Will the real Nvidia please stand up? Getting a read on the graphics chip maker is turning out to be nigh impossible. On one hand, Nivida has been hammered over a mobile graphics manufacturing defect that led to an "abnormal failure rate," much negative press, and questions about how widespread the problem might actually be. Then the tide changed as Apple announced it would be outfitting its refreshed MacBook line with Nvidia's 9400M GPU instead of Intel silicon. Is the company poised to fall or on the rebound?
Looking over Nvidia's financial report appears to raise even more questions than answers. For the three months that ended October 26, the company's profits have plummeted 74 percent to $61.7 million, down from $235.7 million one year earlier. But despite the free fall, earnings per share sat at 20 cents, or almost twice as much as the average estimate of 11 cents projected by First Call.
In terms of market share, Nvidia acknowledges losing ground to AMD's ATI unit, but also believes its on the verge of an upswing.
"We were caught flat footed at 65nm and our chip and board solution was just too expensive," said Jen-Hsun Huang, president and CEO of Nvidia. "We've made that transition (to 55nm) in Q2. And in Q3 we're through that transition and we're off and running."
Which direction the company is running towards, however, is anyone's guess.
The mobile gaming sector continues to play leapfrog as each manufacturer attempts to jump to the head of the pack. Gateway wowed us with its surprisingly affordable P-7811FX crammed full of high end parts, and more recently, Alienware's new M17 gave users a double-dose of performance with dual-3870 videocards and up to 1TB of storage space in a RAID configuration. Now it's Toshiba's turn to tantalize would-be notebook buyers, and it looks to do that by introducing the world's first laptops with THREE Nvidia GPUs packed inside.
To clarify, Toshiba isn't planning a line of tri-SLI enabled laptops, and instead will take advantage of Nvidia's Hybrid SLI technology. The Qosmio X305-Q708 and X305-Q706 will be the first two units outfitted with three GPUs, which will consist of a GeForce 9400M and two 9800M GTS GPUs. When not fragging foes, gamers can switch to the 9400M GPU while the other two GPUs power down, resulting in a quieter notebook with presumably longer battery life.
For $4,200, the X305-Q708 also brings an Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9300 CPU to the table along with a 17" 1680x1050 display, 4GB of RAM, 320GB SATA drive, a second 128GB SSD, DVD burner, a 1.3MP webcam with face recognition, HDMI and DisplayPort connections, and Harmon Kardon speakers. At less than half the price ($2,000), the X305-706 drops down to an Intel Core 2 Duo P8400 CPU and drops the SSD drive.
The X305-Q708 and X305-Q706 are available now from ToshibaDirect.
The mini-ITX form factor is still alive and kicking, and to prove it, Zotac has just expanded its mini-ITX lineup with the nForce 630i-ITX WiFi motherboard. As the board's nomenclature suggests, WiFi comes integrated with 802.11b/g support, as does graphics chores, which are handled by Nvidia's GeForce 7100 chipset.
The pint-sized board comes ready for Intel's lineup of Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Quad processors with support for a full 1333MHz frontside bus. RAM support, on the other hand, comes somewhat gimped topping out at DDR2-800 instead of DDR2-1066 or DDR3. Other features include:
Eight USB 2.0 ports (four on back panel, four on pin header)
Onboard 10/100 Ethernet
HD Audio 5.1
Dual display ready (VGA / DVI)
Four SATA II ports with RAID Support
Not a bad feature-set for a compact board, particularly if you're in the market for an HTPC build, where the integrated WiFi could end up a major selling point.
Lucid has now raised $32 million in all. It intends to use the funds to propagate its multi-GPU HYDRA technology, which is an alternative to Nvidia SLI and ATI Crossfire multi-GPU solutions.
“Our recent announcements and engagements with major partners have demonstrated that we can deliver and commercialize our technology,” said an optimistic Offir Remez Hydra, Lucid’s founder and VP of business development. Hydra scores over SLI and Crossfire due its unique ability to extract 100% linear performance from each of the GPUs – it supports up to four GPUs from the same manufacturer.
Lucid can pat its back for having secured fresh funding when most venture capitalists have pulled in their horns as the global economy wades through a turbulent storm.
We know what you’re thinking, what more could a motherboard vendor put on the PCB that would convince anyone to part with $400? Asus thinks its latest Rampage II Extreme board in the Republic of Gamer’s series will do it.
This X58-based Core i7 board features support both Tri-SLI and CrossFire X, six DDR3 DIMM slots, EAX 4.0 software support, an audio card riser, heat pipes, LCD poster displays and a joystick and probe ports to connect your multi-tester.
What the hell do you need a joystick on a mobo for? Using the provided small single-line LCD display, you can toggle voltages, overclocking profiles or clock speeds. Want even more insane features? The board features probe ports to connect a multi-meter to the motherboard to read direct voltages for the RAM, southbridge, PCI-E, CPU, QPI and CPU PLL’s.
One feature the board doesn’t have that we expected was support for Nvidia’s nForce 200 chip. Instead of the Nvidia hardware, Asus has SLI certification for up to three-way SLI in a x16/x8/x8 configuration. There’s no word as to whether Asus plans to offer a board with an nForce 200 part in it yet.
