Nvidia has been quite the busy body in the console market as of late. Earlier this week the graphics chip maker announced it had signed a tools and middleware license agreement with Sony to offer its PhysX technology software development kit (SDK) for use on the PlayStation 3 console, and then two days later, made a similar announcement regarding Nintendo's Wii console.
"Nintendo has reshaped the home entertainment and video game market with the success of the Wii console. Adding a PhysX SDK for Wii is key to our cross-platform strategy and integral to the business model for our licensed game developers and publishers,” said Tony Tamasi, senior vice president of content and technology at NVIDIA. “With NVIDIA PhysX technology, developers can easily author more realistic game environments for the evolving demands of a broad class of Wii gamers."
Three months ago, AMD had painted a gloom-and-doom future for Nvidia's PhysX technology, saying "There is no plan for closed and proprietary standards like PhysX. As we have emphasized, with our support for OpenCL and DX11, close and proprietary standards will die."
AMD wasn't just being a wet blanket, as they weren't the only ones to question to closed standards when it comes to in-game physics. This makes Nvidia's latest partnership with two major console makers a particularly interesting one, which could very well end up seeing more widespread PhysX support trickling over to the PC as a result.
If you're brand new to the DIY PC building scene, you may think Intel chipset-based motherboard owners have always been able to run multiple Nvidia videocards in SLI. You'd also be wrong. It was less than six months ago that Nvidia officially announced it was licensing its SLI technology to several top-tier motherboard makers for Intel's X58 chipset, in exchange for a fee. So we can't imagine anyone over at Nvidia doing cartwheels when end-users find a way to enable SLI on non-SLI certified boards with a relatively simple BIOS hack.
Citing an article in Taiwanese magazine PC Home Advance, TweakTown reports that not only is it possible, but it's been demonstrated on Gigabyte's EX58-UD4 motherboard. The magazine downloaded the latest F6 BIOS for a slightly different model, the EX58-UD4P, which comes with official SLI support, and slapped it on the less expensive non-SLI board.
Because the model numbers are different, the magazine noted the unsupported BIOS can't be installed using the built-in QFlash utility, and instead requires using the DOS-based SPIFLASH utility. Still a relatively easy hack considering no physical modifications to the board itself needs to be done.
It's unclear whether there were any undesirable side effects from using another board model's BIOS in place of the correct one. It's also unclear whether Nvidia will take measures to prevent this and future BIOS hacks from working with future driver releases.
According to Nvidia's Form 10-K filing for the fiscal year ended January 25, 2009, the graphics chip maker has spent $43.6 million to cover warranty and product replacement claims for GPUs suffering from a "weak die/packaging material set."
Nvidia had original set aside a one-time charge of $196 million when it was discovered some of its notebook graphics were failing at an "abnormal rate."
"The previous generation MCP and GPU products that are impacted were included in a number of notebook products that were shipped and sold in significant quantities," Nvidia said in the filing. "Certain notebook configurations of these MCP and GPU products are failing in the field at higher than normal rates. While we have not been able to determine a root cause for these failures, testing suggests a weak material set of die/package combination, system thermal management designs, and customer use patterns are contributing factors."
Given that only $43.6 million -- or 22 percent of the original amount -- has been spent so far, you can take this in one of two ways. Either the problem isn't as widespread as originally thought and the remaining $152.4 million will be more than enough to cover future claims, or there are a lot of mobile GPUs in the wild still to fail from the packaging defect.
Recently Via announced their VX855 Media System Processor that allows their Nano, C7 and Eden processors to support 1080p video. This entertains the possibility that Via will provide a more attractive option an Intel and Nvidia when it comes to platforms to base a netbook off of.
The VX855 is designed for mobile PCs and comes with an HD video processor that gives smooth, hardware accelerated playback of high definition videos encoded in H.264, MPEG2/4, DivX and WMV9.
“For the first time, system developers have an ultra low power media system processor that delivers high bit-rate HD video to small form factor and mobile devices,” said Via’s VP of Marketing, Richard Brown. “The VIA VX855 opens up exciting opportunities for several PC segments, particularly the mini-notebook category that will now be able to offer true 1080p HD video playback.”
No solid information as to when we can expect to see this powerful little chip make its way into netbooks and nettops alike, but if its as good as they say, we should see it making a splash relatively soon.
Amidst a jungle of ugly cases, iBuyPower has been managing to release some pretty impressive computers as of late. And, on top of offering all the latest processor that AMD and Intel have to offer, it looks like they’re pushing systems with Nvidia’s GeForce 3D Vision as well.
The Gamer Fire 640 will come with an AMD Phenom X3 720, 4GB DDR3, a 500GB HDD and a GeForce 9800GTX+, while it’s close brother, the Gamer Paladin F830 will come with an Intel Core i7 920, 6GB of memory, and a GTX 260 GPU. Both of these machines will come with Vista Home Premium 64-bit, and both will come with an Nvidia GeForce 3D Vision.
