Sony's NV20 killer

— 12:09 AM on February 8, 2001

And you thought NVIDIA ruled the graphics roost now that most of its competition has folded or gone into hiding. Not so fast—there's a new kid on the block, and he may be the new 800-pound gorilla of the graphics market. Check out this EETimes article about the new Sony graphics chip just unveiled. This thing makes the Playstation 2's Graphic Synthesizer look puny. I don't even know where to start.

On its capabilities:

The device contains 256-Mbit of on-chip embedded DRAM, or eight times more than the current Graphics Synthesizer. The DRAM and wide 2,000-bit internal buses can deliver 48 gigabytes per second of bandwidth.

In raw graphics performance, the chip can process 75 million polygons per second, has a pixel fill rate between 1.2 and 2.6 gigapixels/s and can draw 75 million polygons/s, according to Aurangzeb Khan, vice president of Simplex Solution Inc. (Sunnyvale, Calif.), who presented a paper on the graphics processor here at International Solid-State Circuits Conference.

Fill rate-wise, 2.6 gigapixels per second beats out the current PC market leader, the GeForce2 Ultra. The GF2 peaks at a theoretical 2 gigapixels per second, but its real-world performance is limited by memory bandwidth bottlenecks. So the Sony's spec is formidable.

Then there's the chip itself:

Using 0.18-micron design rules, the latest Graphics Synthesizer is an astounding 21.7 x 21.3-square-millimeters and contains 287.5 million transistors, with embedded DRAM taking up most of the silicon real estate. By contrast, the current Graphics Synthesizer in the Playstation 2 uses 42.7 million transistors and measured 16.8 x 16.8 mm when it was first introduced on a 0.25-micron process.
The NV20 is rumored to be around 50 million transistors, so this massive Sony chip has it beat all to pieces in terms of sheer size. By contrast, the Pentium 4 is "only" 42 million transistors, and it ain't exactly dainty.

Where and how Sony will use this beast really interests me. It seems unlikely to make it into a PC expansion card, but if it did, NVIDIA might finally meet its match.

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