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A GK110-based GeForce?
Nvidia has done a tremendous amount of work, from the hardware to software to promotion and more, to cultivate a market for its graphics chips as data-parallel processors for use in supercomputing, HPC, and academia. GTC 2012 featured a total of 340 different sessions presented by folks from a broad range of disciplines, and virtually all of the presenters were using GPUs for something other than real-time graphics.

If your interest in GPUs was, like mine, first sparked by graphics and gaming, you might be wondering about the prospects for a GeForce card based on the GK110. Trouble is, those prospects have been dampened somewhat by Nvidia's success in other areas. The GK110 won't reach the market until the fourth quarter of 2012, and multiple folks from Nvidia forthrightly admitted to us that those chips are already sold out through the end of 2012. All of those sales are to supercomputing clusters and the like, where each chip commands a higher price than it would aboard a video card. One gentleman seated in front of us at the GK110 deep-dive session mentioned in passing that he had 15,000 of the chips on order, which was his reason for attending.

The Nvidia executives we talked with raised the possibility of a GK110-based GeForce being released this year only if necessary to counter some move by rival AMD. That almost certainly means that any GK110-based GeForce to hit the market in 2012 would come in extremely limited quantities.

Nevertheless, with the information Nvidia has revealed about the GK110 and a dash of speculation, we can paint a picture of how a GeForce card based on the big Kepler might look. Note that we're assuming a higher clock frequency for the consumer graphics card than we have for the Tesla K20. Beyond the clock speeds, which affect all of the rates, we're only guessing about a couple of graphics capabilities. Nvidia hasn't officially confirmed that the GK110 has five GPCs, although we do have the die shot. Similarly, we'd expect 48 pixels per clock of ROP throughput to accompany its six memory channels, if the GK110 retains the same arrangement as the mid-sized Kepler.

GF110 GK104 GK110 Tahiti
Transistor Count 3.0B 3.5B 7.1B 4.31B
Process node 40 nm @ TSMC 28 nm @ TSMC 28 nm @ TSMC 28 nm @ TSMC
Core clock 772 MHz 1006 MHz 900 MHz 925 MHz
Hot clock 1544 MHz - - --
Setup rate 3088 Mtris/s 4024 Mtris/s 4500 Mtris/s 1850 Mtris/s
ALUs 512 1536 2880 2048
SP FMA rate 1.6 Tflops 3.1 Tflops 5.2 Tflops 3.8 Tflops
bilinear texels/clock
64/64 128/128 240/240 128/64
bilinear texel rate
49/49 Gtexels/s 129/129 Gtexels/s 216/216 Gtexels/s 118/59 Gtexels/s
ROPs 48 32 48 32
ROP rate 37 Gpixels/s 32 Gpixels/s 43 Gpixels/s 30 Gpixels/s
Memory clock 4000 MT/s 6000 MT/s 6000 MT/s 5700 MT/s
Memory bus width 384 bits 256 bits 384 bits 384 bits
Memory bandwidth 192 GB/s 192 GB/s 288 GB/s 274 GB/s

We think the GK104 has a more suitable mix of resources for real-time graphics, especially for current games that have been cross-developed for antiquated console hardware. The GK110 may be twice the size, but it's not likely to be twice as fast for gaming. Still, our theoretical GK110-based GeForce increases shader flops and texture filtering capacity by two-thirds, along with respectable improvements in ROP rate and memory bandwidth. Since the GK104 is already a match for AMD's Tahiti, we reckon the GK110 would be substantially faster still—if and when it makes it way into a consumer graphics card. TR

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