NV3X Architecture Overview

NV3X Architecture Overview - Page 2

NV3X Architecture Overview
A Look At What Is To Come...

By -Chris Angelini
July 25th, 2002


Scaling Complexity, Performance and Speed
.13 micron technology goes mainstream for graphics

The GeForce4 is constructed of 63 million transistors on a .15-micron process.  NVIDIA has already confirmed that NV30 will make the transition to .13-micron and speculation puts the transistor count at 120+ million ? nearly twice that of the GeForce4.  The increase in complexity comes not only from the capabilities previously discussed, but also the addition of 128-bit, floating point color precision. 

Current graphics processors are limited to eight bits of color precision per channel, which introduces the possibility of artifacts should too much ?number rounding? occur.  NV3X is able to switch between 64-bit and 128-bit precision depending on the required accuracy and desired performance.  ATI demonstrated 128-bit precision at the R300 launch using natural light to illuminate synthetic objects.   So, it will be interesting to see what other effects developers are able to achieve with the capabilities afforded by higher precision.

Image taken from ATi R300 launch demonstrating 128-bit color precision



We?ve already been given some indication of how the RADEON 9700 will perform.  In many high-resolution tests, with anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering enabled, the ATI card is able to double the frame rates of NVIDIA?s current champion.  According to ATI, the card should be on store shelves by the middle of August.  Full reviews of retail RADEON 9700 boards should begin surfacing a few days before - if ATI holds true to its word.

Though the RADEON 9700 is compliant with DirectX 9, the update to Microsoft?s API won?t be ready for public consumption until late this year.  Games featuring support for DirectX 9 are even further away.  NVIDIA has the launch of the NV30 aligned with the DX9 release, so we?d expect to see an official launch late this fall with boards arriving before the Christmas buying season.  The only foreseeable result of the two products being released in tandem would be the possibility of a few DirectX 9 benchmarks, so don't read too far into the convenient timing.

From a hardware standpoint, relatively little is known about the NV30.  Operating frequencies, anti-aliasing techniques, and even memory subsystem details are still under wraps.  What we do know is that NV30 will be compliant with DirectX 9, it will be constructed using .13-micron process technology (hopefully lending itself to high clock speeds), and it will introduce 128-bit color precision, hence NVIDIA?s claim that NV30 will be the first ?Cinematic Shading GPU.?  It hasn?t been announced yet whether NV30 will utilize a 128 or 256-bit memory bus, but it is clear that a form of DDR-II memory will be used for extremely high data rates.

For the time being, NVIDIA's GeForce4 Ti 4600 is the fastest card on the market.  When RADEON 9700 makes its way to store shelves, ATI will claim that title.  NVIDIA hopes that NV30 will follow soon after, ready to bombard the RADEON with salvo after salvo of new technology and high-end performance. 


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