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NVIDIA and the NV35: An Editorial

29 March 2003

By: Agi

Been thinking about...NVIDIA's NV35

In some respects, the launch of NVIDIA's GeForce FX (NV30) turned out to be a disappointment. The cards were extremely noisy and the performance was less spectacular. When you add in the lack of availabilty of the cards, the uncertain status of the 5800 Ultra and the imminent release of new cards from ATI, the launch of the NV30 almost was a non-event. How is NVIDIA going to respond?

NVIDIA's answer will be the NV35. While details have been closely guarded, NVIDIA has pubicly stated to expect great things from the NV35...but what will change?

Most of the reviews of the GeForce FX have identified two main areas of
concern:

1. Speed
2. Noise

While the GeForce FX employs 1000MHz DDR2 memory, it is bottlenecked by a 128-bit memory bus. Even though Matrox, ATI and 3dlabs had already moved to a 256-bit bus, NVIDIA opted for a narrower but faster design. The result? The overall memory bandwidth of the GeForce FX even trails that of the older RADEON 9700 Pro (19.8GB/s for the 9700 Pro vs. 16GB/s for the 5800 Ultra). With the new RADEON 9800 Pro, ATI has managed to up the ante to 21.8GB/s of memory bandwidth. Rumours circulating on the Web say that the NV35 will be utilizing a 256-bit memory bus and that should finally give the powerful GeForce FX GPU the breathing room it requires.

The GeForce FX was built upon NVIDIA's new, state-of-the-art 0.13-micron process, yet the sheer number of transistors makes it a heavy heat producer. The cooling solution employed by the NV30 has been routinely bashed. Not only did it block a PCI slot, but it was extremely noisy. NVIDIA has promised a lower noise cooling solution for the NV35. However, since rumor has it that the NV35 will feature an additional 5 million transistors, that may be difficult to do. Also, considering how ATI has been able to do more with less, NVIDIA should consider refining their design to use fewer transistors...but have them work more efficiently.

Finally, there is the issue of timing - when will NVIDIA officially announce the NV35? This has to be a very sticky issue for NVIDIA. If they announce the NV35 now, they will doom GeForce FX 5800/5800 Ultra sales (and hurt 5600 sales as well). However, if they don't announce something soon, they risk losing customers to rival ATI.

It's much too early to say that NVIDIA is in trouble. However, if NVIDIA fumbles the NV35 launch like they did with the NV30, they could face an uphill challenge to regain the hearts and minds of the NVIDIA faithful. As NVIDIA's CEO Jen-Hsun Huang said, "We can't make the same mistake twice. When you're in a tough spot, you focus on getting the job done."

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