The mainstream consumer graphics card industry is made up mostly of only two main players - ATI and NVIDIA. As we speak, ATI's latest generation DirectX 11 compatible graphics cards have been on the market for close to half a year. And what's more, they have already poured out their entire range of cards, from budget-minded offerings like the Radeon HD 5450, to full-on, mega graphics crunchers like the fearsome Radeon HD 5970.
In comparison, NVIDIA has yet to release their own DirectX 11 compatible graphics card. Not even a single one. What's worse, their latest cards, codenamed "Fermi" and "GF100", have been constantly delayed and pushed back for release. Initially, we thought we would see them last October, but that was later pushed back to December. But as Christmas approached, it soon became apparent that we won't see Fermi until 2010. Now, the lastest news say Fermi will only be out in Q2 2010 – May to July.
Worryingly, SemiAccurate posted an alarming report that yields of NVIDIA's latest are not just woeful, but disastrous. According to the report, yields of NVIDIA's GF100 chips are a puny 1.7%. Unbelievable? But consider this, even ATI, whose chips are a notch less complex than NVIDIA's have had yield issues so bad that their new Evergreen cards could scarcely been found in shops.
Fortunately for NVIDIA, DirectX 11 games are few and far between at the moment, but they are running out of time, as developers are starting to make transition to the newest API, fast. NVIDIA's CEO Jen-Hsun Huang has also come out to assure everyone that they are doing fine.
Now “fine” is a relative term, and honestly, even the optimist in me cannot fathom how it can be “fine” for a product to be delayed for over half a year. And even if the new cards do roll out in Q2, they'll still face a uphill struggle. With no hints of benchmarks, there's no telling if the new cards will be competitive against ATI's best and if yields are really as terrible as the reports say, NVIDIA will be hard pressed to keep costs down and make the new cards competitive as far as price points are concerned.
All in all, NVIDIA seems to have gotten themselves into quite a big mess as far as Fermi is concerned, and we can only wait with bated breath and anticipate the new card's arrival.
Kenny Yeo / Associate Editor
Specifications are not everything. It's what you do with what you have that matters.