Friday, August 1, 2008

Nvidia Set to Quit Chipset Business, Multi-GPU SLI Tech in Danger

The skies may not be blue for Nvidia, as the company is about to quit chipset business, which automatically means that the company’s much-hyped multi-GPU SLI technology is either in danger or re-considered. Moreover, several mainboard makers have already ceased making high-end Nvidia-based mainboards.

After months of uncertainties, Nvidia Corp has reportedly decided to quit core-logic business to concentrate on development of graphics processors and following failure to secure license to build and sell chipsets compatible with Intel Corp.’s microprocessors that use Quick-Path Interconnect (QPI) bus, reports DigiTimes web-site. Nvidia will be able to create chipsets compatible with microprocessors by Advanced Micro Devices, however, considering the fact that that AMD only commands about 20% of x86 chip market and pushes its own chipsets, it hardly makes a lot of sense for Nvidia to develop AMD-compatible core-logic sets. That said, Nvidia had decided to quit the chipset business, which brings hundreds of millions dollars in revenue to the company every quarter.

At present only Nvidia nForce chipsets enable the company’s SLI multi-GPU technology, thus, users, who plan to utilize two or more Nvidia GeForce-based graphics cards to speed up their video games, have to acquire nForce-based mainboards. Those, who use multi-GPU capable core-logic sets from AMD, Intel or other chipset vendors cannot use SLI technology, but may utilize competing ATI CrossFire array consisting of several ATI Radeon graphics cards by Advanced Micro Devices. However, with no chipsets from Nvidia, the latter will have either to open up SLI technology for third-party chipsets, or to dump SLI, which attracts a lot of attention to the company’s premium-class GeForce graphics cards and also ultimately brings tens of millions in revenue.

Recently Nvidia proposed to enable SLI by installing a special chip called nForce 200 bridge onto mainboards powered by Intel X58 chipset that supports Bloomfield processor which uses QPI bus. Motherboard manufacturers are hardly enthusiastic about the approach, as not only the nForce 200 costs additional money, it also requires them to redesign their mainboards and install an advanced cooling system in the bridge.

Separately, several large mainboard makers have dumped their high-end motherboards powered by Nvidia’s nForce chipsets, reports The Inquirer web-site. So far, DFI, Foxconn and Gigabyte has decided not to release the nForce 790i SLI chipset-based mainboards and removed the 780i SLI-based platforms from their web-sites. The web-site attributes the lack of Nvidia-based high-end mainboards to issues with weak packaging of the company’s other chips.

Nvidia chipsets are known for issues with data corruption as well as some other problems. Considering long-time troubles, packaging problems and the lack of QPI license, it is hardly a surprise that mainboard makers are not enthusiastic about Nvidia chipsets.

Nvidia did not comment on the news-story.

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