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NVIDIA Corp. may be preparing a new GeForce 7-series graphics processors in addition to already launched GeForce 7800 GTX product, as the firm’s unofficial drivers already list a chip code-named G72, which may turn out to be a more affordable GeForce 7 family member.

NVIDIA’s ForceWare 80.40 drivers, which were recently leaked on the Internet and are available at 3DChipset web-site, list G72 and NV48 graphics processing units, which were not yet released, among all the graphics chips the driver is capable of support. The driver also supports yet unreleased, but already somewhat known – GeForce 6600 LE, nForce4 C51 IGP, G70GL and Quadro FX 4500 – products.

It is unclear for which markets the code-named G72 and NV48 products are positioned for, but is likely that the former belongs to the GeForce 7 family, whereas the latter probably belongs to the GeForce 6-series.

Usually NVIDIA designs three chips for one product lineup aiming at entry-level, mainstream and high-end markets. But with the last generation GeForce 6 lineup NVIDIA designed five chips: GeForce 6200 (NV44), GeForce 6600 (NV43), GeForce 6800 (NV40, NV41 and NV42) as well as GeForce 6800 GT/Ultra (NV40). The NV41 and NV42 processors were designed for performance-mainstream markets: they both feature 12 pixel and 5 vertex pipelines, whereas NV40 chip sports 16 pixel and 6 vertex processors.

NVIDIA GeForce 7800 GTX graphics chip features 24 pixel pipelines, 8 vertex pipelines and consists of more than 300 million transistors. By contrast, its top-end predecessor – GeForce 6800 Ultra – consisted of 220 million of transistors and had 16 pixel and 6 vertex processors. NVIDIA said its new graphics chip is aggressively more efficient than the previous-generation product, which was proved by X-bit labs’ measurements: by having more transistors and 30MHz higher clock-speed, the new chip consumes just 3W more than the former top-of-the-range product and delivers up to more than 50% performance improvement in graphics intensive games.

A mainstream version of the GeForce 7 architecture – with 12 or 16 pixel pipelines as well as 5 or 6 vertex processors – may offer performance similar to the current high-end of the GeForce 6 lineup, which may affect sales of graphics cards based on the GeForce 6800-series chips, which is something that is unlikely to make graphics cards makers, who already have appropriate chips in stock, happy.

NVIDIA Corp. typically does not comment on unreleased products.

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