There was only two times in NVIDIA’s history when the company started to sell a new and revolutionary graphics processor in Fall. Even though everybody talks about necessity to introduce breakthrough GPUs in Fall to sell bunch of them during Christmas season, NVIDIA did such thing only twice: in 1998, with the launch of the Riva TNT, and in 1999, with the introduction of the GeForce 256. NVIDIA did not release NV20 in Fall 2000, did not unveil NV25 in Fall 2001 and did not commercially launch NV30 in Fall 2002. That is basically why you should not expect massive availability of the NV40 this Fall. Indeed, just like in cases I mentioned, you should expect NVIDIA to offer improved versions of existing products – code-named NV36 and NV38 – for different market segments.
We already reported you about the graphics processor code-named NV36 and branded as the GeForce FX 5700 to substitute the current mainstream and performance-mainstream GeForce FX 5600 aka NV31 (see this news-story for more details) devices. Now it is time to talk about a high-end product that is likely to succeed the GeForce FX 5900-series this Fall.
The lifetime of the whole thing called NV35 will be very short, just a little bit longer compared to its unlucky predecessor, the NV30 aka the GeForce FX 5800. According to NV News, the NV38 will be announced in September, hence, expect mass availability of actual graphics cards in October. The NV38 will obviously have two versions: one is Ultra, another is non-Ultra. Currently there are no precise core and memory frequencies declared for both products, but I suggest that the memory-clock may be as high as roughly 1000MHz for 256-bit memory bus, whereas the core-clock is said to achieve 500-550MHz. The NV38 will outperform both the RADEON 9800 PRO as well as the GeForce FX 5900-series and will compete against ATI’s upcoming R360 VPU.
The micro-architecture of the NV38 will be similar to that of the GeForce FX 5900 with only minor possible improvements in order to slightly boost the performance, push the core-clocks up and maintain acceptable yields, even though NVIDIA is probably targeting to improve the yields of the upcoming product given that Christmas is ahead.
The pricing of the NV38-based products will be similar to the pricing of the predecessor: $499 and $399 for mind-blowing Ultra and head-cutting non-Ultra respectively. However, given that NVIDIA wants to formally launch the NV40 in November, the actual pricing will be lower since no one will acquire the NV38-based graphics card for a large sum if he or she knows that there is another massive performance booster around the corner.
As a result of all the introductions this year, NVIDIA will have three high-end products commercially launched this year and four high-end parts introduced within 12 months since November 2002. This may annoy add-in-board partners of the Santa Clara, California-based company since they do not have enough time to sell well-advertised products with high margins. ATI Technologies commercially launched only one new high-end product – RADEON 9800 PRO – this year and another one – the code-named R350 – is going to appear this August or September. On the other hand, the Markham, Ontario-based graphics firm also intends to introduce its next-generation R420 VPU in November at Comdex, what is also likely to impact sales of the R360 with higher margin.