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Mass Confusion about NVIDIA's G70


And Other Parts


by Josh Walrath


     Last week some of the first good looking information on the G70 from NVIDIA was leaked.  Now, this info pointed towards the G70 being a 110 nm part clocked at 430 MHz and it featured 24 pixel pipelines (six quads), and gave some other pertinent information.  The materials leaked with the specs also made it look like it was legitimate.  Now, I am just not so sure.

     At the J.P. Morgan technology conference, NVIDIA gave a 15 minute presentation with a short Q&A.  Marv Burkett, CFO of NVIDIA, gave the presentation.  Most of the presentation talked about NVIDIA's current financial position, how their products are positioned in the market, and how well certain aspects of the business are growing (GPU's and MCP's being the main growth areas).  He also went on to state that while the Consumer Electroncis group (those in charge of products like the X-Box) will have very flat growth until around Q3, when they will start receiving income from the RSX (PS3 graphics unit).  Their WMP (Wireless Media Products) division had a big customer last year, but that has since dried up.  However, they are expecting two major customers to come on board next quarter, so that area should be shored up.

     In his talk he covered quite a few topics, and some of the bigger ones were that of the RSX and 90 nm products.  Currently the RSX is still in development, and no actual silicon is available as of yet.  Looking at Sony's timeline, I would expect the RSX to be taped out by the end of this Summer, and that first silicon will be available in late Fall.  Once all the little problems are fixed and the design is working as it should, Sony will take over production and pay NVIDIA a royalty for the use of their technology.  While overall revenue from this deal will be lower than the X-Box, NVIDIA will not have to worry about things such as production schedules, poor yields, and the other pitfalls of handling the production portion of a GPU.  This will of course have a positive effect on net profits though, since this will essentially be "free money" from work previously done.  Sony has laid out a good chunk of change for the current design work, and I would imagine that delivery of first silicon will be faster than I am quoting because Sony owns and runs the Fab that the silicon will be produced on (without having NVIDIA pay out the waazoo for an accelerated first run, you can expect Sony to give that product top priority in its Fab).

     The demos that were running at E3 were apparently mainly running on SLI machines, as well as G70 parts.  Marv talked about how these demos were run on an upcoming product with many similar capabilities as the RSX chip.  So, while the RSX will have more features that are aimed at the PS3, we can expect this next generation of cards to nearly match the overall performance and feature-set of the RSX.

     Now for the confusion.  Earlier this year at a conference call with Jen-Hsun and the gang, it was stated that the first 90 nm parts were going to be introduced this Fall.  Now we are hearing something different.  At the J.P. Morgan conference, Marv Burkett clearly stated that the first 90 nm part will be introduced this quarter (which definitely cannot be characterized as "Fall"), and that all "large" products will be 90 nm from here on out.  This suggests, in very strong language, that the G70 will be 90 nm (as it has not been released as of yet, and it is a large part).  So, was the leak last week legitimate?  If Marv really meant what he said, then no, the G70 will not be a 110 nm part.

     The amount of confusion that NVIDIA has spread about their products in the past two years in terms of leaks has been pretty astonishing.  Nobody has a handle on what is going to be introduced, and while the big picture is fairly well known, the details are not.  We all know that the next gen of products will have a faster clockspeed, and that they will feature at least 24 pixel pipelines.  Other than that, it is a lot of guesswork.  Now, one noted hoax that NVIDIA perpetrated was that of hinting the NV40 was a 8x2 architecture.  Apparently NVIDIA delivered "special" cards to some developers that showed up as 8x2, and of course this information was leaked to the internet community, and ATI was able to see what was going on.  At this point ATI thought they were sitting pretty with their X800 Pro and X800 XT PE.  A 12 pixel pipeline card running at 475 MHz should just destroy a 8x2 architected 350 MHz part.  Of course the XT PE would wipe the floor with the competition.  Then April rolled around last year and we saw that the NV40 was a 16 pipeline design, the 6800 GT was significantly faster than the X800 Pro, and the 6800 Ultra matched the X800 XT PE.  As we saw, ATI had to introduce the X800 XT near the end of Summer of last year to be able to offer a part more competitive with the NVIDIA range of cards (and gave users something between the middling performance of the X800 Pro and the outstanding performance of the X800 XT PE).  Unfortunately for ATI, they had some serious supply issues, and their XT and XT-PE parts were very hard to find.


Next:  Conflicting Reports on G70


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