Part 4: NVIDIA Editor's Day 28.02.2006
Arrival to Santa Clara
A smiling well-groomed Mexican-looking driver with the nameplate "Vorobiev, iXBT.com", half empty dark nocturnal airport in San-Francisco, warm Californian rain and shiny black limousine - that's how ended my twenty-hour flight from Moscow to San-Francisco.
Most of the trip was already over, but I still had to get to Santa Clara -
my destination point, where to attend NVIDIA Editor's Day, which gathers
representatives of the leading IT publishing houses so that they could
hear about new products from the giant graphics chipmaker.
A short drive in a comfortable limousine on an empty highway in the dead of the night glided past. The polite driver periodically queried about the situation in Russia, how we live through cold winters, and why make such a long voyage to the homeland of indians. He found out that Communism was discontinued 15 years ago and that Moscow was much more modern in some respects than San-Francisco, to say nothing of San Jose or Santa Clara.
As we were engaged in conversation, the car inconspicuously branched off and
obediently stopped at the red light. None of other cars around, profound
silence, and only a powerful V-shaped engine was rumbling under the
Lincoln bonnet. The night landscape was relatively dull. No habitual
abundant Moscow illumination, low houses - almost all of them offices.
If I hadn't been warned that the event would take place in Santa Clara,
I would have taken this town for San Jose, which also houses offices
of many IT companies. However, it turned out that Santa Clara is a
suburb of San Jose. So the similarity of these two towns is not accidental.
Several more turns and I saw a brightly illuminated Mariott sign,
where all guests of the Editors Day were lodged.
The morning sun lit a quiet scenery that could be seen out of the
window in my room.
In fact, Santa Clara is a quiet town. Quiet traffic, quiet people,
who almost always drive instead of walking. A few quiet taverns. Cameras
at each cross-roads to play a wet blanket on fast drivers.
I couldn't believe that this town had a decent theme park "Great
Encyclopaedias provide scarce information on Santa Clara. As a rule, you will find something like this:
Indeed, I have nothing to add. Perhaps, that's how a town in the Silicon Valley
should look like. It's a very clean and neat town.
By the way, ATI Technologies office was situated right opposite the hotel :-). So competitors are close by even in NVIDIA's fief.
The event itself took up almost the entire next day. We had to breakfast in
a presentation hall. Everybody signed NDA in the hotel hall before
Everybody knew the primary reason for editors from all over the world to gather here - of course, to learn everything about the new graphics chips GeForce 7900GTX, 7900GT and 7600GT. We'll speak about them a tad later. There were other interesting reports.
I'd like to start with Quad SLI - a cherished dream of any gamer: four 7800GTX
or 7900GTX cards in a single system.
Tony Tamasivice-president of technical marketing department narrated about advantages and prospects of the new project.
A question from the audience: What's the target audience of a Quad SLI system?
A question from the audience: What will be the price for Quad SLI with 7900GTX cards?
A question from the audience: Why only three vendors?
A question from the audience: Does NVIDIA cooperate with PSU manufacturers in this respect?
Bill Henrydirector of mobile products management for NVIDIA told us about new NVIDIA solutions for the notebook market.
Now mobile users will be also able to take advantage of the SLI power. For 7800GTX chips only so far. But no doubts, there will soon appear a faster modification, based on its desktop counterpart.
Nevertheless, a 20" display and SLI, based on GeForce 7800GTX, will
allow to get maximum performance in games on notebooks, which is illustrated
on the next slide:
A large part of his presentation was devoted to the new operating
system Microsoft VISTA, which is the first OS requiring a powerful
GPU to reveal its full potential.
There are different attitudes towards this system. Some people are
rightfully indignant. They point out that most office computers, usually
equipped with integrated video (by the way, Intel video, as a rule)
will not be supported by the new OS.
They see it as a fix-up of GPU manufacturers and Microsoft, who
try to raise sales of modern discrete solutions with the help of the
software giant. Others think that the new OS is a revolutional step
forward. Anyway, NVIDIA is developing a new control panel for MS VISTA.
Next month we shall see a preview of drivers with a new panel. NVIDIA
announces future compatibility with the new OS of its 6- and 7-series
chips as well as 6-series cards with TurboCache.
But let's proceed to the most important part. New chips GeForce 7900 and 7600.
We were given a lot of interesting information. Part I of our article contains some tidbits from this presentation.
It was conducted by Toni Tamasi and Rob Chomber.
