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AOpen, a mainboard and graphics cards maker, this week is showcasing its NVIDIA NV45-based graphics cards in retail stores in Tokyo, Japan, possibly indicating short release of the product.

AOpen Shows Off Retail NV45 Graphics Card

Akiba PC Hotline published some pictures of AOpen GeForce 6800 Ultra graphics card with PCI Express x16 interface with NV45 mark, confirming that despite of the code-name change, the micro-architecture of the graphics engine remained the same compared to the NV40 graphics processing unit.

Typically NVIDIA supplies its add-in card partners reference graphics cards made at a special order without any differences or brand-names in an attempt to deliver the technology to the market as soon as possible. Manufacturers of graphics cards only manage to initiate the mass production after some time from the announcement by the GPU developer, as a consequence, only the second batch of graphics cards gets some producer-unique capabilities, such as advanced coolers or hardware monitoring.

AOpen’s GeForce 6800 Ultra looks like a reference design, but with AOpen’s sticker on it, which may mean that NVIDIA is likely to roll-out the GeForce 6800 Ultra with PCI Express x16 interface shortly from now.

NVIDIA NV45 – NV40 with PCI Express?

The new graphics processor code-named NV45 will continue the competitive race between NVIDIA Corp. and its arch-rival ATI Technologies, who unveiled a lineup of PCI Express x16-supporting graphics processors recently. While typically NVIDIA’s products which code-names end with 5 (e.g., NV15, NV25, etc) have something different from the original series of chips which code-names end with 0 (e.g., NV10, NV20, etc), the NV45 processor is not likely to bring anything extra compared to the NV40 graphics processing unit unveiled in mid-April.

The revamped NV45 will differ from the product known as GeForce 6800 Ultra with a special HSI chip placed on the substrate near the graphics processor. This effectively means that the NV45 is still an AGP chip, but since it will be supplied already equipped with the HSI bridge, it will be compatible with PCI Express x16 applications. Earlier NVIDIA GeForce PCX product-line intended for PCI Express computers had the bridge chip placed onto the PCB of the graphics card, not directly on the substrate of the graphics processor.

It is not clear whether the graphics processor code-named NV45 will have any architectural changes versus the presently shipping GeForce 6800-series chips.

The NVIDIA GeForce 6800-series of chips unveiled in mid-April are the company’s flagship products in the GeForce 6-series of graphics processors. The GeForce 6-series of graphics processors will be eventually available across entry-level, mainstream, performance-mainstream, high-end as well as so-called ultra high-end graphics cards. The new series of NVIDIA’s graphics processors is the company’s second generation lineup of DirectX 9.0-compatible offerings that greatly leverage the feature-set of NVIDIA GeForce FX graphics chips and brings important additional capabilities, such as Shader Model 3.0, as well as great performance improvements over the previous generation hardware.

New Power Connector Required

The new PCI Express graphics cards, including the NVIDIA NV45 and ATI RADEON X800-series will make use of a new type of 12V power connector to pour some extra power for high-performance graphics processors. Initially graphics cards makers plan to supply a special adapter that allows connecting widely-available Molex connectors to the new add-in cards, but eventually new power supply units are likely to provide the new type of connector for graphics cards.

Current high-end graphics cards from NVIDIA – the GeForce 6800 Ultra – have two Molex power connectors, while ATI’s RADEON X800-series products need only one Molex power cord.

Representatives for NVIDIA and AOpen did not comment on the report.

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