It's Official!  NVIDIA's NV30 is Now the GeForce FX!
Will we soon be crowning a new 3D King, again?

By - Marco Chiappetta
November 18, 2002


Below are two photographs of an actual wafer of GeForce FX cores.  These were produced at TSMC, using their new .13u manufacturing process.  The decision to produce the GeForce FX using this new process is the main reason this product is yet to hit the market, but it is also one of the reasons this part will be so powerful.


If you took the time to read the specs that we were able to compile from NVIDIA's technical briefs, you no doubt saw the very high clock speeds and data rates of the GeForce FX.  The sample we played with had a default core clock speed of 500MHz, 67% higher than a RADEON 9700 Pro!  Given that both the GeForce FX and RADEON 9700 Pro have 8 pixel pipelines, at least according to preliminary information given to us by NVIDIA, that also means the GeForce FX's theoretical peak pixel fillrate is 67% higher than the RADEON (4.0MP/s versus 2.4MP/s)!  However, NVIDIA hasn't settled on the final clock speed for the GeForce FX.  We're also hearing through the grapevine that core clock speeds higher than 500MHz are a real possibility.



To attain this very high core clock speed, NVIDIA made three other major decisions.  First, the core is built using a BGA (Ball Grid Array) flip-chip design, with copper interconnects for better power and ground distribution, which in turn yields cleaner signals at higher frequencies.  Second, and the most obvious, was the decision to use a very large copper heat pipe cooling solution, dubbed "FX Flow", similar the Abit's OTES solution.  The cooling system on the GeForce FX pulls in cool air from outside of the case, which circulates over the GPU and is then expelled out of the system.  Something interesting to note is that the fan on the cooler is throttled depending on the temperature of the GPU.  During light 2D use, the fan's speed is reduced but during a heavy bout of 3D gaming, the fan is sped up to keep the core nice and chilly.  There is a good chance every GeForce FX to hit the market will NOT employ the FX Flow cooling system, lower clocked models, or certain OEM derivatives may use different cooling methods, and my not fill two slot locations in your system.  Third was the decision to add an auxiliary Molex power connector to the card.  Initial speculation was that NVIDIA wouldn't need to add an auxiliary power connector because the core was being produced using .13u technology.  As you can see this didn't turn out to be the case but then again, the clock speeds are screaming on this chip and it requires lots of power.

No matter how high the core is clocked, if the GPU isn't fed enough data, performance will suffer.  A GPU this powerful needs a ton of memory bandwidth to operate at or near its top speed.  NVIDIA's solution to this problem is three fold.  NVIDIA has implemented a third generation version of their very efficient "Lightspeed" Memory Controller, which operates with four independent 32-Bit memory controllers, for an effective 128 Bits. In addition, GeForce FX boards will be populated with ultra fast DDRII-type memory with effective clock speeds hovering around 1GHz!  The combination of this high-speed memory and NVIDIA's memory controller offer about 16GB/s of bandwidth when operating at 500MHz.  The final boost comes from a proprietary 4:1 lossless color compression scheme that effectively raises theoretical max bandwidth to 48GB/s.

A Vision of Gaming's Future.

The screenshots below were all provided by NVIDIA.  They are meant to show the benefits of the GeForce FX's 128-Bit Floating Point color capabilities and to demonstrate the increased geometry processing power.  Unfortunately, you aren't going to be able to see much difference between these shots and ones taken on any other high-end video card.  Odds are you're running your desktop at 16 or 32-Bit color right now, plus these are compressed JPEGs, so any benefits realized with 128-Bit color precision are lost when viewing these images through your browser.  What they will demonstrate though, is the higher level of detail, and realism the "next generation" of graphics processors are capable of.







There is no denying that these screenshots show a level of detail an order of magnitude greater than the games we're currently playing.  Pay special attention to the realistic shadowing and increased polygon count.  The Rallisport Challenge and Splinter Cell shots are especially realistic and impressive. The models are casting realistic shadows and are comprised of so many polygons, the blockiness we've grown accustomed to is virtually eliminated.

To further cleanup images, NVIDIA will also be introducing new antialiasing methods with the GeForce FX.  Their new "Intellisample" Antialiasing engine offers up to 8X AA and also benefits from some "architectural enhancements".  We hope to be able to show you the benefit of this new engine, in the weeks ahead, once we have a final product to test in the lab.  As we mentioned earlier, the GeForce FX also does 4:1 "lossless" compression of color information, as well as faster clearing of the color buffer.  Like the R300, the GeForce FX also dynamically corrects the gamma levels of the AA samples for smoother, more accurate color values.  The end result should be some of the best antialiasing yet on our desktops, and because available memory bandwidth is used much more efficiently the performance penalty when enabling AA should be much smaller than with the currently generation of products.

A Bit More Eye Candy...