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Nvidia blitzes back with GeForce 7900, 7600 series, Quad-SLI, notebook SLI

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Nvidia blitzes back with GeForce 7900, 7600 series, Quad-SLI, notebook SLI

Hannover (Germany) – While the week began with ATI’s announcement of a new high-performance mobile GPU, Nvidia waited for the opening day of the huge CeBIT conference to announce no fewer than four new product entries that almost completely redefine Nvidia’s product spectrum. Included in the mix is its own high-end notebook GPU, the extension of SLI to the notebook platform, and the expansion of SLI on desktops.

Nvidia’s development strategy is to offer new products for the three basic market tiers – performance, mainstream, and value – separately, rather than apply the old “trickle down” theory, where performance-class cards become next year’s mainstream fare. So bringing up the middle today, Nvidia announced the G73 chip, which premieres today in the GeForce 7600 GT, which replaces the 6600 GT as the company’s price/performance leader.

Underscoring the importance of the hundreds place in today’s graphics card nomenclature, Nvidia included among its talking points this week that the 7600 GT outperforms ATI’s X1600XT, while the 7900 GT outperforms the X1800XL. The game is changing; its premise is no longer about overall capabilities, but relative performance within each card’s designated class.

All three GeForce cards announced today, says Nvidia, supports Microsoft’s DirectX 9.0 Shader Model 3.0, which represents perhaps the highest level of graphics technology made possible today by a standard feature of Windows. But “today” never lasts very long; and as we’ve covered here, Microsoft’s plans for Windows Vista include exclusive support for a premium performance tier, for graphics hardware designed to support DirectX 10. Up to this point, both Nvidia and ATI have been reluctant to state whether even their current top-of-the-line graphics cards will support DirectX 10, even though developers’ versions have already been made available for laboratory testing.

Splitting performance hairs two ways, then four ways

On any normal day, the unveiling of either Quad-SLI for the desktop or SLI of any form for notebooks, would command the headlines; but on CeBIT’s opening day, no announcement leads the wires for very long.

For Nvidia’s new Quad-SLI scheme to work, you need four GeForce 7900 series cards (either all GT or all GTX), connected to a motherboard that uses Nvidia’s nForce 4 SLI chipset. The combination of these elements, states Nvidia, can lead to a system capable of producing 2560 x 1600 resolution, with 32x anti-aliasing and 16x anisotropic filtering. Falcon Northwest is among the system builders that will be certified by Nvidia to produce such systems, which will probably require either next-generation high-definition digital displays, or two large high-res monitors side-by-side.

But even the prospect of a cluster of four G73s cranking out the visual equivalent of quadraphonic stereo, wasn’t really the big announcement today. On Tuesday, ATI set the stage for Nvidia, perhaps unknowingly, by stating that it would be up to notebook system designers to evolve their chassis to make it cool enough for higher-performance GPUs to make their way from the desktop.

If that was supposed to be the bait, then Nvidia took it and ran off this morning, with the announcement of SLI on the notebook level. The GeForce Go 7800 GTX card was designed for inclusion, according to Nvidia, in notebook systems whose displays are capable of 1900 x 1200 resolution. VooDoo PC and Alienware are among the builders Nvidia listed as making such systems available. If these systems’ displays are that large, then under the theory that the base unit must be at least as large as the display, perhaps size alone will help provide the cooling capacity that ATI hasn’t been able to scrape up.

Rounding off today’s Nvidia news is the announcement of an integrated version the company’s GeForce Go 6100 processor, designed for inclusion on systems that utilize the nForce Go 430 “media and communications processor.”

Both the Go 7800 GTX and Go 6100 will also support DirectX 9 Shader Model 3, promises Nvidia, although as with its new desktop entries, the company cannot yet extend that promise to the likely DirectX 10 premium prerequisite that Windows Vista is likely to put forth.

Read the review of the new graphics products on Tom’s Hardware:
ATI and Nvidia’s Same-Day Mega-Launch Mayhem