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Week In Tech: Nvidia's 'New' Graphics Cards

Tighten Titan

Back in Feb we had a little chin wag about the mad dash of annual graphics hardware launches slowing to a saunter. We can add a little more flesh to the bones of that story this week, with some pretty plausible looking details of Nvidia's upcoming plans – and further confirmation of nothing new from AMD. It's worth a quick dip into the mucky waters of rumour for anyone pondering a GPU upgrade or a generally a new rig as some new kit – of sorts - is imminent.

So, the latest scuttlebutt goes something like this. Nvidia is tooling up to unleash its shiny new 700 series video boards. The bad news is that we're largely looking at a bunch of rebadges, not properly new GPUs.

The good is that you'll be getting more for your moolah. If the rumours are right, Nvidia is planning to pluck the mighty GK110 chip from the mental-money GeForce Titan card, turn a few bits off and stick a GeForce GTX 780 badge on it.

2,496 shaders instead of 2,688, 208 texture units instead of 224, 40 render outputs instead of 48. That sort of thing. Overall, we're talking 80-plus per cent of a Titan. And thus still a monster of a GPU. But it will be £400 odd instead of £800. Yay.

Cheaper chips

OK, still not exactly a democratic pricing. But there's more. The existing GeForce GTX 680 and its GK104 chip is also said to be getting a rebadge. It'll take the GTX 770 slot and purportedly higher clocks. If so, you'll be getting better-than-680 pixel pumping for roughly 670 pricing. Huzzah.

We're still talking a likely £300 or so for the 770, so perhaps sir would be interested in the GTX 760 Ti, allegedly little more than a rebaked GTX 670? Now we're down nearer £200 for a board that currently costs £300.

All these 'new' boards are due to begin appearing from the end of the month, or thereabouts. If you're in the market, therefore, hold fire for a few weeks. If you're lucky enough to already own a 600 Series board, then cue the rejoicing. Because your hardware effectively remains current when the 700 Series rocks up.

Nvidia's Kepler-gen cards, like current fave GTX 670, are being rebagded

Apart from the happy side effect of not suddenly making your precious 600 board look about as cutting edge as an Atari 2600, that's handy because it means you'll continue to reap the benefit of Nvidia's best efforts in terms of driver updates. Not that Nvidia instadumps old GPU designs when it comes to tweaking drivers. But, inevitably, the quest to flog kit means the latest chips must be a priority.

One other thing worth remembering about the Titan chip in the upcoming GTX 780 is that it's a very different architecture from Nvidia's GPU family proper. It packs twice the transistor count of GK104 but not twice the performance. In simple terms, there's stuff in there for general purpose computing that doesn't do a great deal for games. Makes it a beast for things like pro image rendering, if that's your bag.

I reckon the GTX 780 will fly off the shelves and into the homes of freelance graphic designers.

And AMD?

As for AMD, as per my previous missive, it's all change, everything stays the same. From what I can tell, AMD is plotting some Radeon HD 8000 series boards for later this year. But according to PDF files freely available from AMD's website, these boards are straight rebadges – 7970 becomes 8970 etc – with no spec changes. Oh, and they're only for system builders, not for the likes of you and I to buy. Odd, but there you go.

That said, if Nvidia does indeed roll out the cards detailed above, we should at least get a price drop from AMD to compensate. Generally, there will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth about all these rebadges, but personally I'm cool with it all.

That's because at worst it's a bit disappointing for chaps and chapesses who had an eye on a new flagship board. But how many fall into that group? For everyone else, we'll have access to faster cards for less money. And given how modest the specs are on the next-gen consoles, the current crop of highish-end PC boards look good to go for a while.

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Jeremy Laird