|ZOTAC GeForce GTX 280 AMP! Edition Video Card|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Video Cards|
|Written by Olin Coles|
|Tuesday, 01 July 2008|
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GT200 GPU: Why Now?
As my review of the GeForce 9800 GTX was just being published for the April 1st launch, there were already rumors circulating about a mystery "GeForce 9900" video card. At first, I found myself just a little irritated at the prospect of working on one major GeForce product launch while another was right around the corner. For most of early May there was a strong buzz around the coming product line, but it wasn't until I attended NVIDIA Editors Day 2008 that it was all laid out in front of me. Once I witnessed first-hand how the new GT200 GPU transcoded video at speeds I never imagined (and I transcode DVD publications often) it began to make sense. Further enforcing my interest in NVIDIA's latest technology was information about CUDA that would enable me to actually leverage GeForce products into commercial environments for the purpose of increase productivity. Not only was the GT200 changing the way we will perceive a video card, but it was evident that the term "display adapter" may no longer apply.
Before I share anymore information on the new architecture and the advanced technology it utilizes, I will answer the fundamental question: why now? To understand the answer, you must first accept how the industry works and that when there's a development break-through it may not always be scheduled on a calendar. Most people don't realize that it takes between 1-2 years (according to NVIDIA sources) to produce a stable graphics processor architecture. In fact, you might consider the development timeline a lot like a chess game because of constant trail and error turn-taking. So when NVIDIA finalizes a newly engineered design and makes it retail-ready, the company personnel go from a year-long yellow light to a full-blown green. So when a 1-2 year long development successfully completes with amazing results, you can understand the urgency of getting their bleeding-edge technology to market.
GT200 GPU: So What's New?
GeForce GT200 GPUs (presently the backbone of both the GTX 260 and GTX 280 products) are massively multithreaded, many-core, visual computing processors that incorporate both a second-generation unified graphics architecture and an enhanced high-performance, parallel-computing architecture. Two over-arching themes drove GeForce GT200 architectural design and are represented by two key phrases: "Beyond Gaming" and "Gaming Beyond." You may have caught this emphasis when I gave my report on NVIDIA's Editors Day 2008.
"Beyond Gaming" means the GPU has finally evolved beyond being used primarily for 3D games and driving standard PC display capabilities. This is what I was referring to when I said that calling the GTX 280 a display adapter was now inappropriate. You're going to see this be commonplace more and more often, because GPUs are accelerating non-gaming, computationally-intensive applications for both professionals and consumers. "Gaming Beyond" means that the GeForce GT200 GPUs will also enable amazing new gaming effects and dynamic realism, delivering much higher levels of scene and character detail, more natural character motion, and very accurate and convincing physics effects. The GeForce GT200 GPUs are designed to be fully compliant with Microsoft DirectX 10 and Open GL 2.1.
NVIDIA's second generation unified visual computing architecture as embodied in the new GeForce GTX 200 GPUs is a significant evolution over the original unified architecture of GeForce 8 and 9 series GPUs. Numerous extensions and functional enhancements to the architecture permit a performance increase averaging 1.5× the prior architecture. Improvements in sheer processing power combined with improved architectural efficiency allow amazing speedups in gaming, visual computing, and high-end computation.