Graphics chip maker Nvidia Corp. countered rival ATI Technology Inc.’s product announcements today with its own introductions at this week’s Game Developers Conference (GDC). Nvidia rolled out the GeForce FX 5800 and GeForce FX 5200, two new additions to its GeForce FX product line.
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Nvidia said the goal of the new chips is to provide what it calls “cinematic computing” to desktop computers. “Cinematic computing” is a catchphrase bandied about by graphics chip makers to describe the real-time display of movie-quality 3D graphics like those seen in computer-animated films like Shrek and Toy Story.
The new offerings round out mainstream and budget-priced solutions for the GeForce FX line, which has been plagued by production delays since its introduction in November 2002. The GeForce FX 5800 is the first graphics processor in Nvidia’s arsenal to be developed around a 0.13 micron and copper fabrication process.
The GeForce FX 5600 is positioned as a new mainstream computer graphics chip — a product to balance performance with price value, without detracting from the flagship product, the GeForce FX 5800. The 5600 chip sports “the full GeForce FX feature set,” according to Nvidia, including Intellisample 2.0 — Nvidia’s name for its real time anti-aliasing technology, which smooths graphics in motion for a more realistic appearance.
Nvidia compares the 5600 to its GeForce4 Ti 4600 — the midrange version of the same chip generation currently offered by Apple as an option in the Power Mac G4. Nvidia reports that the GeForce FX 5600 outpaces the GeForce4 Ti 4600 by about 30 percent, while costing half as much.
The GeForce FX 5200 is a new graphics chip aimed the value market. The product provides some of the same features and functionality as its higher-performance and higher-priced cousins, including the CineFX engine — a vertex and pixel shading technology — as well as 128-bit color and optimizations and support for DirectX 9.0, Microsoft’s latest generation of 3D rendering technology. DirectX is seen by many as a competitor to OpenGL, the cross-platform graphics standard promoted by Apple. The 5200 will start at prices as low as $79, according to Nvidia president and CEO Jen-Hsun Huang.
Nvidia anticipates releasing the new GeForce FX products beginning in April 2003. Unlike ATI, Nvidia does not manufacture retail cards under its own brand name, so it’s unlikely that any of these chips will be available for the Macintosh unless Apple incorporates them into its own product designs.
Apple has closely partnered with Nvidia for graphics subsystems Apple uses in the eMac, iMac, and PowerBook G4 lines, however, and offers some Nvidia-based cards as standard issue or as options in its Power Mac G4 as well. What’s more, Nvidia’s unified architecture makes it possible for these graphics processors to work in the Macintosh just as its predecessors have. So it’s entirely feasible for future Mac models to make use of some of this technology.
GDC 2003 takes place in the San Jose Convention Center in San Jose, Calif. through March 8.