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Nvidia unveils ‘256-CPU Cray’ GeForce 3D chip

Company restates focus on chip design. It's not interested in board production -- for now...

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Nvidia today announced its next-generation graphics acceleration chip, the GeForce 256, the part previously known by the codename 'NV10', a move that sees the company break away from its well-known TNT and slightly less well-known Riva brandnames. The launch also marked the arrival of the first 256-bit graphics accelerator, delivering an "order of magnitude increase" in power, according to Nvidia. As revealed by The Register, the GeForce contains nearly 23 million transistors, capable of generating 15 million polygons per second (sustained) and over 480 million pixels per second. The part sports an integrated geometry transformation engine -- addressing what is widely seen as the next 'target' for graphics processor functionality now they've got shovelling out polygons sorted out -- an integrated dynamic lighting engine, and the first four-pixel rendering process. However, all these features are, to a greater or lesser extent, offered by S3's Savage 2000, announced yesterday, so Nvidia may have to revise its claims slightly. That said, the GeForce is still likely to out-perform the Savage 2000 considerably. The part supports DirectX 7.0 features, including cube environment mapping, projective textures and vertex blending. It supports up to 128MB of video RAM and AGP 4x Fast Write mode. Boards based on the part will contain -- like the Savage 2000 -- a 350MHz RAMDAC for resolutions up to 2048 x 1536 (75MHz). One of the key elements of the GeForce launch, however, wasn't a feature of the chip itself but its branding. Nvidia stressed that the chip is what it calls a "graphics processing unit (GPU)". That's a term that can be applied to almost every 3D graphics accelerator punched out since the Voodoo 1, but Nvidia's use of the phrase is designed to stress the company's role as a provider of chips, not boards. That's in marked contrast to its main rivals, ATI, S3 and 3dfx, all of who effectively produce their own boards -- ATI always has, 3dfx bought STB for the purpose, and S3 is in the processing of buying Diamond Multimedia. Unlike the others, S3 is maintaining a more open relationship with Diamond, but it could yet irritate board vendors like Creative and Guilliemot as much as 3dfx's STB acquisition did. Nvidia clearly wants to avoid such conflict, and its GPU branding is as much about showing it doesn't want to tread on board vendors' toes as pushing its own chip-design expertise. Of course, this doesn't rule out a move into the board market on Nvidia's part, but it should keep the OEMs happy until it's ready to do so. ® Related Stories Acer to integrate nVidia technology into chip set nVidia Q2 revenue rockets up 543 per cent 3dfx stock drops on ongoing losses

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