These machines run nearly $1,200 a piece, and are available for order right now. So, if you’re looking to check out the next step in 3D gaming, these guys are offering a pretty reasonable bundle to bring it to you.
Word on the web is that Nvidia will release its GTS 250 videocard sometime this week, which is essentially a rebranded 9800 GTX+. Nvidia's latest GeForce drivers -- WHQL 182.08 -- adds support for the upcoming card, while also extending SLI profile support for some newly released games.
Nvidia claims up to double-digit performance gains in handful of games with the new drivers versus 181.22, including up to 11 percent in Left 4 Dead at high resolution with AA, up to 10 percent in F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin, and up to 10 percent in Race Driver: GRID at high resolution and AA.
The latest release also fixes a bug in Vista 32-bit with dual-GeForce 8600 GT videocards that prevented the Fluid Demo (using PhysX) from running while using hardware acceleration when SLI is enabled. Good thing too, lest anyone second guess investing in two 8600 GT cards.
After a week on hiatus (no podcaster’s strike, we promise you), the gang is back to report and share their thoughts on this week’s big tech happenings. Will and Gordon drop their two cents on the Intel-Nvidia feud, and the team lays out the benefits on Vista SP2. Will also shares his experience debating MacLife’s Robbie Baldwin on the ABC News Now cable show. Along with listener questions, Gordon’s rant of the week also returns, filled with more rage than ever. This week’s targets: Shakespeare, Microsoft Outlook and office thievery.
Do you have a tech question? A comment? A tale of technological triumph? Just need to get something off your chest? A secret to share? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call our 24-hour No BS Podcast hotline at 877.404.1337 x1337--operators are standing by.
During a Q&A session at the Morgan Stanley Technology Conference in San Francisco earlier this week, Nvidia revealed intentions of getting into the x86 business, saying it was a matter of 'when', and not 'if.'
"I think some time down the road it makes sense to take the same level of integration that we've done with Tegra," said Michael Hara, Nvidia's senior VP of investor relations and communications. "Tegra is by any definition a complete computer on a chip, and the requirements of that market are such that you have to be very low power, very small, but highly efficient. So in that particular state it made a lot of sense to take that approach, and someday it's going to make sense to take the same approach in the x86 market as well."
For the here and now, Nvidia is content to pair its Ion platform with Intel's Atom processor, but for how long? Hara explained that it might make sense to approach the x86 market in two or three years, and while he wasn't willing to offer a more concrete timeframe, he did say "there's no question it's on our minds."
No doubt Intel's x86 license is also on Nvidia's minds, as the two companies tussle over whether or not Nvidia is allowed to build chipsets for Nehalem. How the current dispute plays out could play a big role on how Nvidia approaches the CPU business.
Do you like the idea of Nvidia building CPUS? Hit the jump and tell us what you think.
Nvidia has said on more than one occasion that it wants to simplify its product line to make it easier for consumers who might not know the difference between, say, an 8800 GTS 256MB, 8800 GTS 512MB, and 8800 GTS 640MB, and why the 512MB trumps them both. Then there's the 9800GTX+, which is a supercharged 9800 GTX, which is really a supercharged G92-based 8800 GTS, which is confusing as all get-out.
It gets better. Meet the GeForce GTS 250, the videocard formerly known as the 9800 GTX+. The rebranded videocard still uses the 55nm G92b GPU, however in a more mature yielding chip in GTS 250 trim. Available in both 512MB and 1GB configurations, the latter includes a new board design noticeably smaller than the 9800 GTX+ by about an inch and a half.
Other specs include a 738MHz core clockspeed, 1100MHz memory clockspeed, 256-bit memory interface for a 70.4 GB/s of total memory bandwidth, 16 ROPs, 64 texture filtring units, and 128 processor cores. The GTS 250 carries a TDP of 150 watts, and according to Anandtech's testing, both idle and load power consumption runs about 30W less than the 9800 GTX+.
The 512MB and 1GB versions will run $130 and $150 respectively, with widespread availability expected next week.
The official release of Windows 7 might still be several months away, but that isn't stopping Nvidia from preparing for Vista's successor with new graphics drivers aimed at Windows 7 beta users. The new drivers are available now, and Nividia promises this is just the start of a regular driver release schedule. Remember that shortly after Vista debuted, Microsoft blamed buggy Nvidia drivers for giving the OS a bad rap.
"Since its release last month, the Windows 7 Beta has been eagerly tested by hundreds of thousands of NVIDIA GeForce owners, who are excited about the many graphical improvements Microsoft has added into the upcoming operating system," said Ujesh Desai, vice president of GeForce desktop business at NVIDIA.
Nvidia says it has been working closely with Microsoft so that its new drivers will take full advantage of the additional features and functionality Windows 7 brings to the table. Kicking off with v181.71, Nvidia's graphics drivers support the new Windows Display Driver Model (WDDM) v1.1. The drivers also support SLI on DX9, 10, and OpenGL applications, PhysX, CUDA, and Direct3D, Direct2D, and DirectWrite.