Nvidia Launches GeForce 7800 GTX Graphics Chip

So, How Does This New Technology Translate In Better User Experience?

Further tweaks were also given to Shader Model 3 with per-pixel lighting, parallax mapping and soft shadows. One particular new application of programmable shading with the 7800, Nvidia demonstrated, involves the use of relief mapping to simulate the texture of scenery items such as stone walls. Here, light and dark pixels in a 2D texture map represent "high" and "low," or "in" and "out" points, with those points closest to the viewer generally catching the most light. According to the company, this allows improved reflections of light sources, enabling cinder block walls to glisten and ruined wooden frames to give the appearance of splinters.

Traditionally, all the buzz surrounding a new graphics card centers around its gaming performance; but technologies such as transparency anti-aliasing and High-Dynamic Range rendering have professional applications as well. As Tony Tamasi told us, "The core technology that we developed for the 7800 GTX has an alter ego that will become product-ized in our professional Quadro product line, which specifically targets broadcast, digital content creation, workstation, CAD/CAM."

All innovations broken down, Nvidia is proud to highlight that the 7800 GTX is the most complex graphics processor ever built, integrating about 302 million transistors. In real world use, this basically translates in "just" more performance for the user and analysts believe it is enough to convince buyers to buy such a card. "People got excited about every previous generation. This will happen here again," said Dean McCarron, an analyst with Mercury Research. However, McCarron pointed out that the $599 card (suggested retail) continues an upward trend of graphics card pricing. While especially the mass market sweetspots recently climbed to $40-$60 cards as well as to the low to mid $200 on the higher end, he said that higher prices on the high end would support also higher prices in the mid-range.

Tamasi wouldn't confirm increasing prices, but sources told Tom's Hardware that the 7800 series will probe new price ranges on the high end. With the 6800 Ultra topping out at $1000 for a 512 MByte version, some manufacturers will lift this limit into the range of about $1200 to $1300 for future high-end, single-card versions of the 7800. A similar trend is expected for ATI-based boards.

These prices, in fact, are not too far off the levels many buyers have seen with early GeForce 6800 Ultra cards. After the 6800's launch, supporting cards were only available in limited quantities through retail channels and mostly sold through auctions, especially on eBay. This time around, Tamasi said, Nvidia has learned, and will offer the 7800 GTX in "larger quantities." Manufacturers support that claim: For example, BFG told Tom's Hardware Guide that the 7800 GTX "will be available on the day of the announcement" and that more quantities are available than one year ago with the 6800 Ultra.

Another firm offering the 7800 GTX right away is PNY. The Verto GeForce 7800 GTX will also be offered as standard model as well as a 1 GByte DDR2 667 memory upgrade bundle for $679. The almost-$700 price tag doesn't concern PNY's senior marketing manager, Marca Armstrong. "Classic marketing says it's much easier to go from the top down than it is from the bottom up," Armstrong told us. "I think NVIDIA's strategy has always been to start at the high end, and move their way down the food chain." Maintaining a premium price point, like a top-tier performance automobile, said Armstrong, "creates more buzz and enthusiasm around the chip, so more people will want it."

If 7800 GTX cards in fact are available for purchase such boards for suggested retail, then we consider this the most important improvement over the previous graphics chip generation - and laud Nvidia's efforts to limit price gauging practices in the graphics card business.

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GeForce 7800 GTX Technical Specs
8 vertex shading units
24 pixel pipelines
Core clock/ memory clock: 430 MHz/600 MHz with support for overclocking
128 bit floating point through the entire pipeline
302 million transistors
256 bit GDDR3 memory architecture
PCI Express x16 support
Windows XP, 2000, ME, 9x, Mac OS X, Linux support
Technologies In Use
SLI multiple card support
Direct X 9.0 Shader Model 3.0 support
OpenGL 2.0 support
High dynamic range (HDR) rendering
CineFX 4.0 engine
Intellisample 4.0 support for anti-aliasing and no jagged edges
PureVideo improved HDTV support
Unified driver and compiler architecture across Nvidia product lines