Nvidia’s new GeForce GTX 280 graphics cards can be used in tandem, yielding boatloads of massively parallel computing power.

The PC industry’s two largest graphics companies released new top-of-the-line models this week. The new graphics processors will bring not just better videogame performance, but will also turn ordinary desktop PCs into the equivalent of supercomputers – if programmers can figure out how to take advantage of the chips’ massively parallel architectures.

“We’re talking about every man, woman and child basically having a supercomputer on their desk,” says Jon Peddie, a graphics-industry veteran and president of Jon Peddie Research.

AMD, which acquired graphics maker ATI in 2006, released two new chips, the Radeon HD 4850 and the Radeon HD 4870. Nvidia, the other dominant player in the space, unveiled its new GeForce GTX 260 and GeForce GTX 280 processors.