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Nvidia SLIdes into Intel's favours

Intel Developer Forum Earth not shattered, shock
Wed Sep 08 2004, 16:18
NVIDIA'S DAVID KIRK BRIEFED the press on Tuesday at IDF about the current state of Nvidia hardware. There was nothing earth shattering, but a few nice bits sneaked in. The highlights were a SLI demonstration and a demo of the MXM mobile form factor graphics cards.

First was SLI because, as you know, that is simply cool stuff. It works, and works well. We don't say that because Nvidia had this spiffy fighter plane demo running on a couple of Quadro cards, but because other people said it did, far out of Nvidia's spinners grasp.

Let's look at a little of the tech. While NV has been a little reticent to give out the gory details, there are some things that are obvious. First, the cards split up the screen and dynamically load balance the rendering job. It will split the task anywhere from about 50-50 to 90-10 depending on whatever magic the NV elves programmed in.

Less obvious is the way it does the data transmission. First off, there are no, and will be no dual PCI-E 16x systems for the near future. The ones that are shown running SLI are a 16x slot and usually have an 8x slot beside it. While 8x is the recommended minimum, 4x will work in a pinch. All of the PCI-E data is broadcast, and since nothing out there can consume the PCI-E 8x bandwidth, it will do the job.

Performance claims by Nvidia are 2x the frames on a professional app, a demo of a military flight sim. If your reaction is the same as mine initially, IE something to do with cattle excrement, I don't blame you. Asking around the show floor however brought a slightly different story. For most games and user apps, you get 'only' a 1.8x increase with two cards. Yeah, I know, demand your money back. If you are using a professional graphics app, you can, and often will, see a 2x increase.

The next item up for display was the MXM mobile video card format. This PCI-E based card comes in three flavours, basically one for each laptop category, and theoretically interchangable. They, the boys, had a copy of Doom3 running smoothly and with a lot of eye candy on a laptop, and the graphics are MXM card based.

The MXM format, in addition to bringing an upgrade path to laptops, also helps the laptop makers. They can make a single chassis and outfit it however they want for the market they are aiming at. A single design like this will give the users more choice, and speed up time to market for OEMs.

The last little thing Nvidia demoed was a professional graphics setup for video editing and production. They are aiming to make high end effects available to the pro-sumer set. All the effects you see on TV are suddenly available not only to the common person, but also in real time. All the tricks and editing no longer have to be done off line and slowly.

While I don't think the big boys have anything to fear yet, there is certainly a good market for things like this. At the very least, it could bring a new level of professionalism to home videos. They may still be awful and dull, but they will look pretty, and possibly be color balanced. Yay? µ


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