NVIDIA Celebrates GTX 480 at NVIDIA Game Festival in Shanghai

A Chat with Drew Henry, GM of Desktop GPU Business, NVIDIA

A Chat with Drew Henry, General Manager of Desktop GPU Business, NVIDIA

In a round-table interview with Drew Henry, we asked several pertinent questions related to the GTX480 GPU. Here are some of his replies.

How is NVIDIA collaborating with game developers to ensure a steady roll-out of titles that utilize features like tessellation and 3D Vision Surround like the ones touted in the GTX 480?

"It's always a challenge to work with game developers (as we roll out our next-generation chipsets and cards) as they develop for both the console platforms and the PC. We do a few things. In China and Asia, we work with game developers which are specific for this region, and their target market is really the Internet cafes and PC platform. We've also been doing some work with Blizzard. In our event in Boston, we ran World of WarCraft on 3D Vision Surround on three huge 25-foot wide screens, which was an 80-feet/25-meters diagonal display. Blizzard was very excited by that as well."

"Companies that do game consoles as well will take their games from the consoles and port them to the PC. So obviously for us, we can make it really easy for them to run these games in 3D using our 3D Vision Surround technology as game consoles today aren't running in 3D. The guys at Epic built their Unreal Engine to support 3D Vision so any game that supports the Unreal Engine gets 3D Vision Surround for free. We worked on EIDOS' Batman Arkham Asylum and since it's based on the Unreal Engine, a lot of work was put into ensuring the game could run in 3D."

"Game consoles are five years old now and their architectures are seven years old. A DirectX 9-based game title is about as good as it's going to look today. So developers are excited about what the PC can give in terms of looks (especially with DirectX 11). THQ's Metro 2033 has tessellation, depth of field effect, 3D Vision Surround support and it's an amazing game. THQ is excited about it because it gives gamers a different and unique experience."

"We have our 3D Vision Play technology, which allows customers to take any NVIDIA GPU and run any 3D-TV off of it. So you can choose to use NVIDIA 3D Vision Play with a number of our products as we have ways of supporting that."

"One of the things about being a GPU company like NVIDIA is that you have to design for what people are going to be doing five years from now. So we made a bunch of architectural changes and we're focused on 8x faster tessellation performance than anything else in the market. Additional features like interactive ray tracing are also important to us. The guys at Electronic Arts' Need for Speed gave us their Porsche model and we built that into our ray tracing technology demo. Five years from now, you'll see that in games." 

NVIDIA believes that it made a wise choice when it preached 3D Vision early, as 3D is now fast becoming the next-generation trend among manufacturers, developers and gamers. Riding on this trend, NVIDIA expanded this to incorporate surround gaming elements to 3D gaming with the recent 3D Vision Surround standard as seen here by a consumer experiencing it at the show.


There's interest in triple digital outputs these days especially with racing games. What is NVIDIA's position on this especially since the GTX 480 supports only dual digital outputs?

"Our architecture is designed to support single card, two displays concurrently. To do multiple displays, say three displays in stereo, requires a lot of video processing and bandwidth. We think stereo is the most important display technology right now. Being able to do three channels in stereo is really hard to do, so the perfect design for that is SLI for us. The boards we've designed which our partners are shipping today are dual-link DVI with a mini HDMI but any one of those ports can be display ports if the partners want to do that."


There are some concerns in some countries where the GTX 480 utilizes high power and may tax users on their electricity consumption. Does NVIDIA have any plans to work on keeping power consumption low for a powerful chip like the GF100 used in this card? 

"We're eight times faster, so we're going to take more power of course. If you've seen any of the systems using the GTX 480 on the showfloor today, it's not noisy or hot at all. When we built the GTX 480 GPU, our aim was to make it the fastest graphics chip in the world. We've established the TDP to be 250 watts. We think it's a fair representation. The alternative, if power consumption is a concern, is the GTX 470 of course, which uses lesser power of course."

"I did mention at our financial analyst meeting this week that we will have Fermi-based GPUs through our entire product line by this year. So tessellation performance will go through our entire product line this year."


Does NVIDIA has plans to allow PhysX technology to run even if the primary card on an SLI setup is an AMD/ATI but the secondary card is NVIDIA?

"At the end of the day, our responsibility is to build great products for our customers. My priority is for our customers. We have to do an amazing amount of QA (quality assurance), where we have to QA our GTX 480 running with a number of different types of configurations, with another 480, or a 470 or GTS250 and so on. So our QA labs are huge and the amount of testing we do is huge, so it doesn't make business sense for me to go off and QA all of ATI products because of the expenses. Every one of our customers can have a delightful experience if they buy two of our products. When we launched the 480, we talked about a number of different technologies, not once did I talk about DDR5, 40nm, as these things don't matter. What matters is the inventions we put into the technology and we've put a huge amount of QA investments into ensuring that our customers have the best experience."


How crucial will tessellation be in a gamer's buying decision as there aren't that many titles boasting this feature just yet?

"Two years ago, you might say that 3D Vision has not been proven. Today, it's proven. Tessellation might not be proven today, but if you look at games like Metro 2033, it uses tessellation. Two years from now, you might think differently about how big a deal tessellation was. It has been proven ten years ago by the computer graphics industry in films. In a couple of years, every major game will have tessellation."

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