Introduction

There has been a lot of buzz over NVIDIA's latest offering in the GeForce 6800's NV40 GPU. To be assured, NV40 offers performance that is hands and feet above that of NV3x, but what we want to know is why.



Yes, NV3x is a different architecture, but just how different is it from its bigger brother? What are the reasons we didn't see the performance we would have liked from NV3x? How exactly did NV40 manage to improve on NV3x's architecture to allow the 6800 to strech its legs so far?



These are the questions we want to answer, and we will take a look at the details of the architectures as a whole, and some individual elements of their pipelines in order to try and understand just what went wrong to spark NVIDIA's darkest 12 months.
The Pixel Pipe Performance Picture
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  • WizzBall - Tuesday, May 04, 2004 - link

    Nice article... sooo, when are we going to see the follow-up to this now that ATI came forward with their cards ? May I suggest 'What went wrong with NV4.x' ? :D Reply
  • TrogdorJW - Tuesday, April 27, 2004 - link

    Hey... anyone else having password issues, or is that something my company network admins f'ed up? I keep entering my password, but it doesn't get remembered. Ugh.... Reply
  • TrogdorJW - Tuesday, April 27, 2004 - link

    Personally, I think it's all about the alliteration: "The Pixel Pipe Performance Picture!" :)

    Anyway, I imagine the moratorium will end once the R420 is released and we can talk about all four chips (R3xx, R4xx, NV3x, and NV4x), right? Yeah, that's it....

    On a side note, I wonder how much going from FP24 to FP32 would cost ATI in terms of transistors, not to mention the Shader Model 3.0 stuff. It's not that we really need it, but going from 24-bit to 32-bit color basically makes everthing that operates on the data 25% larger in terms of transistor usage. Add in the other missing SM3.0 features, and I think a 160-180 million transistor R420 would suddenly become a 222 million transistor NV40. Basically, I think performance from the next generation cards will be about the same given the same GPU/VPU and RAM speeds. The only difference will be that NV4x has SM3.0 support, which looks to be a marketing point more than anything.
    Reply
  • greendonuts3 - Thursday, April 22, 2004 - link

    that's "Post-Mortem", as in "Post-Mortem Analysis" as in "Autopsy," not "Moratorium," as in "banzored."

    Thank you very much.
    And DON'T forget to hyphenate "Post-Mortem."
    "Post Mortem" means "dead letter" or some such.
    Reply
  • ianmills - Thursday, April 22, 2004 - link

    this article is crap. The real reason NV30 sucked is because nvidia slept with 3Dfx and got caught pixel herpes. Reply
  • TauCeti - Wednesday, April 21, 2004 - link

    Moratorium:
    > We have stopped -- we are done with NV3x analysis.

    Well, if you have _stopped_ writing NV3X-content, it is _not_ a moratorium.

    After a moratorium ends, you are obliged to continue with your _suspended_ activity.

    Besides that: good article ;)


    Reply
  • DerekWilson - Wednesday, April 21, 2004 - link

    #11:

    We have stopped -- we are done with NV3x analysis. I'll admit that the title could have been phrased a bit better, but we did mean moratorium... Of all the articles I have written I think I've gotten the highest volume of emails on this one -- to tell me that I don't know what moratorium means ;-)

    But on topic ... The big problem with an article like this (or any architectural or deeply technical article) is balancing depth, clarity, and length.

    If you guys have any suggestions on balancing these aspects in another way, please let us know. We want to write the articles that you want to read!
    Reply
  • GomezAddams - Wednesday, April 21, 2004 - link

    "Can it not be a moratorium on NV3x articles?"

    It will be when you stop writing them. ;)

    I thought it was a pretty decent article too. I am looking forward to one that compares ATIs next contestant on these issues.

    Personally, I can handle a lot more detail but I would prefer not to spend so much time reading articles. :)
    Reply
  • Phiro - Wednesday, April 21, 2004 - link

    My earlier outburst aside, it's a very good article. Reply
  • DerekWilson - Wednesday, April 21, 2004 - link

    Can it not be a moratorium on NV3x articles? I thought it was funny ;-)

    fp16 vs fp32 and image quality is a very tough nut to crack. there are a lot of things going on on the side of compiler optimizations that we really need to look into in order to understand what's going on.

    also, rotated vs. ordered grid has no performance difference. or it shouldn't anyway. we wanted to focus on performance in this article.
    Reply

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