Maker’s Mark is of course the name of a fine Kentucky bourbon whiskey, but the phrase also applies to the stamp that skilled artisans apply to their creations. When you’ve finished building your custom PC, we’d encourage you to stamp it with your own maker’s mark; after all, the one-of-a-kind creation you’ll have wrought will have nothing in common with the mass-produced rigs that mainstream manufacturers churn out by the millions.
That’s one of the most exciting aspects of our hobby. Automobile buffs can tune and customize their factory-built cars and trucks, but computer geeks like us get to build something new and unique almost entirely from whole cloth. And it’s so easy that you have to wonder why anyone would buy a preassembled PC in the first place.
Thanks to the relatively open architecture that IBM stumbled into oh so many years ago (and has likely regretted ever since), we can rebuild and retune our creations again and again, boosting their performance and postponing their obsolescence. We do hit a wall every now and again. Intel’s new Core i7 CPU is a good example. Because the new processor features an onboard memory controller—a first for Intel, although AMD’s procs have had the technology for years—the company had to design a new socket architecture to accommodate the additional pins. That blocks the upgrade path for anyone using an LGA775 motherboard.
Intel has AMD on the run in the CPU front, but AMD is poking Nvidia in the behind in the graphics processor market. The result: ever more powerful, ever less expensive videocards. The two companies have shipped so many new parts that we expect things will stabilize over the next quarter or so, so now’s the time to find a great deal whether you’re building a new rig or retrofitting an old one. And if you’ve never experienced the joy and pride of building your own PC, click through to read our in-depth, hands-on guide.
Either news and rumor site The Inquirer is seriously stirring the pot between Intel and Nvidia, or the two companies are looking to move in on each other's territory. It first started last week when The Inqposted a report claiming Intel will design the PlayStation 4 GPU, not Nvidia, and further stating there's a good chance Microsoft's Xbox3 console will sport ATI hardware.
Now the rumor site says Nvidia is trying to make an x86 chip and has put the word out to engineers.
"Word reached us a bit ago that Nvidia is definitely working on a x86 chip and the firm is heavily recruiting x86 engineers all over Silicon Valley," The Inquirer wrote.
But there's a problem with the rumor, other than it being unconfirmed speculation at this point. If Nvidia seriously is considering putting out a x86 CPU, it would have to climb a legal mountain before doing so. Given how long it took Nvidia and Intel to come to licensing terms to combine SLI technology with Intel-based chipsets, it seems unlikely the two would come to another licensing agreement, this time involving x86 technology.
The other route Nvidia could take is to form an alliance with a company already possessing a x86 license, but assuming Nvidia could pull it off, and assuming Nvidia is interested in x86 chip design in the first place, the move would still likely end up in a lengthy court battle.
Thoughts on Nvidia developing a x86 CPU? Hit the jump and tell us what you think.
What a difference a year makes. Nvidia yesterday reported a loss of nearly $148 million, or 27 cents per share, for the fiscal fourth quarter. A year prior Nvidia reported a profit of $257 million, or 42 cents per share.
Said Nvidia's ever-candid CEO Jen-Hsun Huang, "November fell off a cliff." Huang was referring to the dramatic drop in demand, which led the company to post revenue of $481.1 million, down 60 percent from the $1.2 billion it reported for the fourth quarter a year prior.
A rebound might not be on the immediate horizon for Nvidia, either. Market research firm iSuppli predicts that shipments of desktop PCs will continue to sag in 2009, with shipments expected to fall 5.5 percent to 146.2 million units. This is important because many high-end videocards end up in those PCs.
Despite the depressing sales numbers, we can't help but think it could have been worse for Nvidia. The graphics chip maker scored a major win by convincing Apple to use its GPUs in the recently refreshed MacBook line, and going forward, the company's newly released GTX 285 and 295 videocards have put the company on more even ground with ATI's 4870 and 4870 X2 parts.
Nvidia’s promise last September to revamp and rebrand its product line by the end of 2008 sounded like a great idea, but has anyone else noticed any meaningful changes? The 200 series has helped somewhat. The larger number indicates the faster card, but that's the only pattern I have been able to figure out. Well if esoteric GeForce branding trivia is a hobby of yours, then you’re in luck.
