Nvidia gives first look at next-gen Fermi GPU

First tech details emerge for Nvidia's next-generation graphics processor


We wish we could provide you with information like clock speeds, shipping dates, and prices for 3D cards using Nvidia's new graphics architecture, code-named "Fermi." Instead, all we've been able to garner from the various reports around the Web from Nvidia's preview event is that Nvidia is pushing the parallel computing capabilities of its new chip harder than ever.

If you really want to get into the dirty architectural details, Anandtech, PC Perspective, and the Tech Report each have multipage stories that dig into the information Nvidia unveiled so far. From a gaming perspective, the most significant features Nvidia mentioned are that Fermi will indeed support DirectX 11, and that it will use GDDR5 memory. Those features answer two of AMD's most obvious advantages with its new Radeon HD 5800-series cards, but Nvidia hasn't provided information on availability, which remains AMD's most important edge.

Gaming was not the primary topic of the day with Fermi, however. Instead Nvidia focused most heavily on its CUDA GPU computing technology as it relates to its Tesla, enterprise-class product family. AnandTech reports that Nvidia cited one bragging point about a company using its previous generation GT200 chips to migrate "a cluster of 2000 servers to 32 Tesla S1070s, bringing total costs down from $8M to $400K, and total power from 1200kW down to 45kW." Nvidia hasn't mentioned clock speed figures for Fermi, so we can't predict its performance just yet, but as PC Perspective reports, Fermi "is made up of 3.0 billion transistors and features 512 CUDA processing cores organized into 16 streaming multiprocessors of 32 cores each." That's more than twice the core count in the 240-core GT200, so expectations are reasonably high.

In addition to more cores, Nvidia has also added support for the C++ programming language to Fermi. That should increase its appeal to programmers, many of whom have found GPU-targeted software development difficult. And of course in addition to CUDA, Fermi will also support Microsoft's DirectCompute and the open standard OpenCL GPU computing standards.

Other features for Fermi abound, and we encourage those interested to delve in with the enthusiasts sites that attended Nvidia's preview event. We expect information on the consumer-level products that emerge from Fermi won't be too far off either, so stay tuned for more in the coming weeks and months.

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