GPGPU and PhysX
New Nvidia graphics core supports dual-precision floating-point operations and hence can be used for scientific, technical and financial calculations that require precision like that. The fact that G200 fully complies with IEEE 754 standard is definitely a plus, although ATI solutions boast this same feature since RV670. The method used in G200 to implement calculations in FP64 format may also pose some problems. As we have already pointed out above, each of the new chip’s shader processors received an additional computational unit, so that there appeared a total of 30 units like that. Their peak performance is only 90Gflops while by ATI RV770 this parameter is almost 2.5 times higher at lower levels of power consumption and heat dissipation. This certainly makes it hard to imagine that dual-processor cards on Nvidia G200 will ever make it to the market.
However, there are very few applications for GPGPU for the end-users: the only task is probably video transcoding that becomes more popular with the spreading of HD formats. This is where the computational capacity of contemporary graphics processors can really do a lot of good.
Making special processors responsible for physical model calculations has been on agenda for a long time and Ageia certainly was a pioneer here. They designed a special chip and released the world’s first add-on physics accelerator called PhysX. This new card didn’t because a serious success because it provided no qualitative breakthrough. Besides, the game developers didn’t hurry to support it. Later on Nvidia acquired Ageia and everyone forgot about hardware physics acceleration for a while. Especially, since in 2007 Intel acquired the developer of another popular physics engine aka Havok, because they cared a lot about promoting their CPUs and not that much about transferring physics calculations to GPU.
Nevertheless, Ageia’s efforts didn’t go wasted: with the launch of G200 Nvidia finally implemented fully-fledged physical model acceleration in the GPU. Moreover, it appeared not only in the new graphics cards, but also in the already existing GeForce 8/9 families. In fact, nothing can prevent hardware PhysX acceleration from working perfectly fine on ATI graphics solutions and all limitations are pure marketing, which a team of computer enthusiasts from NGOHQ.com have recently demonstrated to us.
We can only hope that Nvidia and AMD will not impose any strict bans, but on the contrary will support the use of graphics chips for physics calculations. Everything will benefit from that, that’s for sure.
Now time has come for us to take a closer look at the first graphics accelerators from the new family. We obtained Nvidia GeForce GTX 280 and GeForce GTX 260 from Gainward and Leadtek, so we have to check out their packaging and accessories bundles separately.