iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






Say Hello To DirectX 10,
Or 128 ALUs in Action:
NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GTX (G80)

Part 4: NVIDIA Editor's Day 18.10.2006

Have you ever flown over the Atlantic ocean with a fellow passenger from the distant city of Honolulu on glorious Hawaiian Islands? No? Oh, you've missed inexpressible impressions! Just imagine: a Hawaiian and his five-year-old son take their seats next to you and immediately start getting on your nerves, already frustrated by early Moscow-Frankfurt flight... It all starts rather innocent and even Russian-like cordial: the man introduces himself, offers various treats, grumbles about the imminent long flight, his son behaves himself so far, he is indifferently watching his dad and the stranger (who speaks the strange version of his native language) talking. For the first two hours you learn everything about the super new mobile handset from Sony Ericsson, recently bought by the proud citizen of Honolulu. You are also acquainted with all ringtones, features of the phone, photos and videos on a gigabyte flash card. Then you are given a brief excursion into the history of previous models owned by the happy possessor of this modern and fashionable Sony Ericsson. It's OK that the plane has been flying for over two hours already, because the phone has a special mode "on board of the plane" to use the device without connecting to the network (rest assured that all fellow passengers, stewardesses, and captain of the Boeing 747 are already informed of this fact). The next two hours are devoted by your Hawaiian friend to his vacation in Sweden, where his friends live. You listen to his stories about what he and his son did there. You are again shown photos on the mobile handset. Besides, the kid is gradually getting involved in your conversation, he is already sick and tired of making knots with safety belts and cutting plastic cups from tomato juice. The funny islander is shocked to learn that 4000 bucks are an average cost of a square meter in a Moscow apartment. He then describes inexpensive and memorable life in a house on Hawaii with genuine pleasure (cannot argue with that.) The islander's son is already yelling for attention, crawling everywhere, even under you seat and on your head. You discover chocolates and sweets in the most unexpected places long after you leave the plane. Attractive air hostesses from Lufthansa compassionately offer you beer, wine, or coffer more and more often. Then you have a choice: you can keep up social chit-chat or try to pretend sleeping as soon as your interlocutor stops for at least one minute. I took another way, which unexpectedly opened to me: I buried myself in Akunin's book (popular historical crime fiction), having informed Chris (what other name a Honolulu resident may have?) that I was reading a history textbook to be read before the return to Moscow.

But anyway, yours truly was gradually overcome by sleep. My internal clock was still set to Moscow time and it told me it was time to go to bed. It turned out that I shouldn't have had to resist my body. Stewardesses would offer drinks more seldom and would try to pass the row with a talkative US citizen as fast as possible.

Can it be that all islanders are that talkative? Living at the end of nowhere, perhaps they have nobody to talk to...

Nevertheless, this test of patience for one's neighbor is a perfect exercise for meeting customs officers. OK, I understand that a person that spends just a tad more time in the USA than the flight time there and back, is suspicious to say the least. But why ask him why three of his previous US visas were multi-entry visas for a year, while the current visa was just a single-entry visa for three months? Even employees of the US Consular Office in Moscow cannot answer this question.

Having explained to thee officers by turns the purpose of my visit, the reason for having no luggage, and having confirmed that I had no intent to settle down in sunny California for good, I could move to the arrival hall. A Lincoln driver was already waiting for me there. I settled comfortably in the car to clear the last run to Santa Clara.

The comfort inside a limousine disposes to sleep. A transatlantic flight is no joke, it's like a time machine: you take off from Russia in the morning, fly 20 hours, and arrive in the USA in the morning of the same day. Seeing the sun and morning bustle, your mind and conscience come into contradiction with your internal Rolex, which informs you that gentlemen should sleep at night.

Dear Santa Clara met me with sun and warm weather, while my thermometer back in Moscow settled for zero long ago. The car came to a gentle stop near Hilton, and the driver helped me take my scarce luggage out.

