Architecture Summary

Our new way to approaching new GPU releases is partly designed to let us go deep on the hardware without producing a single article that's dozens of pages long, letting us stagger our content delivery and take our time on each piece. And if there was ever a GPU to time that for, it'd be G80. A huge deviation from anything they've had the balls to build in the past, its unified and heavily threaded approach to programmable shading -- paired with all the bandwidth, sampling ability and image output quality that you were hopefully expecting regardless of the base architecture -- means that they put a very hefty marker in the sand and one that took us plenty of time to analyse as we did.

With Vista yet to debut and no publically usable driver for the Release Candidates either, we're left having it push D3D9-class pixels for the time being, but it does that without any major hiccups and issues that we can see. We found the MUL, rounding off our opinion that the chip does what NVIDIA set out at Editor's Day and are delivering today. As a generational leap from old to new, it's not hard to make comparisons with similar generational standouts like ATI R300, and I think both ATI and NVIDIA will smile at that pretty knowingly.

If there's a major performance flaw in what it's capable of, we're still looking for it, and we've been able to realise theoretical rates or thereabouts in each of the main processing stages the hardware provides, under D3D9 at least. Image quality looks excellent too, NVIDIA providing a big leap in sampling power and putting it to good use in G80. We'll cover performance and image quality in the next two pieces, but it's worth saying now for those wanting a taster on launch day that the thing goes really really fast at times, compared to the outgoing generation, and looks as good or better than anything else that's come before it.

For a look at games performance today we point you to HEXUS and also to (thanks Damien for all your help!), who'll echo the sentiments here we're sure. We're pretty sure that G80 isn't what a lot of people were expecting, with Dave Kirk largely responsible with public comments akin to "unified? not needed!" and "orthogonality in the ROP? let the developer do it in their code instead!", but it is what it is, and it's deeply impressive in places with a lot left to discover. Direct3D 10 still awaits.

It's also not hard to see how G80 could sweetly apply to GPGPU, and in that respect NVIDIA have something special for G80 just for that community. Called Complete Unified Device Architecture, or CUDA for short, it's what effectively amounts to a C compiler and related tools for the GPU, leveraging G80's computing horsepower and architecture traits that make it suitable for such endeavours. We have an in-depth CUDA piece in the works, so look out for that too. Feel free to speculate, though, in the meantime!

So there's still a boatload of analysis yet to do, mostly under Direct3D, but today's first looks at G80, be they architecture-biased or otherwise, should have most keen to find out more or experience the performance for themselves. You'll find reports all round the web that talk about realised performance in games, so go read! Find our discussion thread on G80 now it's officially public knowledge (and what a complete joke that's been), here.


Arun for all his help, especially when poking the sampler hardware and the ROPs. G, Tim and the rest of Team B3D for the editing help, idea floating and everything else. Damien @ for late night work on theoretical shading performance with me on more than one occasion. Marco Salvi for his expert help on NVIDIA graphics architectures. Adam and Nick at NVIDIA. Scott Wasson at The Tech Report. Chris Ray. Team HEXUS.