dollar."

Geeky tech specs aside, the Radeon 4800 series GPUs appear to deliver: According to various benchmark tests, they outperform rival NVIDIA's fastest cards, at least for now. The timing and success of this release is of particular importance to AMD. The company has been faltering of late and recently demoted its former CEO, Hector Ruiz, who remained with AMD as chairman. With its core CPU business faltering in the face of withering competition from market leader Intel, AMD's graphics card business--picked up when it acquired ATI--is becoming much more relevant.

Meanwhile, NVIDIA has had problems of its own, and recently reported its first quarterly loss in over five years. NVIDIA admits it "underestimated" the price and performance of AMD's Radeon HD 4800 series GPUs in a recent conference call with analysts. And a recent line of chips aimed at the laptop market are also failing at an alarming rate. NVIDIA says the failures are due to packaging, not technical, issues.

Two Radeon HD 4800 series GPUs are currently available. The ATI Radeon HD 4850 retails for about $200 in the US and delivers 1 teraFLOP of computing power and 512 MB of 2 Gbps GDDR3 memory. The ATI Radeon HD 4870 retails for about $300 and provides 1.2 teraFLOPs of computing power and 512 MB of 3.6 Gbps GDDR5 memory.