You may remember that about a year ago NVIDIA Corporation suffered the greatest fiasco in its history. The company’s new NV30 graphics processor had been supposed to shatter ATI Technologies that was dominating the DirectX 9-compatibles field, but couldn’t eventually do that. The new architecture developed in NVIDIA’s labs went far beyond the requirements of the DirectX 9 standard, but was clumsy with its huge number of transistors. Its first embodiment, the GeForce FX 5800 Ultra, was a failure. The peculiarities of the GPU architecture together with the introduction of high-speed GDDR2 memory across the narrow 128-bit memory bus made the newcomer from NVIDIA even slower than ATI’s RADEON 9700 PRO in real applications.
NVIDIA corrected the mistake quickly by releasing an improved version, the NV35, a much more viable solution. Anyway, the NV30 left a gloomy impression: the company stopped producing such chips after issuing just a few tens of thousands of them and removed all mentions of the NV30 from their website.
A year passed and NVIDIA released a few successful products, replacing the NV35 with the NV38 core. Besides that, they abandoned the Detonator driver, having switched to the ForceWare suite with its special shader-code compiler introduced for higher performance in modern 3D games. Anyway, graphics cards on chips from ATI Technologies like RADEON 9800 PRO and RADEON 9800 XT have remained the best choice for a PC enthusiast.
Of course, NVIDIA never gave up plans to take revenge on ATI. You certainly heard rumors about the NV40 core long before its actual implementation in silicon. They were talking about 16 rendering pipelines, pixel and vertex shaders version 3.0 support and various other innovations. The rumors were wide-reaching. Some well-informed sources stated that the new chip would work with GDDR3 memory clocked at 1600MHz, while the GPU clock rate would be up to 600MHz...
This situation resembles the one we had about a year ago: the upcoming product from NVIDIA looks impressive in preliminary specifications, rumors and press releases. NV30 also looked that impressive in its time. There’s again much talk about an imminent revolution in the 3D desktop graphics, just like in 2003.
This time, however, NVIDIA is more reserved in its promises. The company also decided to discard the suffix “FX” in the names of the upcoming products – they will be called just GeForce 6800 Ultra and GeForce 6800. I wonder if it is some kind of superstition and they don’t want the NV40 to repeat the fate of the NT30 (which had that “FX” suffix). On the other hand, they may just want to distinguish the new product series from the older one or change the brand completely.
Now, the time of rumoring is over, the new wonder chip from NVIDIA saw the light of day officially and we can talk about it having both official specs and the graphics card on our hands!