Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Nvidia Set to Support GDDR5 with Code-Named GT214 Chip

Nvidia Corp. decided not to support GDDR4 memory standard since it was heavily inspired by ATI Technologies, now graphics products group of Advanced Micro Devices, and has been utilizing GDDR3 memory for more than four years instead. But the GDDR5 is the standard that Nvidia cannot ignore and a post on a social network web-site revealed that it will support the spec with a new graphics chip.

According to a senior signal integrity hardware engineer, he is currently working on “frame buffer simulation” of GDDR5 for “various boards” for Nvidia’s code-named GT214 graphics processing unit (GPU). Besides, he indicated on his page on LinkedIn network (which was discovered by a Beyond3D forum member), he created package and board design for the GT214 graphics chip.

The information not only reveals a code-name of a future graphics chip from Nvidia, but also points to its GDDR5 support. It is highly likely that the GT214 is aimed at mainstream market, based on the fact that the engineer used to work on code-named G84 (GeForce 8600) and G96 (GeForce 9400) products.

The fact that Nvidia wants to support GDDR5 with potentially inexpensive graphics processing unit may mean that the standard will quickly become widespread and the chips will get inexpensive enough to get installed onto mainstream products, which will inevitably drive their performance considerably up.

GDDR5 on affordable graphics cards may not be an exactly good news for dynamic random access memory (DRAM) makers, who are losing money on commodity memory chips and try to offset the loses on premium components, such as GDDR or XDR. On the other hand, quick ramp of GDDR5 standard, considering the fact that the spec is going to stay for a long time, may mean that it is not hard for memory makers to adjust their capacities for GDDR5 manufacturing.

IN BRIEF: Microsoft Windows 7 Impresses Early Adopters.

Microsoft Windows 7 beta version, which will be released to software developers in early 2009, is already available on certain torrent web-sites and early adopters are sharing their experience all around the Web.

According to Windows 7 beta 1 review at ZDNet web-site, the new operating system has completely revamped desktop with new taskbar and several new features that enhance user experience. In particular, Windows 7 sports Aero Snap feature, a gestures driven method of organizing Windows; Aero Peek, a feature that allows to quickly peek at what is on the desktop. In addition, Windows 7 is much more customizable than previous-generation operating systems from Microsoft.

Unfortunately, Windows 7 has considerably less built-in applications compared to predecessors: it does not include Windows Mail, Windows Messenger, Movie Maker and so on. However, these programs can be downloaded Windows Live Essentials. The OS still has Internet Explorer Paint, Wordpad, Media Player and so on integrated.

One of the most important things about Windows 7 is its compatibility with hardware and software.

“I’ve had no noteworthy issues relating to hardware, although drivers that officially support Windows 7 are still a while off so I’ve been sticking with Microsoft drivers. I expect hardware vendors to start getting Windows 7 drivers out soon after the official release of Windows 7,” said ZDNet reviewer Adrian Kingsley-Hughes.

Intel Claims It Does Not Force to Buy Intel Atom with Core-Logic

Even though Nvidia Corp. was quoted as saying that Intel Corp. only sells its Atom processors for netbooks and nettops bundled with its own core-logic sets, which is why none of device manufacturers were interested in Nvidia’s Ion platform powered by GeForce 9400M chipset, Intel Corp. denied that it blocks Nvidia from entering the market of ultra low-cost personal computers (ULCPCs).

“We do sell Atom both bundled and as stand alone,” an Intel spokesperson told X-bit labs.

According to Intel officials, Nvidia does not need to obtain a separate license to make and sell chipsets compatible with Intel Atom processors aimed mostly at ULCPCs.

Nvidia recently introduced its GeForce 9400M is a single-chip core-logic for Intel Atom processors with DirectX 10-compatible GeForce 9-class graphics processor inside that also supports dual-channel DDR3 memory, PCI Express 2.0 x16 and x4 links, Serial ATA, USB, Gigabit Ethernet and so on. As all modern Nvidia GeForce integrated graphics processors, the novelty features hardware-accelerated high-definition video decoding and post-processing as well as supports various outputs, such as dual-link DVI-I, D-Sub, DisplayPort or HDMI.

The GeForce 9400M has dramatically better feature-set and performance compared to Intel’s own core-logic sets, but the power consumption of the GeForce 9400M (18W) is more than two times higher compared to Intel’s own platform (Intel 945GSE + ICH7-M consume 6W + 1.5W in maximum case scenario). Moreover, Nvidia’s GeForce 9400M requires expensive DDR3, whereas Intel’s platforms for Atom processors rely on affordable DDR2.

