Nvidia Corp. has taken the wraps off its latest high-end mainstream graphics chip, the GeForce 7800 GTX. Although Nvidia’s introduction centers on the lucrative PC game market, Nvidia’s graphics hardware is also Mac-compatible, so this announcement may give Mac users an insight as to what’s to come on their platform soon.
Introduced at an event in San Francisco, Calif. earlier this week, the GeForce 7800 is the desktop variant of the Nvidia-designed “RSX” graphics chip that will grace Sony’s PlayStation 3 video game console, currently in development and expected to debut in 2006.
New technology under the hood
Featured technology on the new graphics chip includes CineFX 4.0, the latest generation of Nvidia’s pixel and vertex shading technology, which is used by software developers to generate realistic lighting and texturing effects on 3D models. Intellisample 4.0 is Nvidia’s anti-aliasing technology, which helps smooth the jagged lines sometimes present in polygonal models displayed on computer screens. The 7800 also supports High Dynamic Range (HDR) — technology used in high-end Hollywood and advertising visual effects labs to produce more precise, detailed color and lighting effects.
Nvidia claims the GeForce 7800 GTX uses about 300 million transistors — the most advanced graphics chip the company has yet designed. Clocked to run at 430MHz, the chip was made using 110-nanometer technology, smaller than previous chips. That smaller size enables the chip to work faster at lower temperatures. Nvidia expects to have 90-nanometer chips in play by the end of 2005.
The GeForce 7800 GTX chip is already in production and is featured on PC graphics cards coming from various manufacturers already. The first crop of boards cost about US$600 retail.
One wild card for Mac users is the 7800 GTX’s reliance on an expansion technology called PCI Express. This interface technology has gained much traction in the PC space over the past year, but it’s still yet to debut on the Macintosh — Power Mac models are expandable using AGP-based video card sockets and PCI-X expansion card ports.
Nvidia is also now leveraging a technology called Scalable Link Interface (SLI), that allows two PCI Express-based graphics cards to work in tandem to produce images faster. It’s unlikely that SLI will be supported on the Mac until Apple makes the move to PCI Express, and Apple has given no indication when it will do so.