NVIDIA’s GeForce GF100 Under the Microscope

by Michael "SKYMTL" Hoenig     |     January 17, 2010

NVIDIA’s GeForce GF100 Under the Microscope

Months ago at NVIDIA's GPU Technology Conference, CEO Jen Hsun Huang announced the upcoming Fermi architecture to the world. Due to the nature of that conference, very few -if any- details were leaked regarding the architecture's performance in the one area where NVIDIA's roots lie: 3D graphics processing. All we knew at that time was Fermi-based cards weren’t anywhere near mass production capable and that ATI already had troops on the ground in the DX11 marketplace. Since then, ATI has continued to run away with the DX11 GPU market and things couldn’t have looked worse for Team Green. Designing a whole new architecture from the ground up takes time and NVIDIA was always the first to admit that.

If anything, NVIDIA has been extremely tight-lipped about all things Fermi ever since the GTC but from the information we received from our moles within their Santa Clara offices, things were moving along at a quick pace. New technologies were being developed to showcase the chip’s advanced capabilities, features were being toyed with, drivers were written and TSMC was pistol-whipped into shape after showing disappointing yields on early silicon. As CES rolled around, NVIDIA wanted to put most of their cards on the table and finally disclosed how they have adapted Fermi's architecture for the consumer GPU marketplace. This included selective tech demos and hardware being shown on the show floor as well as all-day “Deep Dive” briefings for select journalists being conducted behind the scenes. We attended one of these briefings and in this article we will finally shed some light on the technologies that will make the Fermi architecture hum along in games and other 3D apps.

While we have been talking about Fermi as the name for the all-encompassing architecture up to this point, it should be pointed out that there will be several sub categories as well. This includes the already-announced Tesla C2000-series for HPC markets and an unnamed series of Quadro cards as well. The market we are most interested in for the purposes of this article is that which holds actual 3D graphics cards and NVIDIA has finally come forth with a name for us: GF100. However, the “GF100” moniker won’t be used for the final retail cards but will be used to describe a whole range of products based off of the GeForce version of the Fermi architecture. It may not be telling much but at least it gives us an alternative to the overused “Fermi” name.

Before we really get into things, we should warn you that while there was actually a shed-load of information discussed, NVIDIA was still silent when it came to discussing price, final clock speeds, memory sizes, and availability. Nonetheless, we’ll do what we can to make some educated guesses based off of what we know and what was hinted at within our briefing.


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