NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 480 and GTX 470: 6 Months Late, Was It Worth the Wait?by Ryan Smith on March 26, 2010 7:00 PM EST
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Odds & Ends: ECC & NVIDIA Surround Missing
One of the things we have been discussing with NVIDIA for this launch is ECC. As we just went over in our GF100 Recap, Fermi offers ECC support for its register file, L1 cache, L2 cache, and RAM. The latter is the most interesting, as under normal circumstances implementing ECC requires a wider bus and additional memory chips. The GTX 400 series will not be using ECC, but we went ahead and asked NVIDIA how ECC will work on Fermi products anyhow.
To put things in perspective, for PC DIMMs an ECC DIMM will be 9 chips per channel (9 bits per byte) hooked up to a 72bit bus instead of 8 chips on a 64bit bus. However NVIDIA doesn’t have the ability or the desire to add even more RAM channels to their products, not to mention 8 doesn’t divide cleanly in to 10/12 memory channels. So how do they implement ECC?
The short answer is that when NVIDIA wants to enable ECC they can just allocate RAM for the storage of ECC data. When ECC is enabled the available RAM will be reduced by 1/8th (to account for the 9th ECC bit) and then ECC data will be distributed among the RAM using that reserved space. This allows NVIDIA to implement ECC without the need for additional memory channels, at the cost of some RAM and some performance.
On the technical side, despite this difference in implementation NVIDIA tells us that they’re still using standard Single Error Correction / Double Error Detection (SECDED) algorithms, so data reliability is the same as in a traditional implementation. Furthermore NVIDIA tells us that the performance hit isn’t a straight-up 12.5% reduction in effective memory bandwidth, rather they have ways to minimize the performance hit. This is their “secret sauce” as they call it, and it’s something that they don’t intend to discuss at in detail at this time.
Shifting gears to the consumer side, back in January NVIDIA was showing off their Eyefinity-like solutions 3DVision Surround and NVIDIA Surround on the CES showfloor. At the time we were told that the feature would launch with what is now the GTX 400 series, but as with everything else related to Fermi, it’s late.
Neither 3DVision Surround nor NVIDIA surround are available in the drivers sampled to us for this review. NVIDIA tells us that these features will be available in their release 256 drivers due in April. There hasn’t been any guidance on when in April these drivers will be released, so at this point it’s anyone’s guess whether they’ll arrive in time for the GTX 400 series retail launch.