Of course, there were some foul words uttered about the competitor
:). We were given a lot of comparison graphs:
Sometimes, games and modes were selected to demonstrate maximum advantage of these cards, but there were also fair comparisons (we compared them with our own results).
Here we can see combinations of chip features with their dimensions. Pay attention to the number of ALUs, being the same in the X1900 XTX and 7900 GTX. How come? We already spoke about approaches to the notion of a pixel pipeline or processor. We have already read articles that the X1900 XTX has 16 pixel pipelines instead of 48 (in the strict sense of the word), but each of them is equipped with three ALUs, so there are still 48 shader operations.
I want to note here that the notion of a pixel pipeline hasn't existed for
a long time already, it got eroded. Pixel output depends on a number
of ROPs. Their number is the same in R580 and G71 - 16. The only difference
is in the number of pixel shader units, which help output a pixel
for fewer cycles. R580 got 48 of them. And G71 has got 24. Strictly
speaking, both have 16 pipelines. How many ALUs are there in each
unit? Everybody says that 2. How can we check it up? 16 units with
three ALUs or 48 units with one ALU, or the R580 has 96 ALUs. There
is a fine point here: to check it up, we need special tests without
texturing to eliminate operation of texture units, which are evidently
in the minority. There are no such tests so far. We shall analyze
this issue in future.
Chip efficiency per unit of die surface was illustrated well by
the example of F.E.A.R.
But ATI CrossFire was subjected to the most severe criticism from
NVIDIA. We were shown a slide with a very long list of games, which
supported SLI. But a lion's share of them was allegedly not supported
Of course, that's not an issue to take a word for it. Firstly, NVIDIA employees, who compiled this table, do not work in ATI and cannot possibly know everything, that is possess complete information on what games are actually supported by CrossFire. Secondly, this information was based on some CATALYST version. As is well known, drivers can be updated - ATI does it each month. That's why this list could be outdated by the time of this presentation. Of course, CrossFire does not have an impressive list of supported games so far, as it was launched later than SLI. But I can assure you that you will be given a contrary situation at an ATI's presentation, that is lots of games supported by CF, that are not supported by SLI. :)
There was a very interesting report on prospects of X-HD video in
games. It's no secret that traditional gaming resolutions are 1024x768,
1280x1024, 1600x1200, dictated by CRT dimensions. And how will a game
look like at 1920x1200?
NVIDIA cooperates with game developers to introduce wide video output, which will give more freedom to gamers. A little is left to do: to introduce such monitors to the masses; only TFT of course, which are quite expensive so far.
But this issue is very interesting and promising. Fortunately, we have added 2048x1536 resolution to our 3Digests and this review of new products. Yep, it's not X-HD, but it's quite large to heavily load an accelerator. If a video card copes with this resolution and offers decent gameplay, it will offer so much the more at 1920õ1200.
President of the company took the floor at the end of the event.
The most interesting part for me personally was Jen-Hsun Huang's answers,
president of NVIDIA. Jen-Hsun produces an impression of a reasonable
man and a master-businessman. Questions were raining down and each
of them was answered by Jen-Hsun. Here are the most interesting ones.
A question from the audience: What's your attitude towards DirectX 10 (DX10)?
A question from the audience: Is the 7900GTX card a maximum what NVIDIA can currently offer? Does NVIDIA have problems with a potential?
A question from the audience: In what sectors shall we see NVIDIA in future years?
A question from the audience: ATI strives to occupy the Middle-End market of video accelerators, where they are currently weak. And NVIDIA is actively trying to occupy the market of high-performance cards. Does it speak of a changed company strategy?
A question from the audience: The current limiting factor is a CPU. Why launch such powerful cards, if processors from AMD and Intel cannot load the latest graphics solutions to the brim.
A question from the audience: How will you develop your partnership with Intel now? You can see now that NVIDIA shows more interest in AMD partnership.
Editors Day was over. I couldn't resist a temptation to have a swim in an
outdoor swimming pool. Fortunately, it was +17 outside - not that
cold for most Russians.
Water activities of one of the hotel guests fascinated the other people and soon there appeared surprised faces in windows. I decided to go to sauna not to shock the locals and visiting natives. Then I returned to my room to have a nap, as I had to start for the airport at four in the morning.
At seven o'clock on Tuesday my plane left San-Francisco and "just" at 11:30 on Thursday I arrived at Sheremetievo 2 and was explaining to a customs officer why I had so many cards and absolutely no other luggage :)
PS: Unfortunately, this material does not allow us to uncover all future NVIDIA products, as many of them will be in "the embargo list" for some time. Read our news!
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