New GeForce arrives next month

The next-generation chip from the market-leading graphics processor maker will arrive as early as the beginning of February, giving gamers a significant speed boost

Nvidia's next-generation graphics chip for PCs, code-named NV-25, will arrive in about a month's time, the company has confirmed. The chip will be the first major redesign since Nvidia's NV-20, launched last February, which was launched under the name, GeForce3.

Reports put the launch date as precisely as 5 February. Nvidia wouldn't comment on the exact launch plans, but a spokesman said that date is in the right ballpark. At the same time as the NV-25 launch, Nvidia is expected to unveil a desktop version of the NV-17M, a lower-end chip that is currently only available for mobiles. The NV-17M, a low-end part which combines features of GeForce2 and GeForce3, features a core clock rate of 250MHz and was introduced at last autumn's Comdex conference in Las Vegas.

NV-25, which is likely to be branded as the GeForce4, will aim to one-up current Radeon products from ATI, Nvidia's main competition in the PC graphics space. The new chip will also bring high-end desktop graphics closer to the capabilities of the graphics processing unit (GPU) that Nvidia custom-built for Microsoft's Xbox gaming console.

A number of reports have already been published outlining what the unit's capabilities may be. The chip is expected to be manufactured to 0.13-micron geometry, which will reduce its size, lower heat output and power consumption, and also reduce manufacturing costs. Nvidia's manufacturing partner, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) has been using the 0.13-micron process for months and is now building out its 0.10-micron capabilities, although the company is rumoured to be having troubles with the advanced 0.13-micron process.

A shrink in die size could make the chip easier to cool. With 57 million transistors, the NV-20 needs a significant amount of cooling gear, which adds to its bulk. Such cooling gear contributed to the large size of the Xbox, released late last year in the US and due here this spring.

NV-25 may move to six pixel pipelines, up from the four of the NV-20, which would boost overall performance. The clock speed of the core and memory are also expected to be boosted, also adding to performance.

Nvidia may be planning to add a second vertex processing unit, a device which boosts the realism of 3D objects; the Xbox GPU already has two such units. Nvidia officials have said that the PC GPUs will outstrip Xbox's performance in the first half of this year.

Less clear is whether the NV-25 will include any technology contributions from the engineers of 3dfx, a rival graphics chip company which Nvidia bought in late 2000. Some industry observers don't expect 3dfx contributions until this autumn.

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