Following the release of the GeForce 8800 graphics processing unit (GPU), the world’s first and yet the only DirectX 10-compatible graphics chip, Nvidia Corp. said it would unveil nine more GeForce 8 architecture-based graphics processors eventually.
“G80 is just the first of the G8x family. And there are many other G8x families, probably nine others. We’re going to… all the numbers in between. So, the [GeForce 8800] GPU is designed to be scalable in architecture. And our engineers are very, very rapidly and very hard at work in building all kinds of products derived from the G8x family,” said Jen Hsen Huang, Nvidia’s chief executive officer, during a conference call with analysts.
Mr. Huang did not unveil peculiarities or specifications of the forthcoming chips, however, the company’s chief financial officer Marvin Burkett said that in a year from then [mid-November, 2006] above 50% of Nvidia’s desktop product mix would be the GeForce 8-series products.
Typically graphics processors developers design one or two chips to serve the high-end market, one or two products for mainstream graphics cards and another one for the entry-level graphics boards. However, the actual number of product versions on the market is usually much higher compared to the amount of chip models.
The example of the Radeon X1000 family demonstrates that a company may create about eight chips a year just to power desktop product families (Radeon X1800 XL/XT/GTO– R520, Radeon X1900 GT/XT/XTX – R580, Radeon X1950 XT/XTX– R580, Radeon X1950 Pro – RV570, Radeon X1650 XT – RV560, Radeon X1600 Plain/Pro/XT – RV530, Radeon X1300 – RV515/RV516/RV505). Usually graphics chip designers refer to mobile flavours of a chip as to a separate ASIC (application-specific integrated circuit).
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, 128 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.
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.