Nvidia releases graphics card with physics ability

Zack Stern
Z. Stern|11.09.06

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Nvidia releases graphics card with physics ability

Nvidia launched a new line of GPU and motherboard products today, the GeForce 8800 and nForce 680 respectively. The hardware looks good, but these sorts of press events are big on hype; we'll have to wait until the card and motherboard make it out to the wild for detailed assessments. The wait, at least, will be short; all products will be shipping to retail today.

Nvidia's 8800 card comes in two versions, costing between $449 and $649, but we weren't expecting a bargain. For that price, you get a DirectX 10 card that can compute physics tasks in addition to its polished graphic touches. Nvidia also says that the card dynamically allocates its processing power, so idle silicon that would normally be shading a fully-shaded scene, for example, can be used for other 3D tasks. The card also includes a 2D video accelerator to draw HD and other video.

At the San Jose launch event, Nvidia demonstrated the card, creating live smoke and water effects by plotting the 3D movement of the particles, in addition to rendering the graphics. Before the game demos, Nvidia showed a realtime tech demo of an 8800-created version of model Adrianne Curry. This demonstration looked a little creepy, watching the avatar model skimpy clothing with a slightly robotic gait. But when standing still, the character looked realistic; her hair and face were especially believable. Overall, the character didn't quite look like a real person -- the animation probably threw us off. Years ago, "photo-realistic" got undeservedly tossed around so much, the term went out of style, but parts of this demonstration were as close as we've seen.

We're interested in how the GeForce 8800 (and nForce 680) perform in the real world; the event certainly made a lot of promises. As an aside, we also give Nvidia PR kudos for dovetailing the announcement against its multi-day LAN party. The gamer audience, high on Bawls, cheered and pumped its fists with each announcement.

More pictures after the break.

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