More roadmap thoughts?

Since we're already on next-gen graphics, here are my thoughts on some data posted around last week on HardOCP. Some of these are already confirmed by some news on HardOCP and Fudzilla, just like it's starting to leak all over the web as well :)

EDIT (Jan 17th): Updated few things (where font is different :) )

EDIT (Mar 24th): Updated with closing thoughts/facts and closed the article (at the end)

So to sum up the things a bit..
9800 GX2 looks to be SLI of 8800 GTS cards (2x 65nm GPUs, 2x512=1GB, 2x128 stream units=256). Quoted "at least" 30% over 8800 Ultra could be fine with this, though number is a bit low so maybe they'll be a bit lower clocked compared to 8800 GTS

Next in the speed bin is 9800 GTX. They say it's slower than GX2 (ofcourse), and should be faster than 8800GT/GTS. So we're either looking at only renamed 8800GTX-> 9800GTX, specially since this is the only one of the new cards that sports triple-SLI, or at best it's a bit overclocked 8800GTS. Let's face it, if GX2 is 30% over Ultra, and current 8800GTS is pretty close, this one won't be much improved version (so you can forget 512bit memory controlers, maybe just 100-200MHz memory speed bump at most!)

Next in line is 9800GT. No info at all.. Fishy isn't it? By the looks of the above two cards, things are even too fishy, and 8800GT->9800GT renaming pops to my mind. I mean, face reality. 8800GT 512, 8800GTS 512, 8800GTX and 8800Ultra are all in some 10-15% range. Once added 9800GTS, and 9800GT do you really think anything more can be expected? Even if we're looking at 40% difference in performance across range, it's hard to expect much from THIS nVidia.

And so we're left with either 8800GT/GTS being tweaked and renamed to 9800GT/GTX (and quickly pulled from the shelves in current form) or JUST being renamed..

And than we have 9600GT which is already going to the lower end, possibly replacing 8800GT 256MB. New PCB design could just as well be explained by the news that nVidia is "suggesting" to partners to lower number of PCB layers to cheapen the cards making it more competitive to HD38xx cards. (later in few articles it was confirmed that this card looks a lot like 8800GT, same cooling and all. Performance will be similar to 8800GS, maybe bit lower, and a bit better than ATi's 3850 with 256MB of memory. Quoted specs seem to be 650MHz for the GPU, with the 512MB of 256-bit GDDR3 memory at 1,800MHz and the Shaders at 1,625MHz.Also, seems that it's not G92 but cut-down version called G94 which is much smaller in size, meaning less costs for all, right?)

I won't even bother with 8800GS, since I think it's not even shrink, I'd say they are selling off old G80 inventory and possibly old stock of GPUs with smaller errors where they can still use them if they disable few units and underclock them (memory configs speak in that direction). (cards started to appear, 384MB DDR3 at 700MHz, 580MHz core, shaders at 1450, 192bit mem interface, 96 stream processors. Of course, clocks can and will be higher for OCed versions)

My bet would be:
9800 GX2 = 2x 8800GTS
9800 GTX = a bit tweaked 8800GTS 512MB (with possibly 1GB comming later)
9800 GT = more or less renamed 8800GT 512MB, maybe few Mhz boost
9600 GT = bit lower/higher clocked 8800GT 256MB, depending on HD3850 pricing/sales EDIT: coupled with cheaper production boards ofcourse :P
8800 GT/GTS EOL in all versions currently available as soon as 9800's are out
8800 GS EOL in 2 months after they sell those old G80 GPUs
8600 GTS and lower cards will hopefully stay the same cards as they are :P

EDIT: There are also 9500 cards on the go, but that will be just for non-gaming folks probably..

Closing thoughts (Mar 24th): So here we are, April is near, and it had been confirmed in several ways. 9800 GX2 is released, and it is indeed not much more than 2x 8800GTS with just a bit different clocks. 9800 GTX should be out on 1st, and is same as GTS, just with 25MHz higher core clocks, higher memory clocks (1100MHz is current info), and tri-sli connectors. Since we had 1GB GTS cards coming out lately, 9800 GTX will too, just not the first day - so far only 512MB. 9800GT is close to release as well, and since GTX wasn't upped a lot from 8800 GTS, this card can't go much higher either. So count at more memory/core clocks, and possibly tri-sli connector, but even this wasn't confirmed. 9600GT is out now for a while, it did get a "new" chip, but it was just lower-cost G92 version. Big change that came with 9600GT was huge improvements to SLI performance, GX2 followed, so everyone expects that nVidia included same tweaks to new chips for 9800 GT/GTX. As the end, all the 8xxx will be EOL soon. So I didn't miss much with my mid-January predictions.

And at the end - who profits the most with this new 9xxx lineup refresh? First let's agree - lower-midrange through 9600GT which is a stellar card, especially as an upgrade option in future (SLI). And second, and foremost - any SLI user of these new cards. SLI had been improved in lots of ways: through tweaks inside chips and cards, driver updates, Vista patches, game patches... So here we have a bright future for SLI. I won't say bright for GX2 card, even though it looks nice in the end, but ordinary multi-card SLI setups will be more used in future obviously, and these tweaks/patches/updates will benefit all, not just high-end users as it was thus far (see 9600GT SLI reviews).

So this is it, I conclude this article, and will do the same with "graphics roadmap" article, even though that one is never-ending-story; of course ;) But you can check it out as well :)

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