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Why a 64MB GeForce now?

With the recent announcement by Dell that they will be supplying a GeForce card with 64MB of DDR (Double Data Rate) memory in their high-end systems, a few questions arose. Some of those have been answered (i.e. it is not a NV15) in this SharkyExtreme Preview. However, two questions deserve a little more exploration; Why a 64MB card? and Why now?

The question "Why a 64MB card?" is really a no-brainer - simply put, it's performance. Depending on the application, 64MB offers higher detail settings and greater resolutions without a performance hit. In Quake III, using Dell's in-house supplied benchmarks (view them with caution because they weren't supplied by an independent source), the difference can be incredible. The larger textures used by Quake III overwhelm the local 32MB of memory and force the system to rely on the slower AGP texturing. In independent tests done with the 64MB Quadro GeForce, the results were similiar. Ah, the Quadro...that leads into the second question.

"Why now?" is not as easy to answer and had me scratching my head because of two factors; the Quadro and the upcoming NV15. Elsa was given exclusive rights to produce Quadro-based cards. The Quadro was nVidia's solution for CAD and Graphics needs. It utilizes 64MB of DDR memory and has some architecture enhancements for the graphics market. Also, it is clocked slightly faster than a standard DDR GeForce. However, this specialization comes at a premium price, $900 list/$650 street. Elsa cannot be happy that there will be a competitor at roughly half the price. I'm surprised the agreement with Elsa even allows it. The other factor is the upcoming NV15 from nVidia. They have been quoted saying that the NV15 was on track for a March-May release. If the NV15 is imminent, why authorize a product that will compete with their new technology? That seems to make no sense....UNLESS the NV15 has been delayed. With the information I have available to me, that is the only conclusion that fits the scenario. If the GeForce Plus can have the market for 3 or 4 months, then it might justify the "50 engineers" Dell assigned to the project.

If I've missed anything, please let me know. I welcome any feedback, flames, etc

FEEDBACK:

I asked for feedback on this editorial and I received some good thoughts. This one is from Peter S.

...from the rumors and everything else going around, nVidia does have the NV15 (or whatever their spring product is called) finished and almost ready to go.   But, the lack of any serious competition (closest being the ATI MAXX card and the Viper II, neither of which can really beat a DDR GeForce card) could influence them to hold off releasing their next product until the Voodoo5 is almost out the gate, or something else that appears to give them real competition.   It makes good business sense, since it means they can sell their older chips for a premium price for an extra few months.

If this is true, then nVidia may have to modify their fall release/spring refresh schedule, something they've taken great pride in. Still, the GeForce has no real competition at this time.

In general, people feel that Elsa has nothing to be concerned about. Here is a typical response:

There are other differences between the GeForce and Quadro chips besides a slight clock difference and memory size.  The Quadro has a slightly different architecture, and accelerates in hardware certain features that are important in the professional market, bus useless for games. The only example that I can think of off the top of my head is line anti-aliasing, which is a must-have for viewing wireframe models.  I don't think Elsa is worried.

I still feel Elsa can't be happy about this, but maybe it's not as bad as I think.