It doesn't matter if you seek solace in Creationism or prescribe to the theory of evolution, everyone should be equally stoked about what Nvidia's calling "Big Bang II." No, the graphics chip maker isn't gearing up to end the debate on man's existence, but even better, the company will improve man's quality of life with a new driver package that looks poised to earn its codename by bringing gamers at least one big, long overdue improvement.
Bang Part I
The biggest news associated with Nvidia's ForceWare Release 180 (R180) is the introduction of SLI multi-monitor support. Ever since Nvidia introduced SLI, the inability to run a second monitor while gaming has been a major complaint, and even more so as LCD displays have fallen in price. That finally looks to no longer be the case with the new driver release, and gamers will be able to frag opponents while simultaneously keeping an eye on their email inbox, incoming IMs, and everything else that would previously be blacked out on a second monitor.
Find out what else is bangin' with the new driver after the jump.
3D graphics technology has grown by leaps and bounds since 3DFX first laid its Voodoo on the computing world, and today's videocards boast everything from multiple GPUs in a single package to the promise of physics processing. And not just for gaming, fanatical Folders can crunch through more proteins by utilizing their GPU, or decode a high definition movie on their new big screen TV.
Leading the charge into this new era of 3D computing are Nvidia and ATI, two companies who have recently started going at each others' throats with aggressive price cuts and a deluge of new videocards while simultaneously chasing the performance crown. But for all their battles, both old and new, it's Intel, CPU maker extraordinaire, who continues to lead the market.
Find out how much catching up Nvidia and ATI have to do after the jump.
Intel can not only lay claim as the current king of chip technology, but its upcoming Nehalem microarchitecture looks poised to keep the silicon studs on top of the competition well into 2009. AMD has yet to threaten Intel's position ever since Conroe, and while the company remains confident under Dirk Meyer as the new head honcho, it's still playing catch up to Intel's 45nm technology.
The situation gets a little more competitive when switching from CPUs to GPUs, and according to Tomshardware, sources at both ATI and Nvidia are saying they will each have a 40nm GPU manufacturing process by the first half of 2009, possibly to be unveiled at next year's CeBit.
Assuming either company meets their target, the accomplishment will unseat Intel as the technological leader in terms of the smallest chip structures, even if only for a short time. The road won't stop at Nehalem and Intel is already busy developing 32nm CPUs, which many expect to be shown off in prototype form at the company's spring development forum in H1 2009. Volume shipments could come as early as Q3 next year.
Even so, if 40nm GPUs materialize as reported, it will mark the first time GPUs will overtake CPUS in terms of production nodes. That won't necessarily make it a better chip, but you can expect plenty of fanfare should Nvidia and/or ATI dethrone the silicon king.
An "abnormal failure rate" among Nvidia's 8M series GPUs hasn't stopped the graphics chip maker from moving forward; the Santa Clara company expanded its lineup last week with the GeForce 9800M and 9700M parts for notebooks. If you've been waiting for these parts to reach the market place, you can now whip out the credit card and place your order.
Best Buy already stocks Toshiba's sexy Qosmio X305-Q701, which comes equipped with Nvidia's 9700M GTS GPU sporting 512MB GDDR3 memory. According to DigiTimes, over 20 other notebook vendors are expected to soon follow suit, including other top tier vendors. Gaming notebooks have also been announced from the likes of Sager, CyberSystem, Infinity, Pioneer Computers Australia, and other regional PC companies.
If Toshiba's Qusmio isn't your style, look forward to a flurry of other 9M based notebooks to make their debut as Intel's Centrino 2 platform emerges full force.
Last month Nvidia said it planned to tweak its 9800GTX videocard with a die shrink and faster clockspeeds resulting in the 9800GTX+, and today the release becomes official with immediate availability. Along with the 9800GTX+, Nvidia fleshes out its GeForce 9-series line with two other videocards, the 9800GT and 9500GT.
All three cards are available now, and each one brings support for Nvidia's PhysX and CUDA technologies, two areas currently exclusive to Nvidia.
"The addition of the new 9800GTX+, 9800GT, and the 9500GT GPUs brings a new level of visual computing capability to additional mainstream market segments," said Ujesh Desai, general manger of desktop GPUs at Nvidia. "Nvidia GPUs deliver the best bang for the buck in each price category, and with support for CUDA, PhysX, and 3D stereoscopic technology, consumers can now experience the unique, innovative, and immersive computing experience that only Nvidia can deliver."
Claiming victory in the bang-for-buck war would have been a tough sell just weeks ago, but such claims become easier to swallow with the 9500GT taking residence in the sub-$70 pricing tier. Both the 9800GT and GTX+ can be bought for under $200, with the latter going head to head against ATI's HD 4850 videocard. For you old schoolers, it hasn't been this fun to shop for a GPU since the TI4200 days.
