NVIDIA's NV48, NV50 Cancelled, Successors Unknown

@ 2004/12/05
NVIDIA Corp., one of the top graphics companies in the world, has reportedly canned further development of projects code-named NV48 and NV50. Currently the reasons for decisions are not clear and it is also unknown whether the company is on-track with its product family updates schedule.

Two reports at The Inquirer web-site claim that according to sources with knowledge of the matter, NVIDIA’s code-named NV48 and NV50 products will never see the light of the day. The web-site does not explain any exact reasons behind the move. Representatives for NVIDIA Corp. also declined to comment for the report.

A “Refresh” and A “New Architecture” Canned

NVIDIA’s NV48 chip was supposed to be a “refresh” for the company’s GeForce 6800 Ultra graphics processor that was expected to be feature a bit higher frequencies compared to the original parts. Now that the NV48 is canned, the GeForce 6800 Ultra will remain on top of NVIDIA’s product line for some time. Even though with abolition of the product NV48 NVIDIA is a bit behind ATI’s RADEON X850 XT Platinum Edition in terms of performance, the company is still in position to offer premium speed thanks to its Multi-GPU technology and a couple of its GeForce 6800 GT or GeForce 6800 Ultra graphics cards, but at higher price-point compared to single-card setup.

The product code-named NV50 is not something that was much discussed publicly. Typically NVIDIA names graphics processing units that features entirely new architecture with zero at the end of the code-name, e.g, NV10 (the first hardware T&L), NV20 (the first Shader Model 1.0 architecture), NV30 (the first Shader Model 2.0a chip), NV40 (the first Shader Model 3.0 chip). Some sources claimed that the NV50 was supposed to be launched in the second half of 2005.

Still, NVIDIA reportedly has a weapon to fight its arch-rival ATI Technologies: the company’s code-named NV47 that presumably contains 24 pixel pipelines is on-track to be released in the first half of the year 2005.

Reasons Unclear

The motives for NVIDIA to cancel the NV50 chip are currently unclear.

Typically graphics companies make radical modifications of the roadmaps in order to substitute certain products with different models that better correspond to market and financial needs. For instance, initial name for the RADEON X800 was R400, but then it evolved into R420, which was mainly a new visual processing unit with a bit different feature-set.

Another reason for products’ cancellation is the lack of certain feature-set to correspond to standards, such as DirectX, what was about to happen with 3dfx’s Rampage code-named chip that supported Shader Model 1.0, but did not support Pixel Shader 1.1, a requirement of DirectX 8.0.

Yet another reason for future product cancellation is shift towards higher performance products in the same timeframe as the original product was meant to be launched. For instance, some sources claim the original NV40 was supposed to have fewer pixel pipelines than the actual NV40, but then was canned in favour of the 16 pixel pipelines design.

Leading designers of graphics processors, such as ATI Technologies and NVIDIA Corp., are currently working on next generation visual processing units that will support feature-set of Windows Graphics Foundation 2.0 (WGF 2.0), the graphics API for Windows Longhorn operating system. It is unknown, whether the NV50 was targeted to support WGF 2.0 or not.

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