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Nvidia launches GTX 200 series GPUs

Massive chip for high-end gaming rigs

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GTX 260 GTX 280
Processor cores 192 240
Graphics clock 576MHz 602MHz
Processor clock 1242MHz 1296MHz
Memory clock 999MHz 1107MHz
Memory (GDDR3) 896MB 1GB
Power connectors 6-pins + 6-pin 6-pin + 8-pin
Board power 182W 236W
Cost $399 $649

GeForce GXT 200 GPUs support DirectX 10 and Open GL 2.1. The cards support two flavors of SLI. There's the standard connection of two GPU boards and a new 3-way SLI if you really feel like overdoing things.

The chip architecture consists of a number of texture processing clusters (TPCs), which is made up of a number of streaming multiprocessors (SMs). Each SM contains eight processor cores and texture filtering processors used in graphics processing.

GTX 280 improves on G80 and G92 designs by increasing the number of SMs per TCP from two to three. It also increases the maximum number of TCPs per chip from eight to 10. So where the GeForce 8 and 9 series had a total of 128 processing cores, the GTX 200 series has a max of 240.

To address more complex shaders in modern games, Nvidia has shifted the GPU balance to a higher shader to texture ratio. By adding one more SM to each TCP and keeping texturing hardware constant, the shader to texture ratio is increased by 50 per cent.

Another new addition is double-precision, 64-bit floating point computation support. That's good news for high-end scientific, engineering, and financial computing applications, a market that Nvidia is focusing more and more attention on with each generation of chip. Each SM incorporates a double-precision 64-bit floating math unit, for a total of 30 double-precision 64-bit processing cores.

Nvidia has also employed a more flexible power management than previous GPU incarnations. Using a HybridPower-capable nForce motherboard, the GTX 200 GPU can be fully powered off when not performing graphics-intensive operations. Nvidia also estimates Blu-ray DVD playback mode takes about 35W, and idle mode without HybridPower takes up 25W.

Meanwhile AMD is readying its Radeon HD 4800 series, starting with the 4850 at a starting price of $299. Later it will roll out the 4870 at $349. This summer will certainly prove to be an interesting time for the graphics card market. ®

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