Is NV30 late?
As we've mentioned in articles before, NVIDIA quietly mentioned that NV30 would be delayed slightly a few months back. The PR explanation for the NV30 delay is to wait for the official launch of DirectX 9, but the real reason behind the delay is that the chip simply wasn't ready according to NVIDIA's original schedule.
The first NV30 silicon taped-out last week, this is no less than three months behind schedule. Back when ATI taped-out R300, NVIDIA was telling their manufacturing partners and OEMs that they would tape-out in the 2nd quarter of this year. During NVIDIA's quarterly conference call, it was publicly confirmed that NV30 had yet to tape-out at the time. For those not familiar with the manufacturing terminology, to "tape-out" is to produce the first functional silicon based on a processor's design; prior to being taped-out, a processor is only functional in the form of simulators.
Based on NVIDIA's original launch schedule for NV30, the GPU was allotted between 3 and 4 months for qualification before final production silicon would be ready. This is an important figure to keep in mind because based on these estimates it will be 90 - 120 days from NV30's tape-out until final silicon can ship to retail shelves.
NVIDIA's revised schedule for NV30's release called for the GPU to be shipping to retailers in November, with availability shortly thereafter. With the chip having taped-out last week, being in stores in November will definitely be a best case scenario for the chip. So although NV30 was delayed once already, it is possible for NVIDIA to deliver the chip on-time according to their revised schedule by the end of this year.
There will obviously be working silicon out before November, which is what NVIDIA will use to make as many people second guess a $399 investment into a Radeon 9700 Pro between now and November. Just as ATI and Matrox made technology announcements months before production silicon was ready, you can probably expect the same from NV30.