Ready or not, here comes NV30

Another Comdex is upon us, possibly the last one ever, as the ailing Comdex organizer teeters on bankruptcy, and major players like Intel and The Tech Report have stayed home from the show this year. But the show will go on, and NVIDIA is set to debut its next-generation GPU at a swanky breakfast event in the morning. Some of the juiciest details about NV30 won't be revealed until morning, but those of you wanting to get a handle on what's coming may want to check out my comparative preview of the NV30 and Radeon 9700. I wrote that article back in August, but it has info I still haven't seen anywhere else. No doubt much of the NV30's launch hype will cover these things.

I do have a few more bits of info for you now, however. For one thing, we'd previously thought NVIDIA's next chip would not be called a "GeForce," but it now looks like the power of brand equity has won another victory over felicitous product naming. I'd look for a new GeForce to debut tomorrow.

Also, this paper from Siggraph about "Ray Tracing on Programmable Graphics Hardware" hasn't gotten the attention it deserves. I would half expect NVIDIA to show a live demo on NV30 of real-time ray tracing. This would be an especially neat trick because NVIDIA could point to this feat as a major difference between NV30 and the Radeon 9700, which likely couldn't deliver the same effect in real time due to memory bandwidth constraints and limitations on the number of pixel ops per rendering pass.

What we don't know now is how soon NV30 will be available, and tomorrow may not answer that question for us. Rumors increasingly place the chip's actual availability some time after the first of the year.

I also wouldn't be shocked to see ATI debut a DDR-II-based variant of the Radeon 9700 at the show. The NV30 has a "DDR-II type memory," and ATI has already demonstrated a DDR-II-equipped Radeon 9700 card. Those cards could be available for real before NV30 is.

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