It looks like we’ll getting a repeat of the 4-series versus GT200 battle, with a twist. Where nVidia went with a huge, power hungry core and the performance crown, ATI went for affordability and power efficiency on the smaller 55nm process, while nVidia were still using 65nm. ATI’s approach gained them a lot of market share, and now nVidia is on the back foot again. ATI were the first to get to the 40nm process with the 4770, and now they are the first with DirectX11 hardware as well.
NVidia’s DirectX10.1 cards are coming in the form of GT220 and G210 on October 12 and the GT240 in November. The GT220 will have 48 processor cores, a 128-bit memory interface and will be available in both DDR3 and DDR2. Reference clocks will be 615MHz for the core, 1335MHz for shaders and 790MHz for 1GB of DDR3 memory. As for the G210, it will have 16 processor cores and a castrated 64-bit memory interface. Reference clocks will be 589MHz for the core, 1404MHz for shaders, and 800MHz for DDR2 memory. With performance below ATI’s 4670, GT220 and G210 will have to be cheap to have a place in the market.
Nvidia hopes to change its fortunes with Fermi. Not going solely for gaming performance, Fermi will be heavily concentrated towards parallel GPGPU computing. With support for C++ and ECC memory, Fermi is definitely getting closer to CPU territory than other GPUs before. Therein lies the twist: nVidia is pushing CUDA and PhysX hard, and one cannot deny the improvements PhysX makes to Batman Arkham Asylum.
While on the topic of PhysX, those that were hoping to use an ATI card like the 5850 as the main display card and something like a 9600GT for PhysX should be fuming at nVidia right now. NVidia have recently disabled PhysX support in their drivers if a card from another vendor is detected on your system. Quite frankly, it’s disgusting and will most likely backfire. People don’t like being forced to use what companies tell them to use – 3DFX learnt that lesson the hard way.
Getting back to Fermi, the chip will support DDR5 and should be bigger, hotter, and more powerful than the 5870. Even though the chip is based on a 40nm process, it will only be slightly smaller than GT200. The top Fermi card being released looks to have 512 shader cores in 16 clusters, with 3.1Billion transistors, and will include DirectX11 support. The performance should be stellar – according to nVidia, this is the biggest architectural change since the G80 (8-series).
3 Fermi cards are set to get released at the end of this year. Most likely there won’t be any real quantities available, while ATI should have volume up within the next few weeks, as 3 months is a long time to get yields up. Notebook Fermi cards are only expected some time in 2010.
nVidia isn’t too bad off when it comes to DirectX 11 games, as DiRT 2, Alien vs Predator, and STALKER: Call of Pripyat are all being released late 2009 or early 2010.