Extraordinary Engineering

David KirkNVIDIA®'s next-generation graphics processing unit (GPU) will revolutionize the way games are played and how they're designed. In addition to being the fastest and highest performing GPU on the market, the unique technologies behind NVIDIA's next-generation GPU, including its revolutionary CineFX™ architecture, will make it a game developer's-and player's-dream.

Before we delve into the design features, let's take a peek at the power and performance elements that will make NVIDIA's next-generation GPU the toughest kid on the block. In addition to support for the latest and greatest memory technologies, this new offering will also incorporate support for AGP 8X.

"The next-generation GPU from NVIDIA makes no compromises and takes no prisoners," says David Kirk, NVIDIA's chief scientist. "This new GPU uses the world's fastest memory technology, delivering higher performance than any other GPU-there's simply no substitute for effective memory bandwidth," he says. "It also has the most advanced, programmable rendering pipeline of any GPU, with higher mathematical precision than any other GPU on the market today."

Some folks in the industry ask: "Is the games industry ready for this level of advancement?" Kirk says they are. "The movie industry has taught us that 128-bit precision and incredible levels of programmability are absolutely necessary for cinematic-quality special effects. Half measures like 96-bit precision are inadequate for many critical functions, such as texture addressing, geometric calculations like reflection and shadows, and so on," says Kirk. "Likewise, limiting pixel shader programs to just one or two hundred instructions is way too restrictive. Most of the really interesting shaders that we've seen require as many as 500 instructions, and some require even more. What we're talking about here is the ability to make games and interactive content look exactly like movie special effects do. Higher limits will allow developers to make truly realistic objects that appear to be made of real materials, with realistic reflections and shadows, all in a single pass-and all in real-time. This is simply not possible without these higher limits," he says.

ChipNVIDIA has implemented a completely programmable engine that takes DirectX® and OpenGL® content to a new level. DirectX 8.0's Pixel Shader 1.4 spec allowed for up to 24 instructions-clearly not enough for advanced effects. NVIDIA's next-generation GPU goes way beyond that limit, offering thousands of instructions per pixel. The CineFX architecture of the new GPU allows for real-time cinematic shading techniques. This means that games can achieve the high color depth and advanced effects of digitally animated movies such as Toy Story 2 and Monsters Inc. and render them in real-time.

"These powerful features give developers and artists the opportunity to take their applications to the next level and create stunning, cinematic-quality imagery in real time," Kirk adds. "I've seen tons of new effects that developers are currently building into their games that are tailor-made for NVIDIA's next-generation hardware."

"These new apps are going to turn some heads; end users are really going to be stunned when they see the lush environments and exquisitely detailed interactive worlds. Simply put, NVIDIA's next generation GPU can make pictures that no other GPU has ever made before, and do it with great frame rates! I don't think I have to even say it, but of course, this new GPU from NVIDIA will be the fastest GPU available at any price," he says. How much faster? "Hmmm, I won't let any numbers drop yet, but let me just say that I feel that no one will be disappointed."

The raw power of NVIDIA'S new GPU results from the way this GPU was engineered. Utilizing TSMC's new 0.13 micron process and other technology enhancements, NVIDIA has reduced the size of the chip while increasing the performance of this next-generation technology.

"The smaller 0.13 micron process allows us to put more transistors in each square millimeter than we could achieve with 0.15 micron," says Kirk. "Also, due to the fact that each transistor is smaller, these transistors are also faster, and each one uses less power." How great is that? "Smaller and faster-no compromises."

David KirkCreating a revolutionary product is not limited to hardware technology, though. It is crucial that developers have the tools to tap the potential of NVIDIA's new GPU as well. Programming advanced effects using assembly-like instructions would be too time consuming and too difficult for developers to attempt, so NVIDIA has made it easier, with its Cg - "C for graphics" - high-level shading language. While this sounds complicated, it is quite simple. NVIDIA's Cg Toolkit provides a whole tool box so that developers can seize all of the benefits of programming special effects using high-level shading languages, including Cg, and compiling them to multiple APIs, such as DirectX and OpenGL, as well as different PC platforms, such as Windows®, Macintosh, Linux, and even game consoles.

"In the past, when vertex and pixel programs were tens of instructions long, it was possible to write these programs in assembly language. It was difficult, and many developers chose not to, but it was possible," says Kirk. "In contrast, it is not feasible to write a bunch of assembly code programs that are hundreds or even thousands of instructions long. It's too hard, and it takes too long. In order to be more productive, developers will need to program GPUs using a high level language, and Cg is the ideal language for high level programming of GPUs."

So how will all this tech-speak translate to the best looking-and best performing-games for the end user? "This new GPU from NVIDIA and new tools, such as Cg, allow developers to spend more time expressing their creative vision, developing exciting characters, environments, and realistic and surrealistic effects. Talented game developers can make cinematic experiences that gamers can interact with. We will see games that look like nothing else before," Kirk says. "Combined, Cg and the next-generation GPU from NVIDIA together represent the the biggest leap our industry has ever taken to make real-time, cinematic computing a reality."