Matthew Roszak

In The Press Blog

Nvidia goes for price-sensitive gamers with powerful new graphics chips

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After much delay, Nvidia launched its high-end graphics chip, code-named Fermi, this spring. But a new generation of Fermi has arrived just in time for back-to-school season.

A no frills version of Fermi, formally named GeForce GTX 460, debuts today as a high-performance graphics chip for price-conscious gamers. The GTX 460 targets graphics cards that sell for $199 to $229, which puts them in the sweet spot for gamers. In the parlance of gaming, the original Fermi, the GeForce GTX 480, was like a combat tank, while the 460 is more like a “hunter,” said Justin Walker, product manager at Nvidia.

“People drool over the newest graphics chips, but we realize not everyone can afford it,” Walker said.

The GTX 460 will go up against mid-range chips from Advanced Micro Devices. Nvidia claims these chips are four times more powerful on some measures, such as tesselation, than AMD’s equivalent Radeon graphics chips. The Nvidia 460 chips are powerful in part because they’re made with the same 40-nanometer manufacturing process that Nvidia’s contract manufacturer, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., uses to make the 480 chips.

This new introduction is part of Nvidia’s typical technology waterfall. It takes its high-end design and launches it at a high price for the most fanatical gamers. Then, as it becomes easier to manufacture such chips in volume, it comes up with stripped down models until it eventually covers every bracket of the market. Right now, the 480 chip priced above $199 can only hit about 14 percent of the market. But at $199, Nvidia can address another 31 percent of the market. Once it targets $99 and below, it can blanket the market.

Nvidia designed the chips to handle Microsoft’s latest graphics technology, DirectX 11. Games such as Mafia II, coming in August from Take-Two Interactive, use DirectX 11 to deliver cool effects such as trench coats that flow when a mobster wearing them is running down a street. A bunch of other PC games coming this year, from Civilization V to Kings and Castles will also look better when they exploit DirectX 11.

Graphics boards using Nvidia’s chips and 768 megabytes of video memory are available today for $199 from a bunch of manufacturers. The 1-gigabyte version of the graphics cards at $229 will be available on July 26. PC makers such as Dell’s Alienware division will ship computers with the new Nvidia chips. The 460 chips have 336 cores, or processing brains, for CUDA tasks, or non-graphics, compared to 40 in the 480. It also runs on 160 watts of power, rather than 250 for the 480. One result is the 460 can be part of a very quiet PC.

http://games.venturebeat.com/2010/07/11/nvidia-goes-for-price-sensitive-gamers-with-powerful-new-graphics-chips/

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