Nvidia boosts graphics on Intel i7, preps integrated chip

Company is extending its support for Intel's upcoming Core i7 processors while it prepares to announce next-generation integrated graphics silicon.

Update on August 28 at 3:30 p.m. with comments on SLI and AMD-ATI

Nvidia is extending its support for Intel's upcoming Core i7 processors while it prepares to announce next-generation integrated graphics silicon.

The announcement marks an effort to expand Nvidia offerings on Intel's next high-end desktop platform, which had previously been referred to as "Bloomfield." Intel branded it Core i7 prior to the company's developer forum last week. Nvidia has already said that it has no intention to build a chipset for Intel's next-generation interconnect technology called QuickPath Interconnect or QPI, which is part of the i7 design.

Nvidia said Thursday that it will license its Scalable Link Interface (SLI) technology for Intel's Core i7 processor. Nvidia's technology will work in tandem with Intel's X58 chipset, the supporting silicon for the Core i7, which is due to ship in volume in the fourth quarter.

SLI allows systems to be configured with multiple graphics boards. So, for example, system builders and users can build systems with two, three, or four Nvidia boards.

In essence, Nvidia is offering what it calls "native" licensing of SLI to its partners and system builders. Native licensing will not require the use of Nvidia's nForce 200 bridge chip and thereby the company hopes to broaden the range of its graphics offerings on i7-based PCs.

To date, Nvidia has only offered nForce 200 , "which is basically an SLI chip that acts like a PCI Express bridge. That's been the only solution and that's been a very high-end solution. We'll continue to offer this," said Tom Peterson, director of Technical Marketing for MCP production at Nvidia.

PCI, or peripheral component interface, is the most common interface inside a PC for add-in boards.

Nvidia diagram showing supported configurations for Intel "Bloomfield" Core i7 processor and X58 chipset: x8 and x16 refer to the number of PCI "lanes."  Generally, the more lanes, the higher the performance.
Nvidia diagram shows supported configurations for Intel "Bloomfield" Core i7 processor and X58 chipset: x8 and x16 refer to the number of PCI "lanes." Generally, the more lanes, the higher the performance. Nvidia

The distinction between native and nForce 200 is that native SLI "allows for more common configurations," said Bryan Del Rizzo, an Nvidia spokesman.

One source at a U.S.-based PC maker said that Nvidia was losing ground to AMD-ATI by not bringing out an SLI solution that could appeal to more system builders and users, especially with Intel's Core i7 on the horizon.

"It's something that customers have been asking us for a long time and actually a big change for Nvidia," Peterson said.

Nvidia will certify partner circuit boards in its Santa Clara, Calif., certification lab, Peterson said. Certification is required to enable SLI.

On another front, Nvidia will announce a new high-performance "motherboard GPU" in the coming weeks. This will be a follow-on to its GeForce 8200 mGPU, which is an integrated graphics chipset for desktop PCs that use Intel processors.

The upcoming mGPU will compete with the Intel G45 integrated graphics chipset.

About the author

Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.

 

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