NVIDIA GeForce2 Ultra

by Anand Lal Shimpi on August 14, 2000 9:01 AM EST

NVIDIA has been executing perfectly ever since the release of their TNT back in 1998.  It was October 1998 that NVIDIA’s first TNT based cards began shipping by Diamond. Just about one year later, NVIDIA successfully executed the launch of their TNT2 and TNT2 Ultra based products, which eventually overshadowed the Voodoo3 that preceded it. 

The TNT2 Ultra release was the last product NVIDIA brought to market before they switched to a 6-month product cycle.  This new cycle truly strained their competitors since 3dfx was unable to produce the Voodoo4/5 in time to compete with NVIDIA’s next product, the GeForce, which was released 6 months after the TNT2 Ultra. 

The GeForce was an instant hit, there was nothing available that could possibly compete with it and as more mature drivers were released for the card, its performance did nothing but improve.  3dfx, ATI, Matrox and the now defunct graphics division of S3 had no way of competing with the GeForce and the later versions of the card that featured Double Data Rate SDRAM (DDR).  If they couldn’t compete with the GeForce, there was no way they would be able to catch up in time for the launch of the GeForce2 GTS just 6-months later. 

However, the GeForce2 GTS was met with some competition as 3dfx’s Voodoo5 5500 was launched at around the same time and speculation began to form about ATI’s Radeon chip, but even then, we all knew that 6 months after the GTS’ release, NVIDIA would have yet another product that would help them to distance themselves from the competition yet again.

This brings us up to the present day.  While we were patiently waiting for the elusive ‘NV20’ from NVIDIA, NVIDIA has been shipping 32MB and 64MB GeForce2 GTS cards to make their current customer base happy.  With the release of the GeForce2 MX as well as the new Quadro2, it is clear that NVIDIA has really got their act together, and that it has also built up the expectations we had for NV20, the code name of their next product.

We expected NV20 to literally blow everything away; it would mark a depart from the standard GeForce2 GTS core and present us with NVIDIA’s equivalent of ATI’s HyperZ technology that allows for very efficient memory bandwidth usage.  Rumors began hitting the message boards and newsgroups, which speculated on the NV20’s incredible specifications.  Everyone expected the NV20 to have a 300MHz+ core clock, incredibly fast DDR memory, and an insane amount of memory bandwidth which would be courtesy of its ‘borrowing’ some techniques from tile-based rendering architectures. 

Using our trusty calendar skills, and NVIDIA’s promise to stick to a 6-month product cycle, this put the release of the NV20 in September 2000, under one month away.  With ATI’s Radeon only able to beat a GeForce2 GTS by 10 – 20%, the NV20 would only have to be that much faster in order to beat ATI’s latest creation, and NVIDIA’s closest competitor.  We already assumed the NV20 would be much faster than the Radeon right off the bat.

The specifications we were all expecting were amazing, but guess what guys ‘n gals?  The wonderful NV20 won’t be here until next year.  That’s right, Spring 2001 is when you can expect to see the NV20, but NVIDIA won’t be departing from their 6-month product cycle schedule, they are simply departing from what they define a “product” as. 

Originally, NVIDIA’s plans were to release a new chip every Fall and they would have another version of the product every Spring, a sort of “Spring Refresh,” as they liked to call it.  Now, the GeForce has already gotten it’s “Spring Refresh,” the GeForce2 GTS, but now, apparently the GeForce2 GTS isn’t feeling very “fresh” and NVIDIA has decided to give it another refresh, this time in the Fall.

Update 8/17/2000: There have been reports that the NV20 won't be delayed and it will be released on time contrary to what we've published here. We met with NVIDIA in person and asked them their stance on the issue, according to NVIDIA the NV20 will be out in 4 to 8 months from the release of the GeForce2 Ultra (September). This places the release of the NV20 about 6 months from when the Ultra hits the streets which can be as early as January or as late as May. If you take the average of that range, you get a March release, which does fall in line with our statement of a Spring 2001 launch.

So what is this ultra-fresh GeForce2 going to be called?  None other than the GeForce2 Ultra of course.

We’ll let the shock set in before moving on to the specs of this chip…

The Chip
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