Maybe a plethora of new must-have gaming titles has caused demand to spike, or perhaps the price war between AMD and Nvidia has sparked GPU sales. But whatever the reason, overall GPU shipments in the third quarter reached a staggering 111 million units, according to research and consulting firm Jon Peddie Research (JPR). That's up 22.5 percent from the 91 million units sold this time last year, and 18 percent from the 94 million units sold in the second quarter of this year.
"The third quarter is seasonally up as OEMs place orders for chips to build inventory for the holiday season," said Dr. Jon Peddie, president of JPR. "However, this quarter was up more than any other for some time, and in spite of suggestions of a recession that started from the fourth quarter last year."
The big benefactor in the booming graphics market is Intel, who increased it's overall market share to a dominant 49.4 percent, up from 33.4 percent one year prior. Intel rules both the desktop and notebook sectors with a 43.9 percent share in the former and a 56.2 percent share in the latter.
As far as Nvidia is concerned, any problems that may have plagued its previous mobile GPUs are a thing of the past. Bill Henry, director of notebook marketing at Nvidia, recently stated that the graphics chip maker has "updated the materials" used to manufacture the company's chips. Nvidia was successful in getting that message across to Apple, who chose to use Nvidia's 9400M GPU it its refreshed MacBook line, but Apple's not the only one who's convinced.
According to news outlet DigiTimes, several global top-tier notebook vendors are jumping on board Nvidia's 9400M bandwagon. Some of these include heavy hitters Asus, Acer, HP, and Dell, all of which plan to launch MCP79-based (9400M) laptops by the end of the year. Speculation among notebook vendors suggest that Nvidia's new chipset could end up with a 20 percent market share of Intel-based notebook platforms.
If true (and according to Ujesh Desai, Nvidia's GM of GeForce products, more than 10 MCP79-based notebooks will have been released by the beginning of next year), Nvidia's fortunes could take a much needed turn for the better, both in public perception and investor confidence, the latter of which has watched the company's stock price plummet compared to not even one year ago, before the market went haywire.
Is Nvidia on the up and up? Hit the jump and give us your take.
It's been a long and arduous wait, but enthusiasts who have dreamed of pairing multiple Nvidia videocards in an SLI configuration on an Intel chipset-based motherboard will soon walk in a silicon field of dreams. No longer the topic of speculation, Nvidia has officially announced that it has licensed its SLI technology to several top-tier motherboard manufacturers - Asus, EVGA, MSI, Gigabyte, and DFI - for upcoming motherboards based on Intel's X58 chipset.
"Asus is bringing many motherboards into production with support for Nvidia SLI technology, and a motherboard worthy of mention is the new Asus Rampage II Extreme which is based on Intel's upcoming X58 chipset," said Joe Hsieh, GM at Asus Motherboard Business Unit.
SLI-licensed motherboards have entered the final production stage and will launch concurrently with Intel's Core i7 processors next month. According to the press release, certified boards will include both those using the Nvidia nForce 200 SLI processor, as well as motherboards designed to run SLI natively through a licensing and certification program. And for you Crysis junkies, look for support for 3-way SLI configurations as well.
By now everyone is familiar with the problems Nvidia has had with its notebook GPUs, which resulted in an "abnormal failure rate" for what remains an unspecified number of graphics chips. But throughout all the speculation, including accusations that whatever problem has been plaguing the chip maker might also be affecting desktop units as well, Nvidia has avoided speaking out on the issue at any length. Until now, thanks to some prodding by AMD.
Earlier this week AMD's Packaging and Interconnect Director, Neil McLellan, went on the semi-offensive and said Nvidia not only uses inferior materials for its chip package design, but that the company just doesn't care as much about packaging technologies as AMD does, according to The Tech Report. Ouch. Those comments didn't sit well with Nvidia, who fired back in a letter in defense of its position.
"In his recent commentary on chip packaging, Mr. McLellan makes a number of speculative assertions about NVIDIA's people, products and philosophy," Nvidia wrote. "In his interview McLellan asserts that High lead bumps are more prone to fatigue. What he fails to note is that AMD currently uses High lead bumps on their CPU line -- a device well known to undergo high thermal stress, and also go through lots of power cycling."
Nvidia went on to talk about High Lead bumps being used in "10s of billions of semiconductor devices" and a whole lot more, but stopped short of saying what exactly caused earlier problems with its 8M series.
AMD posted better-than-expected earnings on Thursday and proved to its chief rival Intel that they may be down, but not out. The company which has been losing money for some time now managed to make a respectable 13 cents per share which far outstripped analyst expectations of a 39 cent loss. This is good news for AMD, but the semi conductor giant isn’t out of hot water just yet. The company still posted a $67 million dollar loss, though when you compare this to the $396 million it shed in the same quarter last year it suddenly doesn’t seem so bad.
Not surprisingly, sales and margins improved mostly on the back of its graphics chip division which has made significant gains in market share at the expensive of Nvidia. Revenues rose to $1.78 billion again pulling ahead of analyst expectations of a meager $1.48 billion. AMD has stated that it expects fourth quarter earnings to be flat, and given its current processor lineup vs. Intel, not losing any further market share will indeed be a challenge. The recent announcement that will split the company in two won’t take effect until year end. AMD stock is currently trading at $4.21 down almost 50% since the beginning of the year.