NVIDIA Launches New Graphics Family

NVIDIA said its graphics chips might not have the
power to recreate the quality of HDTV or a Hollywood movie just yet, but they are getting closer all the time.

The Santa Clara-based graphics chip maker Tuesday took the wraps off of its
next generation GeForce 6800 models of graphics processing units or GPU
.


The chip family was introduced at a launch event in San
Francisco with a flagship GeForce 6800 Ultra ($499) and less powerful
GeForce 6800 ($299). Both are designed for high-performance desktop
computers such as an enterprise workstation or something that a hardcore
gaming enthusiast might have.

The chips are manufactured using IBM’s 0.13-micron process technology and
are currently shipping to leading add-in-card partners, OEMs, system
builders, and game developers.


The company said retail graphics boards based
on the new chips should start showing up as separate components in the next
45-days. Already, HP, NEC and Gateway have
pledged support for the GPU in their high-end systems.

NVIDIA, which regularly jousts with Markham, Ontario-based ATI for leadership in the GPU marketplace, is in need of a boost.
In addition to their usual battles for desktop and notebook platforms,
workstation, set-top boxes and digital televisions, the rivals also compete
in the gaming console marketplace.


Recently, ATI inked a deal with Microsoft , supplanting
NVIDIA as the graphics chipmaker that powers the Microsoft’s Xbox. Production delays have hindered sales of NVIDIA’s GeForce 5800 series of chips.

Calling it the “biggest generation-to-generation performance leap” in
company history, NVIDIA said the GeForce 6800 series includes a 16-pipe
architecture that delivers more than twice that of current NVIDIA GPUs.


New
features include GDDR3 memory, compatibility with the new Pixel Shader 3.0
programming model, Microsoft DirectX 9.0 Shader Model 3.0 features set and
an on-chip video processing engine, which allows for high-definition video
and DVD playback.

“For every pixel you see on the screen, we can throw in 8 operations at a
60th of a second so that it is smooth like a movie on a screen,” Derek
Perez NVIDIA director of product communications told
internetnews.com. “We’ve got a ways to go to replicate what can be
done in the movies like the shading in “A Bug’s Life” or “Monster’s
INC.” Where we are close is in emulating HDTV in terms of video
processing.”

The chips each come with 222 million transistors, which Perez said is
like having the power of three Pentium 4s processing the same problem. The
new GeForce chips also have support for OpenEXR, which is an open standard
for filtering in graphics as well as support for MPEG encode and decode, as
well as support for Windows Media Video 9, The GPU’s loops and
branches are also programmable and are able to write video code to the chip.

The company also updated its ForceWare software to give developers a
running start to develop for the GeForce 6800. The software features custom
game profiles, HDTV output, overclocking, and multi-display support.

The company has also adopted a new icon to help market the chips.
Replacing the “Dawn” and “Dusk” fairies is a scantily clothed mermaid named
“Nalu” whose hair underwater consists of some 300 million polygons.

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