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Nvidia’s Kepler Soon?

By Matt Simpson - Wednesday, March 21, 2012

In the ongoing war of graphics cards, ATI currently has the lead with their 2012 card already available. Nvidia needs to get it in gear and release their new chip to compete in this ultra competitive, mega profit segment which is the enthusiast GPU market.

History

The GPU market has always been a huge moneymaker. That led almost everyone who was making chips back in the day to make a GPU of their own. People were clamoring for them from the first time they saw the work of ID software being played while the graphics were hardware accelerated. In fact, the term GPU, or graphics processing unit, is a fairly new convention. In the early days, they were called 3D accelerators. One of the most popular pioneers in this field, 3dfx, was actually a 3d only accelerator, with a pass through for the 2D signal sent from the PC itself.

It wasn’t long before the complexity of the GPU’s became on par with that of the best consumer CPU’s. Since they were designed to render 3d only and were not general purpose processors like the CPU, they were able to render graphics many times faster than even the fastest CPU available. The more complex the design, the fewer competitors could afford to keep up and gradually fell by the way side. Many either started rebranding other makers chips, or simply bowing out of the market all together. This wasn’t due to a change in the profitability, but the huge amount of resources both in capital and talent, that were required to remain competitive in that market. At present there are only two major GPU makers left to compete with each other. They are Nvidia and ATI/AMD.

The Modern GPU

Today’s GPU’s far outpace their CPU counterparts when it comes to certain kinds of processing. They have the lead not only in graphics rendering but in number crunching as well. In fact, the most powerful supercomputers of the day are now built around huge clusters of GPU’s. In the past, large companies like Cray would leverage very expensive and proprietary designs to perform calculations many orders of magnitude faster than their consumer CPU counterparts. Today, its’ simply a matter of using the latest and greatest GPU and combining as many of them together in a cluster as the client needs to meet their calculation requirements. The fastest Supercomputer in the world is currently located in China and runs on Nvidia GPU’s. The US has planned an even faster supercomputer that is also based on the Nvidia GPU.

There’s more to a modern GPU for the consumer than simply crunching graphics however. They are responsible for decoding the high definition video files that are played back on computers. This is true whether they are from a Blu ray player, HD video camera, or a high definition stream from the internet. This relieves the CPU of this burden and in some cases allows a computer to playback HD material that would otherwise be unable to, due to a CPU that performed too poorly in video decoding. Running on multiple monitors or even in 3D is handled by the GPU as well as outputting advanced HD audio streams. The GPU has become a vital component in almost all PC’s due to this versatility.

The GTX 680

While it’s expected to be announced on the 12th and released on the 23rd of March, there is still a great deal we don’t know about the new Kepler GPU. We know it will be called the GTX680 for example, but all of its specifications are rumor only. Nvidia purposefully keeps these specs a secret, lest ATI outdo them at a critical release point.
It is likely that the new GPU will be a large step forward. Nvidia has claimed a threefold increase in performance over the previous generation’s top card. This would be nice, but the exaggeration on the part of GPU makers is legend.  We’ll have to wait and see what Nvidia is going to bring to the table, but we won’t have to wait long.




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