nVidia has released what it claims is the world's first graphics processing unit (GPU), the GeForce 256, formerly code-named N10. The GPU offloads functions from the CPU, allowing developers to focus the CPU's power on areas such as physics and artificial intelligence.
The 256-bit processor has 23m transistors, with 50 Gigaflops of floating point calculation that allow it to deliver 15m sustained polygons per second and over 480m pixels per second. It features a four-pixel rendering pipeline, double that of the TNT2, an integrated geometry processing engine and an integrated dynamic lighting engine.
There's no denying that this is a powerful addition to the 3D gaming arena, but what do these impressive specs actually mean to consumers?
"The main advantage is that gamers will see better looking polygons through mulitpath texturing, giving nicer, smoother effects", said David Lou-Kee, managing director of the games developer, Criterion Software.
Richard Huddy, development relations manager nVidia Europe, said that "load of memory and terrific 3D" would offer gamers a "move to realism."
"The GeForce 256 can handle ten times more geometry, or triangles, as its predecessors," said Huddy, "for example, Lara Croft up to now has been made up of 350 triangles. The GeForce increases this to 3,500. It is also significantly faster than what has gone before. This allows us to keep the frame rate up and go to much higher colour depths."
The considerable power of the GPU could also cause problems, according to Lou-Kee. "One of the difficulties may be that, being more complex than the processor, we won't actually be able to feed it with all the polygons that it can take. It is so powerful that it may unbalance the whole system," he said.