The desktop graphics game enters a new level as NVidia launches two new graphics processors – GeForce4 Titanium and GeForce4 MX. They are compatible with both Macs and Windows PCs, which is the first time the higher-end Titanium line has been available for the Mac. The company has also told Digit that an announcement on new additions to its Quadro line of workstation cards will happen "in a few weeks time".
The GeForce4 4600 Titanium's graphics-processing unit includes a 300MHz core clock, a 325MHz memory clock, and support for 128MB of 650MHz DDR SDRAM (an amount NVidia executives say future games will require). The chip also includes four independent 32-bit memory controllers, plus DirectX 8.1 compatibility – a bone of contention between ATI Technologies and Nvidia. Finally, it also features dual vertex shaders – a design gleaned from the company's work on Microsoft's X-box.
Graphics cards featuring the GeForce 4600 Titanium chip set are expected to sell for around £200-£270. Nvidia executives also say they plan to launch two other iterations of the Titanium chips with slower clock speeds that will appear on boards priced from around £130.
The consumer GeForce4 MX 460 offers many of the same features as the gamer-oriented GeForce4 Titanium chip, including a core clock speed of 300MHz. The MX also includes support for 64MB of 550MHz DDR SDRAM, full-scene antialiasing, and dual DVI or TV-out (depending on the card vendor). The company will also eventually ship two lower clock speed versions of the MX 460.
New to this line of chips is support for dual displays using nView technology, which lets you hook up any combination of up to two analog or digital monitors (including CRT and LCD monitors). Some boards will even let you hook up an analog or a digital monitor simultaneously with a TV. Software lets you customize and control both desktops, allowing you to configure the way the chip displays applications and windows on each.
In anticipation of the new chips, NVidia has already ceased manufacturing current MX 400 and 200 chips as well as recently released GeForce2 and GeForce3 Titanium chips.
Gamers have been waiting more than a year for games with DirectX 8 hardware acceleration. A year ago NVidia released its GeForce3 cards, which it claimed would support DirectX 8 hardware acceleration. However, games to support the standard have yet to arrive to this day.
The same thing happened with the GeForce3 Titanium 300 and 500 cards, which are now being "slowly and gracefully phased out," says Stephen Sims, senior product manager at NVidia. Sims says now that the next generation of cards is here Nvidia is counting on developers to create games that take advantage of the technology.
The company is confident that Star Wars online, Unreal Tournament II, Comanche 4 (with a high-resolution mode that only works with the GeForce4 Ti), and other games with DirectX 8.1 support will arrive shortly, Sims says. Now that both Nvidia and ATI chips are compatible with the same version of DirectX 8.1, games can be coded for both cards instead of one or the other.
"[DirectX] 8.1 gives everyone a chance to stabilize," Sims says. "Developers are trying to create a common code base."