I'll digress a little from the main line to give some information for travelers. My traveling experience allowed me to evaluate various hotels of different star levels, but Hilton had missed my list for some reason before. It's hard to formulate the reasons, but this name was associated in my mind with heaven-like service and luxurious rooms. In fact, this hotel is no better and no worse than Marriott, Sheraton, and Hayat. A usual well-furnished small room with a coffer maker, a decent bathroom. Fastidious lovers of comfort will be disappointed by the lack of a terry bathrobe, slippers, and Wi-Fi Internet. But it certainly has nothing to do with the inviting side - NVIDIA. The choice of hotels in Santa Clara is not large, and lodging editors in Marriott from year to year seems uncreative.

As usual, the event started early in the morning. All editors were given envelopes with the event schedule and NDA forms to be signed. I got an envelope with a French surname "Vovobiev" :-) However, I was not the only person to be amused at his or her "new" surname. Some people of foresight, like me, hadn't gone to supper last night and stayed in their rooms to sleep after a long flight. It gave them strength to endure all lectures made by NVIDIA representatives, that extended over the entire day. But our Japanese colleagues at the first table fell asleep by mid day, covered with cameras, voice recorders, and notebooks. Only Adam Foat had been bright and cheerful since the very morning, as usual.

Out of doubt, the key object of the event was the new GPU from NVIDIA - G80. Our readers must have already read about it in the first three parts of our article. But don't forget that NVIDIA didn't just present a new video card, it was a whole new platform designed for high performance and scalability.

Such a system includes a high-performance multi-core processor from Intel or AMD, G80-based video card, a motherboard on NVIDIA C55 (nForce6 - 680i or 680a), as well as ultimatistic memory that can operate at high frequencies (at least one vendor is already offering such memory - Corsair).

Drew Henry, general manager of MCP business at NVIDIA, proudly demonstrated the latest motherboards for the new platform. The first motherboard for AMD 4x4 on the 680a chipset was ASUS L1N64-SLI Deluxe.

This motherboard is designed for AMD processors for L1FX socket, DDR2 memory, two PCI-E x16 and two PCI-E x8 slots

According to NVIDIA, future solutions for the AMD 4x4 platform will offer very high performance to meet requirements of the latest games and other 3D applications. Flexibility and scalability of the 680a chipset allows to use a Quad system, when you need maximum performance from your computer.

AMD also has great expectations of this platform. Considering company's plans on launching quad-core processors, a 680a-based solution will give the power of eight cores to a single workstation.

Henry was no less enthusiastic about 680i-based solutions designed for Intel Conroe processors.

NVIDIA and Intel position the new chipset as an optimal solution for new quad-core processors, for the recently announced QX6700 in particular.

NVIDIA expects this platform to become popular among overclockers and enthusiasts. Having chosen components with a high overclocking potential, you can get impressive results. For example, we managed to overclock Intel Core2 Duo E6300 (1.86 GHz) to 3.55 GHz - we did it on the 680i platform with a water cooling system and fast Corsair memory.

A number of questions were asked in the course of the event. We'd like to publish answers to some of them for your information. Some of the questions were answered by Jen-Hsun Huang, NVIDIA CEO.

Q: What power supply unit will be required for such a system with QX6700 or AMD 4x4 and two 8800 cards in SLI mode?
A: Our demo system is equipped with a 1 KWatt PSU (the hall sighs), but it does not mean that you will also need a 1 KWatt power supply unit, your system will be stable even in case of 700-800 Watts.

Q: Will you certify power supply units for G80 video cards in SLI mode?
A: Yes, we already have a number of recommended PSUs for the 8800.

Q: Do you connive at overclockers?
A: We neither allow nor prohibit overclocking. It will be done anyway, so it's silly to hamper it.

Q: What process technology will be used for G80 chips?
A: TSMC 90 nm.

Q: You have spoken much about DirectX 10 and how well the new video cards will work with DX10. Where is the content?
A: Several conditions must be met here: you need the new OS (VISTA is already coming), you need new video cards (we have presented one today), you need new games, because it's wrong just to port DX9 content. Over one hundred NVIDIA people are working on promoting DX10, they create new tools.