Leaked documents from Santa Clara based Nvidia suggest that GeForce 9800 GTX+ will be officially renamed to the GeForce GTS 250 during cEBIT in March. The 250 will still be made using the new 55 nm process and will clock in at the same frequencies as before. A similar fate awaits the 8800 GT which will be renamed to the GeForce 240. OEM partners were reassured in the memo by revealing that both cards can easily be converted simply by changing the VBIOS and packaging materials. It is still unclear what will happen to existing parts already in the supply chain, or if any other products are being considered for future rebranding.
Nvidia is clearly focusing its marketing resources towards the mainstream and entry-level markets. This is clearly the area they expect to be the most active during the economic crunch. As for their rebranding efforts, has Nvidia made this any easier for you to understand?
Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang might just be the Charles Barkley of the tech world. Like the ex-NBA player, Huang knows how to stir the media with colorful quotes (and for all we know, Huang may have a mean jump shot too), just as he did during a financial analyst meeting by promising to "open a can of whoop ass" when discussing the integrated graphics market. Seizing the opportunity, Huang this week took another verbal shot at Intel, this time in regards to the netbook market.
"We’re all trying to figure out what a netbook is. From my perspective, anything that has an X86 processor and has Windows running on it is really a PC," Huang said in an interview with Laptop. "If I were to ask a million people, What do you call something with a Microsoft operating system called Windows and X86 processor from Intel, I would think that 99.9999 percent of them, except for the Intel marketing person, would call it a PC."
Hit the jump to find out what Huang has to say about Intel's Atom processor.
As I’ve noted before, when you’re not playing action games, the killer GPU in your PC is basically a case heater. For the most part, it uselessly sucks power and radiates heat as you perform mundane computing tasks: web browsing, word processing, spreadsheet calculations, MP3 playback. GPUs are the most underutilized resource in PCs.
Finally, that’s changing. AMD now bundles its ATI Stream parallel-processing software in the latest ATI Catalyst graphics drivers. As users download and install these free drivers, they automatically prep their systems to run ATI Stream programs that leverage the GPU as a massively parallel processor. Before, users had to download ATI Stream separately. AMD is following Nvidia, which began bundling its CUDA parallel-processing software with display drivers in 2007.
Nvidia has officially released its Forceware 181.22 WHQL GeForce driver suite just under a week since making the drivers available as beta downloads. The graphics chip maker recommends upgrading to the latest release "for the best GPU PhysX experience in EA's hot PC title Mirror's Edge." Forceware 181.22 WHQL installs the new PhysX system software, now in version 9.09.0010.
Also included with the new driver release is support for Nvidia's latest GPUs, the GTX 295 and GTX 285. Nvidia also claims modest to significant performance boosts in select titles, such as up to 80 percent in Lost Planet: Colonies, up to 38 percent in Far Cry 2, and up to 25 percent in Devil May Cry 4. Several other titles are said to run anywhere from 10 to 18 percent better with the latest Forceware driver.
Nvidia recently announced that they’ll be releasing a new “professional video editing accelerator bundle” based on their Quadro CX platform. The bundle consists of a Quadro CX video card and Adobe Premiere Pro CS4, and they claim that it will be able to encode H.264 video four times faster than a dual-core CPU.
Nvidia reports that rendering times for a one-hour movie requires 10 hours on a dual-core CPU, whereas with their Quadro CX it would only take two hours and 35 minutes.
So if you’re looking to get yourself into the video editing game with a powerful bundle like this one, be sure to act fast. The bundle will be going for $1,999 until March 31, 2009. After that, the bundle will jump up to $2,299.
Nvidia’s ever growing arsenal of graphics cards has just broken into the low profile market with their Quadro NVS 420. The card features 512MB of memory, 11.2GB/sec per GPU of bandwidth, a CUDA Parallel Computing Processor, and can power up to four 30-inch displays at 2,560 x 1,600.
Admittedly the cards specs along with its size make it a pretty impressive little beast, at $499 it doesn’t seem too practical. But, should there be any small form-factor PC users out there looking to get their hands on this much power, it will be available next month.
The global economy currently has a nimiety of bad news, which seems to be coming from all corners at a cataclysmic speed. Just a week after Intel revised its fourth-quarter guidance downwards, Nvidia has also followed suit. The company has lowered its fourth-quarter revenue guidance and now expects revenues to decline by 40 percent to 50 percent compared to the third quarter.
Just like other major chip manufacturers, including Intel, Nvidia also lays the blame on plummeting demand. It also blames “inventory reductions by Nvidia's channel partners in the global PC supply chain.” Nvidia will post its fourth-quarter results on February 10th.