Even though performance and features are definitely advantages for mainstream users, they may not be appreciated by users of netbooks, which come with small screens and without optical disc drives. As Intel pointed out, the whole central premise of the netbook usage is basic Internet, browsing, email, social networking, not gaming or usage of demanding applications. Cost is a huge factor on the market of netbooks, hence, Nvidia’s Ion platform that requires DDR3 memory and higher-capacity batteries may not be the best option for systems like Acer Aspire One or Asustek Computer Eee PC.

IN BRIEF: High-Definition China-Only Format Not Considered as Serious Rival for Blu-Ray Disc

Despite of the fact that Chinese market is among the world’s largest, the high-definition video format called China Blue High-Definition Disc (CBHD), which is based on HD DVD technology, is not expected to spur another format war, despite of support by local video player hardware makers.

Currently CBHD is supported by Shinco, TCL and Tsinghua Tongfang, which are based in China. Nevertheless, Taiwan-based makers of optical disc drives (ODDs) and players are unwilling to support to the format, as they do not consider it to be a rival for the Blu-ray disc, which has won its battle with Toshiba’s HD DVD.

According to DigiTimes web-site, Taiwanese optical drive and players manufacturers believe that there will be little international content support for CBHD, thus, the market for CBHD will be limited.

ATI Prepares to Update Mainstream GPU Family As It Tapes Out New Chip

ATI, graphics products group of Advanced Micro Devices, may be preparing a rather substantial update for its mainstream lineup of graphics processing units (GPUs) in late Q1 2009 or early Q2 2009, according to media reports. The new code-named RV740 chip is projected to be made using 40nm process technology at Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.

According to an article Taiwan-based Commercial Times news-paper (excepts from the article were party translated by DigiTimes web-site), ATI has already taped out its first 40nm GPU code-named RV740, which means that AMD’s GPG has submitted documentation needed to start manufacturing to TSMC. It is now projected that the world’s largest contract maker of semiconductors will start production of the ATI RV740 chips by the end of the first quarter next year, which will allow AMD to update its lineup of graphics chips either very late in Q1 or sometime in Q2.

It is necessary to note that exact technical specifications of ATI RV740 are unknown at this time. Some observers believe that the RV740 is a version of RV730 (ATI Radeon HD 4670) with two times more - 640 – stream processors, 32 texture units and 16 render back ends, but produced using 40nm process technology. The RV740-based graphics cards are expected to feature GDDR5 memory.

Such a chip would be very powerful and, provided that the yields at 40nm node are high enough, very inexpensive to manufacture. However, previously ATI’s x40 code-names usually meant new process technology, but not improved performance. Therefore, it would be a surprise if ATI decided to improve speed and utilize new fabrication process with the RV740.

Officials for AMD’s graphics products group did not comment on the news-story.

Sony PlayStation 3 Still Loses Money for the Company

Despite of earlier reports that Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. managed to halve production cost of the PlayStation 3 video game console already in 2007, according to a recent teardown analysis, the console still costs $448 to build, thus, being money losing machine for Sony. Still, it is considerably lower cost than initially.

Back in 2006 Sony PlayStation 3 20GB and PlayStation 3 60GB video game consoles cost $805.85 and $840.35 to manufacture, respectively. At that time Sony sold its consoles for $499 and $599 and lost $306.85 and $241.25 on 20GB and 60GB versions hardware alone, respectively. This year the PS3 40GB costs $448.73 to build amid official pricing of $399 in the USA, hence, Sony loses “only” $49.73 per unit.

But the reduction of the cost came at a price: the currently available PlayStation 3 40GB is not compatible with PlayStation 2 games since Sony removed appropriate components from the console when it launched it early this year. The move was heavily criticized by PlayStation fans, but it did allow Sony to tangibly boost sales of the game machine because it helped to lower the price.

The removal of legacy as well as further optimization of the design allowed SCEI to dramatically reduce the amount of components: the original PlayStation 3 60GB featured 4048 different parts, whereas the PlayStation 3 40GB sports 2820 parts, according to iSuppli company's teardown results published by BusinessWeek web-site.

The most expensive component of Sony PlayStation 3, Nvidia’s Reality Synthesizer (RSX) chip, now costs Sony about $58, down from $129 two years ago. Another important chip inside the video game console, the Cell processor, costs $46, which is also about two times less than $89 initially. The reduction of the pricing should be associated with higher yields as well as thinner manufacturing technology. Initially the Blu-ray optical disc drive cost Sony $125, its current price remains unknown.

Teardown estimates do not usually include additional costs for elements including the controller, cables, packaging, freight as well as profit for resellers, such as Amazon.

It is ordinary for game console makers to lose money on hardware, and make up for the loss via video game-title sales. Still, the size of Sony’s loss per unit is still a pity, even for the video-game console business. It is expected that Sony may reach the break-even point with the PS3 in 2009.

SCEI did not comment on the news-story.