Q: Why are there two power connectors in the 8800GTX?
A: This is done for the future, for scalability. As soon as motherboards are equipped with 4, 8 or more PCI-E slots, this solution will become a necessity. How can we use three slots now? Two cards in SLI mode, the third card, for example the 7600GS, for physics.

Q: Why doesn't the 8800GTX use GDDR4?
A: GDDR4 is currently very expensive, but it does not yield that much performance to overpay for it. We tried it in action and found out that performance of this expensive memory was similar to DDR3.

Q: How will you position 680i and what will its recommended price be?
A: The 680i will be a direct competitor to the Intel 975 at a similar price, but it will offer higher performance. Motherboards on nForce 680i will be sold by EVGA, XFX, BFG, ECS, BIOSTAR - they will all be reference models. FOXCONN will manufacture motherboards of its own design, the other companies did not announce their decision yet, but they will obviously design their own models for 680i.

Q: When will a cheaper nForce 6 chipset appear?
A: The nForce 650i will follow the 650a. In its turn, the 650a will appear in November, the 650i - in December

Q: Do you have plans to change the length of the SLI connector? Can we expect the next generation SLI in the nearest future?
A: We are not going to change the length of the connector. And you shouldn't expect the new generation SLI in the nearest future.

In conclusion, Jen-Hsun Huang said that each new chip was like a child to him. He didn't talk about future children, but referred to the GeForce 8800GTX as a perfect child in all respects. Well, it bears the stamp of truth. But we are looking forward to new, still better "children".

Night covered Santa Clara. I had to fly back to Russia early in the morning.

My baggage grew much heavier and bigger. My samples, thoroughly packed as hand luggage to take on board of the plane, were mercilessly undone and examined by customs. Nevertheless, my return was much more pleasant. And the hottest products were lying next to me in my bag. My fellow passengers were reading and sleeping all the way, so it was a nice and not that tiresome flight.

PS: The official merger of AMD and ATI was already accomplished. So I expected to see either the new logo or the second green one on ATI's office in Santa Clara. But the red symbol was still in its place. We certainly won't see this logo next year. It will remind us that NVIDIA is now the only company specializing in manufacturing graphics chips.

I also want to put in a few words about my staunch assistants, which helped me very much in this distant trip.

First of all, its a stylish modern communicator "G500+ iXBT.com Edition", kindly provided by ETEN's distributor in Russia, Business Bureau. This device worked about two days without recharging and allowed to use GPS at that, which is very good in the G500+. An external antenna greatly reduces the magnitude of error (in my case it was 5-7 meters).

On the whole, the G500+ proved to be very useful. Attractive and stylish design, excellent quality, bundled with additional software. Equipped with GPS, ETEN G500+ communicator fully justifies its name and purpose. It does not break any performance records, of course. But it's quite sufficient for everyday tasks as well as for watching video and playing audio in your spare time. Its battery life is also good, a great advantage for travelers.

The second device is a very convenient and stylish notebook - ASUS S6F. The major advantage of this device is its exterior, of course. There are lots of ways to make a notebook more attractive, but one of the most popular is its exterior. And one of the most popular finishing materials for expensive accessories is leather. So there is nothing surprising that ASUS uses it for its new ultra compact S6F model.

The S6F is equipped with a new 11.1" panel offering a comfortable and wide resolution - 1366x768. Components of this model are a match for the exterior: Intel Core Duo 1.66 GHz, 1 GB memory, 100 GB hard drive, a full set of wireless adapters (Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, IR).

The notebook looks small and light-weight. ASUS S6F is an ideal ultra compact model (no more than A4 sheet), 271x192x23/37 mm – its dimensions allow to carry it everywhere without much effort. The weight is also optimal – 1.53 kg. Long battery life contributes to the overall nice impression.

On the whole, the S6F would have been an ideal choice for a mobile man even without its leather finishing. High performance, excellent functionality, low weight, long battery life, high quality panel - this notebook has accumulated the best features of a modern notebook.

Alexander Vorobiev (vorobiev@ixbt.com)
Andrey Vorobiev (anvakams@ixbt.com)

November 13, 2006

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