Why NVIDIA Did It

To understand the motivation behind NVIDIA's naming and renaming and renaming we have to once again look its approach to GPU design. NVIDIA continued to architect very high end GPUs and allow their technology to, over the course of 9 - 12 months, trickle down to mid range and lower end market segments. AMD stepped in and launched a very competitive performance mainstream part instead of a high end GPU, allowing it to windfall down to lower price points and market segments quicker than NVIDIA could for this generation.

Let's attach some code names shall we?

NVIDIA's flagship, the GT200 GPU used in the GTX 295, 285, 280 and 260, isn't available in a cheaper version yet. AMD's flagship, the RV770, is already more affordable and is available in cheaper versions. NVIDIA has to rely on its last generation GPU, the G92b, to compete in the rest of the market while the lower end GT200 derivatives get ready for production. Rather than continue to ship products with old names to vendors and customers, NVIDIA slaps a new name on an old GPU and hopes to at least provide the appearance of being just as agile and competitive as AMD despite being clearly caught off guard this generation.

Of course, NVIDIA has a case to make. This is their current generation of hardware, and it is practical and useful to maintain a consistent nomenclature so that the general public knows what the product positioning actually is. We agree, only our solution is top to bottom launches in line with new GPU architectures rather than simply changing the name of old parts so that they look shiny and new.

NVIDIA's take on this is also flawed in that it treats customers like idiots and underlines the fundamental issue we have. Do I need a card with a new name on it to believe that it is worthy of my purchase, or can I go read reviews comparing the hardware and learn for myself whether or not any card (regardless of the name) fills my need? Maybe this name change is for people who don't know anything about graphics hardware then. In that case the thing that "sells" the card is the simple fact that NVIDIA has convinced someone that this part is an affordable version of a card from their latest line of products. Saying they need a name change to maintain current naming is essentially admitting that the only reason the name needs to be changed is to mislead uninformed people.

NVIDIA would love to have 40nm GT200 derivatives out today. Until that day comes, we'll get cards that sound like GT200 based products.

Anyway, we haven't previously tested a 1GB 9800 GTX+, and until this announcement their prices haven't been anywhere near reasonable (currently they're up at $200, so the $50 price drop will make a big difference). There is also a slight tweak between the GTS 250 1GB and the 9800 GTX+ 1GB: the memory on the 1GB 9800+ was underclocked by about 9.1%, and the GTS 250 1GB brings clock speed back in line with the 512MB 9800 GTX+. So while the 512MB part doesn't perform any different in any way, we should no longer see any performance degradation in games that don't benefit from memory size but are memory bandwidth sensitive from moving up to 1GB.

Oh, also wide availability won't be until March 10th. Seriously.

Also, not explained until now is the way the new naming scheme will go forward. Now, GTX, GTS, GT and G (as far as we can gather) will indicate performance segment. The number will be the model number and within a performance segment, higher is better. Essentially NVIDIA has swapped the meaning of letters and numbers in their naming. They have also clearly told us that naming will no longer be attached to GPU architecture, but that vendors may somehow still indicate architecture on the box if they so choose. If nothing else, the feature list and specifications will be a guide. Here's to requiring that people read the fine print to know what they're buying.

For What it's Worth

Early last week Charlie over at The Inquirer posted a story saying that a number of reviewers were cut out of the GeForce GTS 250 launch. We felt a bit hurt, by the time the story launched we weren't even asked to be briefed about the GTS 250. Cards had already gone out to other reviewers but we weren't on any lists. Oh, pout.

Magically, a couple of days after Charlie's article we got invited to a NVIDIA briefing and we had a GTS 250 to test. Perhaps NVIDIA was simply uncharacteristically late in briefing us about a new GPU launch. Perhaps NVIDIA was afraid we'd point out that it was nothing more than a 9800 GTX+ that ran a little cooler. Or perhaps we haven't been positive enough about CUDA and PhysX and NVIDIA was trying to punish us.

Who knows what went on at NVIDIA prior to the launch, we're here to review the card, but for what it's worth - thank you Charlie :)

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  • SiliconDoc - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    The cheapest 4870 1G at the egg right now is 194.99 + shipping and they go up well over $200 from there -

    The cheapest GTX260/216 at the egg right now is 179.99 + shipping.
    __________________________________-


    Now let's look further - in order ! (second # after rebate)
    4870 1g
    199.99
    199.99/169.99
    199.99/179.99
    214.99/194.99
    234.99/209.99
    239.99/214.99

    GTC260/216
    189.99/159.99
    208.99/189.99
    212.99/177.99
    229.99/199.99
    232.99/197.99
    234.99/214.99

    _______________________________

    Oh well, another red fantasiacal lie exploded all over the place, AGAIN.
    Reply
  • Griswold - Wednesday, March 04, 2009 - link

