DirectX 10.1 on an NVIDIA GPU?

Easily the most interesting thing about the GT 220 and G 210 is that they mark the introduction of DirectX 10.1 functionality on an NVIDIA GPU. It’s no secret that NVIDIA does not take a particular interest in DX10.1, and in fact even with this they still don’t. But for these new low-end parts, NVIDIA had some special problems: OEMs.

OEMs like spec sheets. They want parts that conform to certain features so that they can in turn use those features to sell the product to consumers. OEMs don’t want to sell a product with “only” DX10.0 support if their rivals are using DX10.1 parts. Which in turn means that at some point NVIDIA would need to add DX10.1 functionality, or risk losing out on lucrative OEM contracts.

This is compounded by the fact that while Fermi has bypassed DX10.1 entirely for the high-end, Fermi’s low-end offspring are still some time away. Meanwhile AMD will be shipping their low-end DX11 parts in the first half of next year.

So why do GT 220 and G 210 have DX10.1 functionality? To satisfy the OEMs, and that’s about it. NVIDIA’s focus is still on DX10 and DX11. DX10.1 functionality was easy to add to the GT200-derrived architecture (bear in mind that GT200 already had some DX10.1 functionality), and so it was done for the OEMs. We would also add that NVIDIA has also mentioned the desire to not be dinged by reviewers and forum-goers for lacking this feature, but we’re having a hard time buying the idea that NVIDIA cares about either of those nearly as much as they care about what the OEMs think when it comes to this class of parts.

DX10.1 in a nutshell, as seen in our Radeon 3870 Review

At any rate, while we don’t normally benchmark with DX10.1 functionality enabled, we did so today to make sure DX10.1 was working as it should be. Below are our Battleforge results, using DX10 and DX10.1 with Very High SSAO enabled.

The ultimate proof that DX10.1 is a checkbox feature here is performance. Certainly DX10.1 is a faster way to implement certain effects, but running them in the first place still comes at a significant performance penalty. Hardware of this class is simply too slow to make meaningful use of the DX10.1 content that’s out there at this point.

Index A Better HTPC Card: MPEG-4 ASP Decoding & LPCM Audio


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  • Joe90 - Monday, October 12, 2009 - link

    Last week I bought a Medion P6620 laptop. It's fitted with an Nvidia 220M graphics card with 512MB of GDDR3 ram. The blurb of the box said it was a DirectX 10.1 card. Have NV released any details about the laptop 220M as well as the desktop 220? All I could find out from Wikipedia & was that the 220M was a 40 micron version of the 9600M GT but the Anandtech review suggests that things are more complicated than this.

    My only contribution to the debate is that I picked up this laptop for a paltry £399. Given that my machine has a T6500, 320GB HD, all I can think is that NV has be giving away the 220M to OEMs for pennies!

    Finally, has anyone seen any signs of Windows 7 drivers for the 220M? I got a freebie upgrade but I'm a bit scared of using it just in case there were no drivers for a graphics card that NV don't recognise on their own website.

  • JarredWalton - Monday, October 12, 2009 - link

    I'm assuming">these won't work? I know they don't list 220M, but they're the latest official drivers from NVIDIA; otherwise you're stuck with whatever the notebook manufacturer has delivered. I'd guess NVIDIA will have updated mobile notebook reference drivers relatively soon, though, to coincide with the official Win7 launch. Reply
  • Joe90 - Tuesday, October 13, 2009 - link

    Many thanks for the link. I think you're right. Although this NV driver page refers to the '200 series', it doesn't explicitly mention the 220M card. Until it does, I'll hang back from doing the Windows 7 upgrade.

    As it happens, I've only just made the leap from XP to Vista. Despite all the bad stuff I've read, Vista seems ok so I might just stick with it for a while. I'm finding I can play games ok with the Vista/220M combination. I'm currently playing FEAR 2 at 1366 x 768 with all the detail settings on maximum and the game plays fine. Given the low price of the laptop, I'm more than happy with the graphics performance.

  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, October 13, 2009 - link

    I've never had a true hate for Vista, but there are areas I dislike (several clicks just to get to resolution adjustment, for example). Windows 7 is better in pretty much every way as far as I can tell, although it's not like Vista is horrible and Win7 is awesome. It's more like Vista reached a state of being "good enough" and 7 addresses a few remaining flaws.

    Now, if someone at MS would fix the glitch where my laptop power settings keep resetting.... (Every few tests, my battery saving options will reset to "default" and turn screen saver, system sleep, etc. on after I explicitly disabled it for testing. Annoying!)
  • plonk420 - Monday, October 12, 2009 - link

    it's AMAZING for this gen's "lowest end" (at retail)... beats the pants off my 9400GT currently in my HTPC. probably even equals or betters my once only 2 generation old nearly high end HD3850.

    this is going in my HTPC in a heartbeat when it hits $30-35 (unless power consumption is stupid high, which i don't think it is. i THINK i read about this somewhere else, and someone was moaning about it using 4 watts more than some ATI part it was being compared to).
  • ltcommanderdata - Monday, October 12, 2009 - link

    Given the more competitive desktop landscape, these new 40nm DX10.1 chips are not impressive at all. However, their mobile derivatives were announced months ago, and in the mobile space where mainstream GPUs seem to be made up of many, many combinations of nVidia's 32SP GPUs, a 40nm 48SP DX10.1 GPU would actually bring something to the table. It'd be great if we can get a review of a notebook with the GT 240M for instance. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, October 12, 2009 - link

    It looks like there are laptops with GT 240M starting at around $1100, and the jump from there to a 9800M card (96SPs, 256-bit RAM) is very small. Unless you can get GT 240M laptops for around $800, I don't see them being a big deal. Other factors could change my mind, though - battery life perhaps, or size/form factor considerations. Reply
  • apple3feet - Monday, October 12, 2009 - link

    For some people, the most important detail of any new NVIDIA card is the CUDA Compute Capability. Will it run my scientific simulation code? Only if the CUDA Compute Capability is 1.3 - so that it supports double precision floating point arithmetic. Could we have just one line somewhere to tell us this vital info? Reply
  • jasperjones - Monday, October 12, 2009 - link

    LOL,for dgemm (double-precision matrix multiplication) the GTX 285 is only about twice as fast as a Core i7 920 (using CUBLAS and Intel MKL, respectively).

    This suggests you shouldn't run your double precision code on a GT 220. Hell, even running CUDA code on your CPU using emulation might be faster than running on the GT 220..
  • apple3feet - Wednesday, October 14, 2009 - link

    You're wrong. Given the right problem, tackled using the right algorithm, and well-written code, TESLAs can do 20x the throughput of a Nehalem - even in double precision. Reply

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