NV40, R420 in the Pipeline

NV40, R420 in the Pipeline

The indirect war of words between the two major graphics players, on the run-up to the release of their latest products, is escalating. The "hot-topic" of the moment is the number of pipelines that nVidia's NV40 chip will utilize.

For most casual gamers the term pipelines is familiar but not comprehensible. The current dispute however, claims that the winner of the new graphics war will be decided on the number of pipelines. Pipelines in a graphics card are used to render pixels so, for example, eight pipelines are able to render eight pixels in a single texturing pass and can even do sixteen if you render two pixels/pipeline in the same pass using an 8x2 architecture.

nVidia claims that the NV40 will feature 16x1 architecture and that, in some cases, 32x0. ATI claim that their R420 product will feature 12x1 pipelines suggesting that, provided nVidia's claims hold, the NV40 will get to wear the performance crown.

Unfortunately the story does not end there since the latest reports on nVidia's NV40 chip claim that it will still have 8 physical pipelines but that it will, under certain conditions, mimic 16 pipelines providing better performance in very specific applications and in 3DMark. ATI's R420, so far, is accepted as having a 12x1 architecture, meaning that it will have 12 physical pipelines.

According to experts nVidia plans to use Vertex shader and Pixel Shader in imaginative ways in order to achieve the virtual doubling of the NV40's pipelines. If this is the case the NV40 is guaranteed the crown in Doom 3 and other games using the same engine but in non-compatible games that method would definitely have a negative impact on visual quality.

Since nVidia are not commenting on the issue and since anyone who knows has signed a Non-Dislosure Agreement the resolution to this issue will come when the product is revealed in less than a month. ATI's R420 will appear a couple of weeks after the NV40 and the latest news claims that the whole range of ATI's products will carry Counter-Strike 2 coupons.

Before things get emotional regarding the winner of the NV40/R420 war remember that the most important thing about new chips being released is that their presence makes the older ones i.e. FX5950 and RADEON 9800 more affordable.