    It goes like this:

    8800GTS 512 -> 9800GTX(+) -> GTS250

    Weak, nvidia...
    Reply
  • Nfarce - Wednesday, March 04, 2009 - link

    When Uncle Sam gives me some of my money back in a few weeks, it will be spent on a mid-range i7 build. For months I debated two things in my GPU build spec: the less headaches of going Nvidia but paying more for less performance vs. ATI's more driver/support headaches but paying less for more (or in a few cases generally equal) performance. To this day there are a lot of Catalyst issues, especially in Crossfire. Even so, articles like this have helped push me over to a first time ATI/AMD GPU buyer. :) Reply
  • earthshaker87 - Monday, March 09, 2009 - link

    Dude just stick to Single GPU setup. Ive had 4 Cards from ATi now: 9550,X800GT,HD3850,HD4850. None of them gave me headaches at all. I think the drivers are working just fine for me. No one needs 2 GPUs, its a stupid buy really...you pay double for most of the time not double performance and get issues with it. Why do you need it if you can buy a perfectly capable Single Radeon 4850 for dirt cheap or if you got more cash get a GTX285 the top single GPU card, no problems and headaches or inconsistent FPS. Multi GPU splutions is just not perfect yet... Reply
  • Frallan - Wednesday, March 04, 2009 - link

    Please include the 4830 in some tests in the future - Im not personally interested but 2 or 3 of my friends and family has asked and i honestly dont know what to say. A 4830 is about 1k SEK in Sweden and a 4850 is around 1.4k (+40%) (also a Gigabyte 4850 with the Zalmann cooler is 1.6k SEK *sigh*).

    For me this segment is getting more imprtant as almost all ppl I know wants dedicated graphics but without splurging for the best.

    Reply
  • frozentundra123456 - Wednesday, March 04, 2009 - link

    In a way this just shows how strong the last generation of nvidia cards was, in that they can still compete with AMD. I definitely think the AMD naming scheme is much more straightforward (honest) than that of nvidis though. I have more of a problem with nvidia renaming a weak card with the latest model numbers such as the 8600GT which became the 9500GT which is now the GT120 or something. Someone who is not informed could easily think this is a high performace part due to the new model number, which it is not.
    What we really need is a benchmark of some sort to give relative performance like the windows experience index. That benchmark is really not useful now because even a midrange card rates the max in the windows experience index. Granted the relative performance varies from game to game, but some sort of performance index would give somewhat of a way to measure relative overall performance.
    Reply
  • Hrel - Thursday, March 05, 2009 - link

    The test you're looking for is called 3D Mark, and I keep messaging them about that asking them to include that test in their articles. Come one, join me in messaging them every day till they start to include that test! Reply
  • Adjudicator - Wednesday, March 04, 2009 - link

    Although the 1 GB Version of the GTS 250 looks "Further refined" (Shorter card length and requiring only 1 6 pin connector instead of two), It is practically the same card as the 1 GB version of 9800 GTX+ sold by eVGA.

    http://www.evga.com/products/moreInfo.asp?pn=01G-P...">http://www.evga.com/products/moreInfo.a...p;family...


    This shows that the "new" reference design was not really new after all; this design was already in existance before NVIDIA announced the release of the GTS250.

    To those who enquire if there will be a 512 MB version of the GTS 250 that needs only one 6 pin:

    eVGA had released a 9800+ 512 MB that uses the refined short PCB and 1 6 pin connector:

    http://www.evga.com/products/moreInfo.asp?pn=512-P...">http://www.evga.com/products/moreInfo.a...p;family...


    Even Gigabyte had released a 1 GB version of the 9800 GTX+ on a shortened PCB with one 6 pin, although it uses a non-reference cooling solution:

    http://www.gigabyte.com.tw/Products/VGA/Products_O...">http://www.gigabyte.com.tw/Products/VGA/Products_O....


    After all this rebadging of the G92b, I will not be surprised if NVIDIA's next move will be to release a 9800+ GX2 / GTS 250 GX2 rebranded as the GTS 255.


    Reply
  • SiliconDoc - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    I wonder if nvidia heard all the constant ragging women nagging endlessly about the names of their cards, and finally decided the line them up in the 100-200 etc nomenclature....
    And now, the bleeding, edgy, old, wrinkled, crybaby know it alls that demanded a proper naming scheme are getting the new name lineup and the very first thing they do is forget they are the ones that demanded it be done, and they whip out a supergigantic tampon and fill it full up to overflowing.
    There's not much blood left, you're all white as ghosts, in fact, you've been zombies for quite some time now.
    I hope you're enjoying it.
    Reply
  • XiZeL - Wednesday, March 04, 2009 - link

    FAIL!!!by nVidia Reply

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