It's been a rocky summer for Nvidia, who earlier this month saw its shares tumble downward after announcing it was setting aside a one-time hit of $150 to $200 million to cover warranty and repair costs associated with an "abnormal failure rate" in its mobile graphics cards. Now it appears that tough times are still ahead for the graphics card maker.
Citing un-named sources, DigiTimes claims that the faulty mobile parts have led to some channel vendors demanding graphics card parnters to issue a recall for desktop-based videocards using the same GPU core. Nvidia has maintained that the problematic parts only affect a few specific notebook models and no desktop cards, but some have suggested it could include all G84 and G86 parts.
This isn't the first rumor Nvidia's been entangled with in recent times, and as with all hearsay, take this one with a grain of salt.
Have you ever run into an old ex-girlfriend only to realize she's nothing the way you remembered? Or fired up that retro-game and wondered what you found so appealing about it in the first place? Every once in awhile a blast from the past (like bringing WarGames back to theaters) will make a worthwhile comeback, but more often than not, old relics are best left buried, and Albatron might be finding this out.
Earlier this month the company let it be known it would be bringing Nvidia's 8-series videocards in 8400, 8500, and 8600 trim to the PCI bus, but those plans have hit a snag and it might be awhile before we see another PCI videocard. Even though the PCI bus has been around since close to the dawn of time, not all motherboards stick to the same signaling implementation for the PCI interface, and Albatron fears that compatibility with different motherboards could become a problem.
Sam Nada, Albatron's International PR representative, says the company's engineers are working on optimizing the BIOS to ensure a smooth rollout, but it will be a couple of weeks before the new Retrotechnology cards make a debut. But what's a couple of weeks if you've already staved off the upgrade bug for this long?
With ATI having finally jumped back into the ring with Nvidia, the two companies have been taking performance jabs at each other in tit-for-tat fashion. One of those jabs came last month as Nvidia tweaked its 9800GTX with a die shrink (65nm to 55nm) and clockspeed boosts culminating in a new card dubbed the 9800GTX+. So does that mean BFG's newly announced 9800GTX+ OC can be considered an overclocked, overclocked 9800GTX? Holy redundancy, Batman!
However you label it, BFG's 9800GTX+ OC ranks as one of the fastest G92-based videocards on the market:
Core Clockspeed: 760MHz (vs 738MHz)
Shader Clockspeed:1,890MHz (vs 1,836MHz)
Memory Clockspeed: 2,250MHz (vs 2,200MHz)
Also supported are the usual assortment of goodies, including PhysX support, 3-way SLI, HybridPower technology, DirectX 10, dual-link HDCP, and a bevy of other marketing bullets. The card also comes backed by BFG's 24-hour tech support and lifetime warranty (be sure to register online within 30 days of purchase).
But for all that it includes, BFG still doesn't allow end-users to overclock its videocard, nor are they trusted to swap out the stock cooler for a third-party solution without voiding the warranty (Boo!), a pair of liberties given to XFX and Evga owners.
More than a few early GTX 280 and GTX 260 adopters are catching a break thanks to vendors stepping up to the plate with cash back offers. XFX announced it would give its qualified customers up to $120 back in the wake of Nvidia's aggressive price cuts, and Evga has opened up a similar program. Evga customers must have purchased their GTX 280 or 260 videocard between June 16, 2008 and July 7, 2008 to be eligible for the kickback, and those eligible can choose between $75 in Evga bucks or $60 cash back (GTX 260), or $150 in Evga Bucks or $125 cash back (GTX 280). Other terms and conditions include:
Must be a new purchase from an authorized Evga reseller. Step-ups do not qualify
You have 14 days to register and upload a qualified invoice to claim your Evga Bucks
Only customers who purchased the Evga GTX 280 or GTX 260 at the full Manufactured Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) will qualify for the Reimbursement Program
So far this marks two Nvidia partners (that we know of) offering relief to early adopters affected by the quick price cuts, and it's anyone's guess if more will follow. Who thinks BFG will be next?
Being an early adopter doesn't always net you bragging rights. Just ask your neighbor how his HD-DVD player is working out for him, or your co-worker what he bought with his Apple gift card after being one of the first to own an iPhone. And in the world of PCs, being the first to own a Geforce GTX 280 means you're stuck watching others pay $499 for the same videocard you plopped down $649 for just weeks ago.
It's because of this that XFX's latest announcement comes as an epic win for its customers. The company says it wants to "thank you for your loyalty and believing in the XFX brand," and to prove it, XFX is issuing up to $120 cash back for anyone who purchased an XFX-brand Geforce GTX 280 or 260 videocard between June 16, 2008 and July 11, 2008. This from the same company that offers a double-lifetime warranty on all its videocards.