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Graphics chip designer Nvidia Corp. last week has released the world’s first and currently only graphics processing unit (GPU) compatible with the DirectX 10 application programming interface that is a part of Windows Vista operating system (OS). The new chip not only offers next-generation shader model 4.0 feature-set, but also provides significantly increased performance.

“There is no better way to experience Windows Vista, DirectX 10, HD-DVD, and Blu-ray than with a PC powered by GeForce 8800 and nForce 680i SLI. Our announcement today is the culmination of four years of research and development and represents the biggest technological leap we have ever made. Gamers are going to be blown away,” said Nvidia’s chief executive officer Jen Hsun Huang.

Produced using 90nm process technology, Nvidia’s GeForce 8800-series graphics chip features 681 million transistors, an unprecedented number to date. Going away from traditional pixel shader and vertex shader processors, Nvidia introduced the so-called unified shader architecture, where an array of up to 128 arithmetic logic units – which Nvidia calls as stream processors – can be assigned for either vertex, geometry or pixel shaders.

In order to further boost performance in various graphics applications, Nvidia has widened memory interface of the new chip to 320-bit and 384-bit from 256-bit on previous-generation products.

Currently Nvidia’s add-in-card partners sell GeForce 8800 GTX 768MB (575MHz clock-speed, 128 stream processors at 1350MHz , 32 texture mapping units, 24 raster operation units, 384-bit memory bus) and GeForce 8800 GTS 640MB (500MHz clock-speed, 96 stream processors at 1200MHz , 24 texture mapping units, 20 raster operation units, 320-bit memory bus) graphics cards for $599 and $449 recommended price-points.

“NVIDIA has placed the industry's first DirectX 10 graphics processors into the hands of the world's leading game developers, representing a significant milestone in the DirectX 10 game development cycle,” said Peter Moore, corporate vice president, interactive entertainment business, entertainment and devices division at Microsoft. “The GeForce 8 series, combined with the unparalleled graphical capabilities of DirectX 10 and Windows Vista – built from the ground up for games – will give game developers a virtually unlimited platform for realizing their gaming vision.”

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