Nvidia to paper launch GTX580 in a week

No chips, no hope, just spin

Nvidia world iconTHE DESPERATION AT Nvidia has reached silly proportions, with the paper launch of the GTX580 pulled in from ‘Cayman Day’ to ‘Investor Conference Call Day’, both holidays in November. I wonder how many reviewers will overlook the fact that there won’t be cards this year?

We told you about the GTX580 a few weeks ago and now a few more details have come out. The short story is that the chip behind the GTX580, the GF110, is nothing more than a bug fixed GF100. If you think this should be called the GF100b, you are right. If you think performance will underwelm, you are right too.

Sources deep within Nvidia tell SemiAccurate that the clock speeds targeted by GTX580 are 750/1500, or the exact same frequencies that Nvidia was targeting before the GF100/GTX480 missed. Where have we heard that number before? Oh yeah, we have been saying that that was the original clock target for GF100 for over a year, and Nvidia has been denying it for just as long. They denied many other problems too, but that’s not important now that we have an imminent launch.

It is pretty obvious that GF100b/GF110 was supposed to be a shrink to 32nm, but when TSMC canceled that node, Nvidia had to jump into action on Plan B. That meant there was time to do a base layer respin on GF100 to fix some of the bugs.

A fully working GF100, a first for Nvidia’s desktop Fermi/GF1x0 line, would have 512 shaders and get about a 7% speed increase over GTX480. Another 6% comes from the clock speed, a generous assessment would say bug fixes add a little more. All told, 20% net speed increase over GTX480 isn’t out of the question, nor is a pretty decent lowering of power.

The chip is still going to be obscenely huge, and, well, it won’t be enough to beat the competition. Heck, it won’t be enough to beat the current champ, AMD’s HD5970/Hemlock, much less the upcoming Cayman and Antilles parts. It is going to be a slaughter.

That is why Nvidia is pulling the 580 launch in, if you launch before the competition, effectively there is no competition. That means the good press from tame sites and analysts will go unchallenged, and that is what Nvidia desperately wants. Correction, it’s what NVDA needs.

Why do they need it? Because they are about to have a horrid quarter, and need good news. The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of backdoor deals and heavy discounts at quarters end, including some previously sacred cows. AMD is kicking them right between the margins, something you will see when Q4 numbers come out. The best way to deflect questions aimed at management is to show Wall Street something shiny.

With that in mind, we are told GTX580’s ‘launch’ will be pulled in to November 8, a few days before the Q3 financial conference call. It is now meant as a spoiler for uncomfortable analyst questions aimed at Dear Leader, not at AMD’s parts. The problem is that in either case, you won’t be able to buy parts until late January, best case, at the earliest. I wonder if any analysts will ask about that in an SEC governed venue?

In the end, GTX580 will be non-existent in 2010, for you, the customer, and is aimed purely at those who are too dumb or cowered to question Nvidia’s word. The chip is a bug fixed GTX480/GF100, renamed on the internal and consumer side to make it seem like something it isn’t, ala the endless G92 stream or the GT3xx line. We hope the wait for these cards is less than the wait between paper launch and real cards was for Fermi.S|A

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Charlie Demerjian

Roving engine of chaos and snide remarks at SemiAccurate
Charlie Demerjian is the founder of Stone Arch Networking Services and SemiAccurate.com. SemiAccurate.com is a technology news site; addressing hardware design, software selection, customization, securing and maintenance, with over one million views per month. He is a technologist and analyst specializing in semiconductors, system and network architecture. As head writer of SemiAccurate.com, he regularly advises writers, analysts, and industry executives on technical matters and long lead industry trends. Charlie is also available through Guidepoint and Mosaic. FullyAccurate