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COMDEX: Graphics get real

nVidia aims for cinematic quality with the GeForce FX

Graphics company nVidia has unveiled the its latest offering to hardcore gamers, the GeForce FX, hoping to deliver its dream of "cinematic computing" to the desktop PC — plus no doubt aiming to knock current favourite, the ATI Radeon 9700, off the top of gamers' Christmas lists.

The GeForce FX (previously known as NV30) packs in a massive 125 million transistors and runs at 500MHz. To keep up with the processor, it uses the new DDR2 (double data rate) memory, providing a 1GHz memory data rate.

The aim of cinematic computing is to provide real-time effects on a desktop PC similar to those in Hollywood movies. It's an ambitious proposal, and although the results are extremely impressive we've still got some way to go.

The name, according to nVidia president Jen-Hsun Huang, represents the unity of nVidia and 3Dfx, which nVidia acquired in late 2000. So clearly nothing to do with the current trend of dispensing with version numbers above four in favour of tagging two seemingly random letters on the end.

According to figures supplied by nVidia it offers a significant performance boost compared to its current flagship, the GeForce 4 Ti4600. Running Quake 3 at 2,048x1,536 resolution resulted in a massive 173.1fps (frames per second) verses 93.9fps for the GeForce 4. It can stand its ground with new games too, racking up 49.8fps in Doom 3 at 1,280x1,024 when the GeForce 4 could only stretch to 20.9.

Of course, running a chip at 500MHz isn't going to produce the coolest operating environment. With this in mind, the FX Flow cooling system intelligently monitors the chip temperature and draws in and circulates air to cool it down. When just idling on desktop applications, it will apparently run silently with the fan only kicking in when you throw some serious 3D applications at it.

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