NVIDIA and P55

Yesterday NVIDIA held its Power of 3 platform briefing. The intention was to align NVIDIA’s GPUs, SLI and PhysX with the Intel Lynnfield/P55 launch. NVIDIA has no Lynnfield chipsets out (but is expected to sometime next year), instead it is providing SLI licenses to those motherboard makers that are interested in supporting multi-GPU on their boards.

The license terms are thankfully a lot more palatable than they were with the initial X58 launch. To support SLI a motherboard manufacturer simply has to pay NVIDIA $30,000 up front plus $3 per SLI enabled motherboard sold. In turn NVIDIA gives the motherboard manufacturer a key to put in its BIOS that tells the NVIDIA display drivers that it’s ok to enable SLI on that platform.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, Lynnfield includes an on-die PCIe controller provided 16 PCIe 2.0 lanes. Using an external switch those 16 lanes can be split off into two x8 slots, enabling CF and SLI (CF is enabled free of charge, SLI requires participation in the licensing program).

Although unnecessary, if you want the bandwidth of two x16 PCIe 2.0 slots the motherboard manufacturer will need to use an nForce 200 chip. This chip houses 32 PCIe 2.0 lanes but connects to the Lynnfield chip via 16 lanes, so you get better bandwidth between cards but no increase in bandwidth between the GPUs and the CPU. Expect boards that use an nForce 200 chip to be limited at best.

Without the PCIe switch logic to split the x16 connection off of Lynnfield into two x8 connections, SLI can’t be enabled; NVIDIA won’t allow it over mismatched PCIe slots (e.g. x16 + x4).

In an unexpected alignment, NVIDIA is actually calling out AMD’s Dragon platform by name (Phenom II + AMD 700 Series Chipset + AMD 4800 Series GPU). NVIDIA calls its “platform” the Power of 3, of course referring to Intel’s P55, Intel’s Lynnfield and a NVIDIA GPU. Intel gets it for free here; NVIDIA does all of the branding and promotion for Power of 3, yet Intel makes the vast majority of the silicon. Perhaps someone is bitter over not being included in AMD’s platform launch plans anymore?

All kidding aside, at least this means we will see mature driver and SLI support for Lynnfield at launch. While NVIDIA was in good shape when X58 debuted last year, AMD’s driver support left much to be desired. It’s clear that even NVIDIA with its anti-Intel blood sees the importance of Lynnfield; it’s nice to see egos checked at the door.

There’s one more logo program that’s being introduced with Lynnfield SLI certification: PhysX Ready. Yep, you read that right. NVIDIA is now allowing motherboard makers who are SLI partners to put a PhysX Ready logo on their boxes if they have enough PCIe slots to support a second GPU as a PhysX card.

You may remember that we weren’t overly impressed with PhysX the last time we looked at it, but NVIDIA promises that the use of PhysX in Batman: Arkham Asylum is beyond anything we’ve ever seen. We’ll find out next month when Batman ships.

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  • Rajinder Gill - Friday, August 21, 2009 - link

    'Why would anyone want this?'

    Simply because people feel they must or because they have the money to burn. Whichever way it goes, I doubt the very presence of high price P55 boards is going to detract from the $130 market or even sub $130 market.I think some people see the high dollar boards and think that the budget segment is going to disappear as a result. The $200+ boards really are for those who just buy stuff on a whim or those that have specialized needs from a platform - like chasing max scores on a paticular processor model class for points in competitions such as Hwbot (you get HW based points - so even though i7 1366 is or may be faster, there are openings to score on an 870 CPU). Might sound stupid, but there's an industry for this stuff..




    Reply
  • Marc B - Friday, August 21, 2009 - link

    I can't believe the fanfare hardware sites are attempting to create with this joker. Why is Intel making such a big deal about a slower, later to the market platform that is comparably priced to their high performance chipset?

    This is not news, and hardware sites look like shills for manufacturers with multiple articles trumpeting slower, later, yet nearly matching in price products. This P55 deserves no more attention than Celeron updates received in the past.
    Reply
  • nubie - Thursday, August 20, 2009 - link

    What about the on-die pci-e? Maybe that will pay off in reduced latency?

    I am not spending over $130 for one though, even if I win the lotto. (unless it is mini-ITX or something)
    Reply
  • TemjinGold - Thursday, August 20, 2009 - link

    "Over 13 games now support Phsyx..." So... 14 games now support it (according to the pic)? Somehow, "over 13" doesn't sound too impressive... Reply
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  • yacoub - Thursday, August 20, 2009 - link

    You're correct that "over 13" is a horrible use of that marketing schema. When the numbers are that low, you don't use "over" because it sounds lame. Or it could be "over a dozen", which keeps it vague enough that it sounds better. Reply
  • Samus - Friday, August 21, 2009 - link

    I wasn't impressed with Physx in UT3 or Mirrors Edge. It made for some occasional eye candy in Mirrors Edge when glass was shattering and the flags were getting torn up, but the game also crashed on occasion with Physx turned on, and was completely stable with it disabled.

    I haven't noticed that behavior in UT3, but in UT3 you can't even tell the difference with it enabled.

    It's pretty cool, but hell, the Source engine already has an amazing, low CPU overhead Physics engine, it seems just unneccessary to dedicate GPU power to such a task when everything has a dual core 2+GHz cpu these days.

    CUDA is promissing, I just wish they'd actually do something cool with it like make a torrent client or a video transcoder (that works)
    Reply
  • swaaye - Friday, August 21, 2009 - link

    Source wasn't the first physics implementation in a game engine. It was just the most publicized. You can go back to Unreal and see some too. Or how about the terrible Jurassic Park: Trespasser? :)

    Phsyx is the new Glide. Thankfully it should die with DX11 Compute Shaders.
    Reply
  • PseudoKnight - Thursday, August 20, 2009 - link

    It makes allowances for games that support PhysX that they haven't listed because they may not know about it. The alternative would be "14 or more" but they couldn't say "more than 14" without a possibility it'd be a lie. Reply

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